J298 Earth Journalism

EARTH Journalism Description and Application

We live in the age of the Anthropocene—in which humans are having an increasingly significant role in shaping conditions on our planet. How can journalists develop the skills to keep up with these tumultuous shifts in the underlying fabric that supports life on the planet? The Earth Journalism class is aimed at providing journalists with the skills necessary to understand these shifts, the responses to them, and the story-telling tools necessary to produce compelling stories in all media.

Traditionally, covering the ‘environment’ has often been misunderstood as a theme on its own, focused on singular incidents of environmental abuse or revelatory moments of scientific discovery. This class is aimed at broadening our understanding of the ‘environment’ as a journalistic arena, exploring the multiple ways in which the condition of the natural environment, its interaction with  human societies, the pursuit of knowledge about those shifts and the efforts to respond to them intersect with questions of economics, business, politics, technology, geo-politics, social justice, the law and culture. We approach the environment as the ultimate multi-disciplinary subject area.

The course is structured in two parts. Lectures, often provided by guest speakers who are experts in their field, outlining the state of scientific knowledge about particular environmental subject areas, ranging from biodiversity, climate change, the impact of toxic chemicals on human and ecological health, wildlife conservation, the food system, ocean health, etc. We then use these talks as a springboard from which to devise journalistic and story-telling strategies for approaching those subjects, with emphasis on honing reporting skills science- and evidence-based journalism. The course also offers students the opportunity to travel to fully report on an environment- or climate-related story — and in the process provides rigorous training in pitching, and addressing the particular challenges of reporting in a foreign location.

We’ll hear from a spectrum of people engaged on multiple levels with the environment, including scientists, innovators, activists, multi-media storytellers, undercover wildlife detectives and journalists, and others who can offer insights—all subject to rigorous cross-examination by students and professors–into deeper understanding of the environmental challenges of our time, the veracity of possible responses, and the means of telling the stories in compelling ways. In a world being shaped by environmental constraints and stresses, and the innovations necessary to contend with them, this course offers skills that will be applicable over the course of long and varied journalistic careers.

The course is open to all graduate students, with journalism students having priority. Applicants should explain their interest in covering environmental topics, what interests them in pursuing stories about the environment or climate change, as well as any preliminary ideas they may have for their reporting trip. You do not need to have a firm story idea to apply, but tell us your area(s) of interest in the environmental realm. Students may plan to conduct their reporting on their own or team up in pairs (or possibly even larger collaborations).


If you are interested in being considered for the Spring 2022 course EARTH Journalism, do the following by Thursday, November 12th at noon.

Application Process for EARTH Journalism.

  1. Send a letter of interest to Michele Kerr mkerr@berkeley.edu. The letter should be addressed to Mark Schapiro and James Fahn.

Your letter should also include: 

  • If a journalism student, the name of your J200 instructor (and if a second-year student, your Master’s Project Adviser).
  • Media type you’d plan to work in for the reported story.
  • Optional: clips of your work or clips pertaining to the subject
  1. Update your Intranet profile as seen on the website.

Additional Criteria:

**Decisions will be based on the letter of interest, good school citizenship, and previous travel funding. Eligible students must also be in good academic standing, which also includes not having any incomplete grades on their transcript. Priority will be given to qualified second-year students who have not received any travel funding for a class or travel grant.

**Approval for travel is based on the pitches students provide outlining the stories they hope to pursue. Funding for travel grants will be made available to all students once pitches are approved. All media formats are welcome.

**As part of the class, students must agree that they will produce a final story by the week before the final class session.


Enrollment dependent upon faculty approval.




Time:  F 1:10 - 4:10


Class Number:  16980

Section:  012

Units:  3

Length:  15 weeks

Course Material Fee:  None

Enroll Limit:  

Restrictions & Prerequisites

Priority Enrollment will be given to Graduate of Journalism students.  Application process to come.