SEJ's 24th Annual Conference Agenda — Friday



Covering Disasters Plenary
Concurrent Sessions
Network Lunch
Beat Dinners



Agenda Registration Lodging/Travel Advertise/Exhibit Environmental News About New Orleans


As a journalism organization that believes in an open society, SEJ each year welcomes a diverse group of attendees to our annual conference. Attendees include representatives of business, government and environmental groups, as well as working journalists, academics and students.

Because non-journalists are here, you may see or hear presentations or responses to presentations that you might not expect from mainstream journalists. The presentations and any responses do not necessarily reflect the views of SEJ or any of its members.

As our guest, you should respect our interest in open discussions of environmental issues by thanking all participants in sessions you attend and not disrupting presentations of views you disagree with.

Finally, please respect our rule that SEJ members are given preference during question-and-answer sessions.

All sessions, as well as registration, exhibits and breaks, will be at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside,
Two Poydras Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130 (504) 561-0500, unless otherwise indicated.


Friday, September 5, 2014



Times TBA

If you didn't sign up ahead of time for the Saturday night party or Sunday breakfast at the Audubon Zoo, there may still be room — please check with registration.

Location: 1st Floor Registration Counters (near conference space across from escalators)


SEJ Information Table

Times TBA

Sign up here for Mini-tours and Beat Dinners. Read up on SEJ Board candidates, and find information about SEJ Award winners, membership and services. Pick up copies of SEJournal and other SEJ information.

Location: Next to registration



Times TBA

The bookstore will be open for business selling SEJ members' and speakers' books, as well as an offering of environmental books handpicked for the SEJ conference.

Location: TBA


Opening Plenary

Covering Disasters: Getting the Story and Staying Alive

9:00 - 10:30 a.m.

The Lake Borgne storm surge barrier floodwall, post-Katrina, viewed from space. Photo courtesy Army Corps of Engineers.

From parachuting in and leaving, to living there and staying, we’ll explore the full spectrum of news coverage of major disasters and consider ways reporters can better cooperate to both deliver the news and stay safe. This panel of journalists will share their stories from past disasters and emergencies, both domestic and international, and their thoughts on how we can all do a better job.

Moderator: Seth Borenstein, Science Writer, The Associated Press

Natalie Allen, Anchor, CNN International
Jim Amoss, Editor, | The Times-Picayune
Suzanne Goldenberg, U.S. Environment Correspondent, The Guardian
Bryan Norcross, Senior Executive Director of Weather Content and Presentation, and Senior Hurricane Specialist, The Weather Channel

Location: Grand Ballroom


Beverage Break with Exhibitors

10:30 - 11:00 a.m.

Location: Grand Salon


Concurrent Sessions 1

11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

FOIA Clinic: Ask the Gumshoes

Got a pending FOIA request? A question about how to manage a new one? A problem with your FOIA strategy? Want to file your first FOIA? Experienced journalists will offer advice tailored to your individual needs. What methods help agencies be less recalcitrant? We can address your issues privately or confidentially. We will offer tips, discuss strategies, share model letters, and more. This will be a back-and-forth conversation, not a lecture. Bring your laptop.

Moderator: Joseph A. Davis, Freelance Journalist and WatchDog Project Director/TipSheet Editor, Society of Environmental Journalists

Seth Borenstein, Science Writer, The Associated Press
Robert McClure, Executive Director, InvestigateWest

Location: Grand Salon, Room 4

Who’s Covering the Environment Today? From Al Jazeera’s Rise to Newspapers’ Demise

Television, print and online journalism is in upheaval, and it’s all affecting who covers the environment. We look at the ups — Al Jazeera — and the downs — onlining of newsrooms — to see what the future holds. A veteran whose accomplished career stretches back to pre-cable news and two-newspaper towns will compare notes with a young rising star in environmental journalism.

Moderator: Peter Dykstra, Publisher, Environmental Health News and The Daily Climate

Randy Lee Loftis, Environmental Writer, The Dallas Morning News
Kate Sheppard, Senior Reporter and Environment and Energy Editor, The Huffington Post

Location: Grand Salon, Room 10

Continuing Education for Journalists: All You Ever Wanted To Know About Fellowships, Mentoring, MOOCs and Computer-Based Journalism Training But Were Afraid To Ask

In the uncertain financial times of journalism in the 21st Century, we'll learn all the ins and outs of low-cost and no-cost journalism training available. We'll hear about the SEJ mentorship program. We'll talk to the program leaders about short-term and long-term fellowship opportunities. We'll also delve into computer-based training.

Moderator: Lana Straub, Freelance Journalist/Radio Producer, KXWT

Jane Braxton Little, Environment & Science Writer/Photographer, and Co-Coordinator, SEJ Mentor Program
Lauren Klinger, Interactive Learning Producer, The Poynter Institute
Michael Kodas, Associate Director, Center for Environmental Journalism, University of Colorado Boulder
Lise Olsen, Instructor, Massive Online Open Courses, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas
Dave Spratt, Chief Executive Officer, Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources

Location: Grand Salon, Room 13

Extreme Weather and Hurricane Science: Improving Forecasts

Explore the frontier of hurricane science. With satellites, aircraft and computer models, we’ve achieved a remarkable level of warning time compared to the days when hurricanes would loom over coastal towns without notice. But forecasters still blow it when predicting their intensity. Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina showed the public what experts already knew: The big killer is the storm surge. A new storm surge warning system debuts this year. And how could global warming change the hurricane threat?

Moderator: David Fleshler, Environment Reporter, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Jesse Feyen, Manager, Storm Surge Roadmap, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Sharan Majumdar, Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director, Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami
Ben Strauss, Vice President for Climate Impacts and Director of the Program on Sea Level Rise, Climate Central

Location: Grand Salon, Room 7

Endangered Species: If We Can’t Save Charismatic Big Cats, What Can We Save?

According to a recent Animal Planet poll, tigers are the world’s most popular animal, yet just 3,200 wild tigers remain and numbers continue to dwindle. Likewise, snow leopards, lions, jaguars, Florida panthers — as well as other charismatic predator species — are also declining. We’ll explore the confluence of threats facing these animals, including conflict with burgeoning human populations, shrinking habitat, poaching for black market trade, the growing luxury market for endangered species products, and more — and we’ll discuss the types of bold initiatives needed to save them.

Moderator: Sharon Guynup, Freelance Journalist and Author, "Tigers Forever: Saving the World’s Most Endangered Big Cat"

Laurie Macdonald, Director of Florida Programs, Defenders of Wildlife
Judy Mills, Author, "Blood of the Tiger: A Story of Conspiracy, Greed, and the Battle to Save a Magnificent Species"
Kristin Nowell, CAT and Red List Coordinator, Cat Specialist Group, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Location: Grand Salon, Room 12

Dead Zones, Hypoxia and Nutrient Loading: Is Pollution Trading the Answer?

With nutrient pollution forming massive "dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay and coastal waters practically everywhere, fish and shellfish populations are depleted and once-productive fisheries crippled. The sources are legion — farm fertilizer, sewage plants, urban and suburban runoff. Federally led efforts are under way to reverse the tide of decline, but face political and legal challenges. Can our waters be cleaned up more efficiently at a lower cost by unleashing the marketplace rather than impose stricter regulations? Or will buying and selling pollution "credits" simply enrich some while leaving the waters starved of life?

Moderator: Tim Wheeler, Reporter, The Baltimore Sun

Ellen Gilinsky, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law and Senior Counsel, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, Vermont Law School
Michelle Perez, Senior Associate, Water Quality, World Resources Institute
Nancy Rabalais, Professor and Executive Director, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium

Location: Grand Salon, Room 6

Oil Truckin’ and Pipin’: What’s Happening in Your Backyard?

The boom in oil production in the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota and the tar sands of Canada's Alberta province has raised the stakes for public safety and environmental protection throughout much of North America. Getting crude oil to refineries means delivery by rail networks or pipelines that go through the communities you cover. This panel will look at the big picture of balancing the benefits of domestic oil production against the risks to the public and environment, as well as the local perspective of communities in the path of pipelines and unit trains loaded with crude oil.

Moderator: Michael Martz, Staff Writer, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Jessica McDiarmid, Reporter, Toronto Star
Lois Epstein, Engineer and Arctic Program Director, The Wilderness Society and Vice President of the Board, Pipeline Safety Trust
Bob Greco, Group Director, Downstream and Industry Operations, American Petroleum Institute

Location: Grand Salon, Room 9

Feeding Eight Billion People in a Warming World

With 842 million undernourished people worldwide today, providing food for the world’s rapidly growing population is already a major challenge without the impacts of climate change. As drought, desertification, and floods threaten yields of key crops from the Midwest to the Middle East, new methods will be necessary to avert a severe, global food crisis. The challenge is only growing more pressing as the global population soars past eight billion by 2025. This panel will explore emerging stories at the intersection of food, agriculture, and climate. We’ll identify which areas and populations are most at risk, and discuss what scientists, policymakers and businesses are doing to address this serious issue.

Moderator: Tim McDonnell, Associate Producer, Climate Desk

Barbara Ekwall, Senior Liaison Officer, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
David Fischhoff, Chief Scientist, The Climate Corporation
Rebecca Shaw, Associate Vice President of Ecosystems and Senior Lead Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund

Location: Grand Salon, Room 3


Network Lunch

12:15 - 2:00 p.m.

Choose a discussion table on a wide range of timely topics and reporting tips, or join a breakout session with lively newsmakers.

Location: Grand Ballroom

Concurrent with the table discussions are the following three breakout sessions:

1. In-Depth Stories of Our Troubled Seas

The only resource not fully exploited in our ocean may be good under-reported stories about its vast problems and some of the innovative solutions now emerging. There’s been some excellent reporting on the world’s cascading marine disasters resulting from industrial overfishing, pollution, coastal sprawl and fossil-fuel-fired climate change. Our panelists are both top experts on these problems and world-class innovators in providing solutions. This panel will be a story-rich habitat.

Moderator: David Helvarg, Author, Founder and Executive Director, Blue Frontier and Co-Founder, Peter Benchley Ocean Awards

Jeremy Jackson, Marine Ecologist and Paleontologist; former Ritter Professor of Oceanography and Founder and Director, Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Scripps; and former Senior Scientist, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Nancy Rabalais, Professor and Executive Director, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium
Gregory Stone, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientist for Oceans, Conservation International

Location: Grand Salon, Room 15

2. Academic Session

Moderator: TBA

Location: Grand Salon, Room 16

3. EPA Newsmaker Session

Moderator: TBA

Location: Grand Salon, Room 18


Concurrent Sessions 2

2:00 - 3:15 p.m.

Freelance Pitch Slam

Tired of waiting for editors to reply to your pitches? Wish the story-selling process could be more informative? Wondering how to break in? Join seasoned freelancers and newcomers alike at SEJ's annual pitch slam, where journalists put their best one-minute queries to a panel of editors. Benefit from the editors' critiques, explaining why — or why not — the story could work for their publication. They also offer tips for improving the pitch and information about which sections of their publication are open to freelancers and what they pay. Present your own pitch and you might just walk away with an assignment.

Moderator: Peter Fairley, Freelance Energy/Environment Journalist

Scott Dodd, Editor,
Robert Kunzig, Senior Environment Editor, National Geographic
April Reese, Associate Editor, Discover Magazine
Peter Thomson, Environment Editor, The World–PRI/BBC (invited)

Location: Grand Salon, Room 4

Better Reporting Through SmartPhones

Find yourself in the field with this new gadget and wondering how to make it work for your reporting agenda? Join your fellow SEJ'ers as we talk techie and geek out with gearheads to learn some tips for better audio, video and social media reporting via smartphone.

Moderator: Ashley Ahearn, Environment Reporter, KUOW - NPR (Seattle)

Andrew Boyd, Photo/Video Manager, | The Times-Picayune
Adam Glenn, Educator, Graduate School of Journalism, City University of New York; Digital Media Consultant, a2g Media; Editor, SEJournal, Society of Environmental Journalists; Editor, AdaptNY

Location: Grand Salon, Room 10

Collaboration: Marrying Environmental Research with Environmental Journalism

Learn how journalism and mass communication faculty members and researchers can assist investigations into environmental problems and policies. The panel will explore strategies for environmental journalism faculty to collaborate with non-journalism faculty in the sciences and environmental studies on mutually beneficial research, grant proposals, projects, curriculum, professional development and instruction.

Moderator: Eric Freedman, Director, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Michigan State University

Sharon Friedman, Professor and Director, Science and Environmental Writing Program, Department of Journalism and Communication, Lehigh University
Juliet Pinto, Associate Professor, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, Florida International University
3rd speaker TBA

Location: Grand Salon, Room 13

The BP Spill’s Untold Ecological Toll

What environmental harm really came of the millions of barrels of crude leaked from BP's runaway well into the Gulf of Mexico? Four years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a robust research effort is under way to answer that important question. Scientists will discuss what we know and don’t know about one of the nation’s largest oil spills.

Moderator: Matthew Tresaugue, Environment Reporter, Houston Chronicle

Lucinda Jacobs, President and Principal Aquatic Scientist (BP consultant), Integral Consulting Inc.
Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign, Environmental Defense Fund
Lori Schwacke, Chief, Oceans and Human Health Branch, Hollings Marine Laboratory, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Location: Grand Salon, Room 7

Levee Certification: New Rules for New Floods

Levees aren't what they used to be. The Army Corps and FEMA are working together as never before to manage the risk to communities behind levees, and to better explain those risks to the public. This could increase costs for flood protection and bring new land development restrictions. But is it enough? This panel explains new developments in floodplain management and flood insurance and looks at what's ahead.

Moderator: Matt Weiser, Senior Writer, The Sacramento Bee

Tammy Conforti, Levee Safety Program Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Windell Curole, General Manager, South Lafourche Levee District
David Rogers, Karl F. Hasselmann Chair in Geological Engineering, Department of Geological Sciences & Engineering, Missouri University of Science & Technology

Location: Grand Salon, Room 12

What We Don't Know About Chemicals May Hurt Us

When the water supply of 300,000 West Virginians was contaminated by a spill this year, scientists and government officials knew little about the potential health effects of the chemical. How can we as journalists make sense of this for our audience? Where can we go for information on health effects? Why is there so little data on many chemicals? What are industries and government agencies doing to give the public the information they need? We'll include some background and an update on the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Moderator: Marla Cone, Editor-in-Chief, Environmental Health News

Wendy Cleland-Hamnett, Director, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Richard Denison, Lead Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund
Scott Masten, Director, Office of Nominations and Selection, National Toxicology Program Division, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (invited)
Andrew Whelton, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental and Ecological Engineering, Purdue University

Location: Grand Salon, Room 6

Nuclear Power in Fukushima’s Wake

Seen by proponents as a promise and opponents as a peril, nuclear power and its global prospects have fundamentally changed after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Or have they? Nations like Germany and Italy have decided to give up on the atom altogether, while others such as the U.S. and Japan and developing economies like China and Vietnam have decided to stick with their nuclear energy programs. Amid tightening safety rules, increasing competition from currently cheaper natural gas and elevated concerns over greenhouse gases, the panelists will discuss the outlook and issues for nuclear power in the U.S. and abroad.

Moderator: James Simms II, Freelance Writer/Television and Radio Commentator; and 2013-2014 Scripps Journalism Fellow, Center for Environmental Journalism, Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Colorado at Boulder

Dave Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists
Hannah Northey, Energy Reporter, Greenwire
Entergy representative TBA
Nuclear Regulatory Commission representative TBA

Location: Grand Salon, Room 9

Skating on Thin Ice: Climate Change at the Poles

Currently observed rates of environmental change are unprecedented. Though changing climates have historically changed social and economic structures, the current rates pose especially novel challenges in polar regions, where temperature increases have been three times greater than the global average. Melting ice will affect industry, trade, ecosystems, and Arctic communities. Speakers in this session will discuss local to global effects of polar warming, and identify some of the most important issues to be resolved.

Moderator: Sunshine Menezes, Executive Director, Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting, Office of Marine Programs, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island

Melanie Bahnke, President and Chief Executive Officer, Kawerak, Inc.
Marilyn Heiman, Director, U.S. Arctic Program, Pew Charitable Trusts
Tatiana Rynearson, Associate Professor of Oceanography, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island

Location: Grand Salon, Room 3


SEJ Annual Meeting

3:30-4:30 p.m.

All are welcome to attend, but people who are not members of SEJ can also feel free to browse the exhibits in the Grand Salon.

Location: Grand Ballroom


Beat Dinners

7:00 -9:00 p.m.

Back to the scene of the crime... SEJ’s beat dinners began at the New Orleans conference in 2003 and they’ve remained popular ever since. New Orleans is home to countless renowned restaurants and a crockpot full of celebrity chefs. We’ll get you out and about to some of the Crescent City’s finest and to some affordable local treasures. Check back here often as restaurant details and additional topics will be posted as they're finalized. Sign up on site for the topic and restaurant of your choice.




  1. Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em: "Gulf" Shrimp from Asia, Asian Carp, Nutria, Formosan Termites

    Have an extra helping of...... hey, how about Asian Carp, nutria and other non-native species that may be multiplying faster than the ability of wildlife agencies to control them? This brain-expanding, but hopefully not waist-expanding, dinner looks at the growth and edibility of various swimming, walking and crawling critters. A selection of domestic and foreign-crafted beverages are available for sale, to accompany whatever's on the menu.

    Moderator: Chuck Quirmbach, 
Environment Reporter/Producer, 
Wisconsin Public Radio

    Restaurant: TBA

  2. Gimme That Old Time Religion

    Can people of faith do what scientists and economists have failed to do: enlist the public in a crusade grounded in morality to stop climate change, pollution, and environmental injustice?

    Moderator: Christy George, Independent TV Producer

    Restaurant: TBA

  3. Is Sustainable Seafood an Oxymoron? From Shrimp Farming to Jellyfish Harvesting

    Moderator: Brian Howard, Editor & Producer,

    Sarah Curry, Associate Producer, Fish Navy Films
    William (Monty) Graham, Professor and Chair, Department of Marine Science, The University of Southern Mississippi
    Susan Spicer, Chef/Owner, Bayona and Mondo restaurants and Wild Flour Breads

    Restaurant: Bayona, 430 Rue Dauphine, 504-525-4455

  4. Music and the Environment: How Musicians are Saving New Orleans

    Moderator: Tom Henry, Environmental Writer/Columnist, The (Toledo) Blade

    Restaurant: TBA



Wednesday, September 3
Thursday, September 3
Saturday, September 6
Sunday, September 7