Spotlight on Metcalf Alumni: Tom Henry
Toledo Blade environment reporter Tom Henry described his profession this way in an article for Nieman Reports “When done right, it’s passionate storytelling with a hard-nosed quest for truth, and this should be the hallmark of our craft.”
His quest for the truth has spanned 34 years, led to numerous journalism awards and accolades, and gained the deep respect of his peers for his insightful coverage of environmental issues.
Henry, both an alumnus of and invited speaker at Metcalf Institute’s Climate Change and the News: Impacts in the Great Lakes seminar for journalists in 2014, has been covering the environment for more than two decades. He began his career as a general assignment reporter at a small newspaper in northern Michigan where his exposure to the outdoors sparked an interest in environmental writing.
Several years later, an encounter with singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett further fueled that interest when Henry was a reporter for The Tampa Tribune. Henry wrote a story about Buffett’s Save the Manatee’s organization, which prompted a letter of praise from Buffett that had a profound impact on Henry’s confidence as a budding environment writer. “It was a very heart felt, heart-warming letter for me and very encouraging,” said Henry.
After completing a Kiplinger Fellowship at Ohio State in public affairs reporting, Henry landed a job at the Toledo Blade and successfully carved out an environment beat.
Many of Henry’s stories reveal the human side of environmental issues, including a piece he wrote about two young boys badly burned in an underground pipeline explosion, and a story about an Ohio woman’s battle against cancer after being exposed to toxic chemicals. In the aforementioned article for Nieman Reports, Henry said both stories involved reams of scientific data that would have been difficult for most journalists to interpret on their own. “But with assistance from experts in making the critical data understandable, each of these stories could then be told with the faces and experiences of children and their families, giving them the power of personal connection,” Henry explained.
Henry’s stories have taken him to environmental hot spots around the globe and inspired Ripple Effect, his popular blog focusing on Great Lakes environmental issues.
Henry also has another passion – his volunteer work with the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) where the former SEJ board member currently serves as the book editor for SEJournal, reviewing environmental books, fiction, and biographies. “SEJ has been a total game changer for my career and it’s something I want to give back to,” said Henry.
Even while Henry continues to “fight the good fight” as a newspaper reporter covering the Great Lakes region, he has other aspirations. He hopes to take his writing to a new level in the future as the author of books about important environmental issues as well as fiction.
Read stories by Tom Henry
Climate Change Makes it Harder to Save Lake Erie
Global Warming Grips Greenland, Leaves Lasting Mark
Water Crisis Grips Hundreds of Thousands in Toledo Area, State of Emergency Declared