Three staff members of the online environmental magazine Grist visited the J-School on Oct. 6 to talk shop with 24 students over lunch.
Grist founder Chip Giller, Food Editor Tom Phillpot and Community Coordinator Ashley Braun discussed the magazine’s beginnings and the challenges of being a non-profit news organization. The Knight Program in Science and Environmental Reporting organized the event and Knight professor Michael Pollan was there to introduce the trio.
The website, Pollan said, is remarkable for its content and use of multimedia but also for its journalistic business model. "The non-profit model that many people are looking at now—these guys have been doing it for ten years," Pollan said.
The online publication whose tagline is "a beacon in the smog" covers politics, climate and energy, and food and green business. Its secret to drawing readers? Funny headlines and articles that can are easy to understand—even by laypeople who aren’t eco-fanatics.
Giller started Grist.org in 1999 to fuse his two passions—the environment and journalism. What started as a small website now attracts nearly a million people per month, including regular reader Vice President Al Gore. Giller was recently honored with a Heinz Award for the website. But as this tongue-in-cheek video can attest, he doesn't let his success go to his head.
All joking aside, Giller welcomed students to contribute to the site and urged them to submit their ideas. The invitation excited many of the J-Schoolers in attendance.
Jude Joffe-Block, a second-year student, said “I've been reading Grist since 2006 and it's actually a place where I've donated money because I believe that what they're doing matters.” —Helene Goupil
To learn more about Grist, visit the website.
Why did you decide to apply to and attend the J-School?
I just missed the digital media boat during college, so I wanted to come back to school to develop some multimedia and web skills. Berkeley is one of the best schools for my interests and was my first choice for graduate school. Read more