Spotlight on Metcalf Alumni
Judith LaVoie – Climate Change Seminar for Pacific Northwest Journalists – 2013
The timing was just right when Judith LaVoie attended Metcalf Institute’s 2013 Pacific Northwest Climate Change Seminar for Journalists in Seattle. After covering the environment and First Nations stories for the Times Colonist in Victoria, British Columbia, for more than 20 years, LaVoie was embarking on a new career as a freelance journalist. She says she left Metcalf’s seminar armed with great new sources, renewed confidence, and six notebooks jammed packed with story ideas.
“You could listen to the various speakers and say, I can get story out of that,” said LaVoie. “It was a great experience and a wonderful transition for me. It really helped me cement a lot of ideas about future stories.”
LaVoie says the seminar also gave her something editors were hungry for at the time as she searched for freelance jobs – the ability to hit the ground running on an issue of growing importance to their readers. “When I put feelers out to magazines, everyone wanted stories about climate change.”
An award-winning journalist, LaVoie has covered a wide range of issues throughout her career for newspapers in Canada, Cyprus, England, and in the Middle East. However, she says getting people to read about climate change, and finding ways to illustrate how the changing climate is impacting the lives of her readers, is no small feat.
“Trying to find a hook and connect it to people so that they’ll say, ‘this is important, I better read it’ is difficult,” she said. “And finding that hook without being sensational, that’s going to make a good lead, is also challenging.”
LaVoie wrote about the difficulty journalists face when attempting to engage their news audiences on climate change topics and “where hope for change lies” in a story for Focus Online entitled The Climate Challenge. “While stories of homes and communities destroyed by floods, or stories of death from heat waves, or those about displaced animals inevitably grab public attention, connect the dots to climate change, and interest drops to a polite yawn,” she stated.
She’s currently working on an eight-part series for DeSmog Canada about the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort, a development project in British Columbia near three glaciers that faces a mountain of opposition from environmental groups. Lavoie says she expects to apply the knowledge she gained from the Metcalf Institute seminar as she reports on this controversial project.