SEJ 2008 is being hosted by
Virginia Tech in Roanoke, VA,
Wednesday-Sunday, October 15-19, 2008.
The Blue Ridge near Abingdon, VA, looking eastward.
Photo by Bill Kovarik.
Note: The following conference agenda is a rough draft only. All information is subject to
change. Please check back often for updates and
information on event times, speakers,
Friday and Saturday Concurrent Sessions
Back to Roanoke conference home.
SEJ's 2008 Annual Conference officially begins Wednesday evening,
October 15, with a dinner reception, special welcomes, and
the SEJ awards ceremony.
Sunday-Wednesday, October 12-15
Environmental Reporting Boot Camp
Whether you're new to the beat or a veteran wanting to bolster
your toolbox, SEJ's second pre-conference boot camp offers
something for everyone. Michigan State University's Knight
Center for Environmental Journalism will train journalists at a
three-day workshop in Roanoke. Boot Camp includes sessions on
computer-assisted reporting, investigative techniques, writing,
ethics, and topical issues. It includes the all-day Wednesday workshop
(see below). Check MSU's Knight Center for details and application. July 21, 2008, deadline.
Wednesday, October 15
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Covering Climate Change and Our Energy
Future in Rural America
and lunch are included. Pre-registration and $60 fee required. SEJ members only.
The past, present, and future of coal in Appalachia and the southeastern
United States — and therefore much of the nation's energy future — come
into sharp focus in a penetrating, day-long analysis kicking off SEJ's
annual conference at Virginia Tech.
From the scientific perspective on global climate change to the satellite
perspective on changing land patterns; from the ins, outs, and maybes of
carbon capture and sequestration, to the science, economics — and wrenching
emotional aspects — of mountaintop removal strip-mining; from
internationally recognized energy experts like Amory Lovins to a panel of
expert journalists steeped in mining these stories....
It's part of a special, in-depth, day-long immersion into coal, climate and
the interdependent future of both, sponsored by SEJ with the Institute for
Rural Journalism and Community Issues, Virginia Tech, and the Yale Project
on Climate Change\Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media.
See below for a full agenda.
Registered reporters will head home with practical insights and expert news
sources on issues that play right to the heart of their hometown audiences.
Hear from leading regional and local reporters bringing collective decades
of newsroom experience in covering and uncovering some of journalism's most
compelling stories on energy, coal, and climate change.
All sessions will be at the Hotel Roanoke. Breakfast and lunch are included.
Pre-registration and $60 fee required. SEJ members only. (Members: If you've already registered for the conference and wish to add this workshop to your registration, please call Convention Management Services at 800-878-5131 or 517-485-2309 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. EDT.)
Reporting TODAY on America's Emerging Energy Future: Coal, Climate Change, and Energy Options in a Time of Extraordinary Change
8:00 - 8:30 a.m.
Continental Breakfast and Registration
8:30 - 9:00 a.m.
Program Overview and Introductions
Emcee: Bud Ward, Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media
9:00 - 9:35 a.m.
The Climate Challenge: Setting the Context for Considering our Energy
Speaker: Jacob Sewall, Virginia Tech
9:35 - 10:15 a.m.
What on Earth? Observed Changes in Land Features in North America and
Eastern U.S. as Shown by Satellite Images
Speaker: Kristin De Beurs, Virginia Tech
10:15 - 10:30
10:30 a.m. - Noon
Mountaintop Removal in Context
Moderator: Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette
Speakers: Gene Kitts, International Coal Group; Joe Lovett, Appalachian
Center for the Economy and the Environment; Ben Stout, Wheeling Jesuit
Noon - 12:45 p.m
Lunch and Informal Discussion
12:45 - 1:25 p.m.
Winning the Oil Endgame: Principles of and Progress Toward an Oil-Free
Speaker: Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute
1:25 - 2:05 p.m.
Exploring Carbon Sequestration Potential Options
Speaker: Jim Dooley, Senior Scientist, Joint Global Change Research
2:05 - 2:45
Speaker: L. David Roper, Virginia Tech Physics Professor Emeritus
2:45 - 3:00 p.m.
3:00 - 3:40 p.m.
Winning the Coal Endgame: The Megawatt and Micropower Revolutions
Speaker: Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute
3:40 - 4:45 p.m.
Reporters and Editors Roundtable
Speakers: James Bruggers, Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.; Robert J. Byers,
City Editor, Charleston Gazette
Concluding Remarks and Adjournment
Opening Reception at the Hotel Roanoke
Join your colleagues and our distinguished guests, Virginia
Governor Tim Kaine and West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, for
dinner and drinks at this grand, historic, and beautifully restored
railroad hotel, the site of most conference activities this year.
SEJ Awards for
Reporting on the Environment
Since environmental issues are often the most important stories
on the planet, then the SEJ Awards ceremony is among the most
important of its kind. We invite you to witness the best of the best
with co-hosts Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau, ocean explorers
and grandchildren of Jacques Cousteau, and Jeff Burnside,
SEJ board member from WTVJ NBC 6 Miami. At this lively event,
you'll see clips and images of the winning newspapers, TV, online,
and other recipients of SEJ's $1,000 awards. And, new this year:
The Rachel Carson Environment Book Award, worth $10,000.
Thursday, October 16
Advance registration is required for all Thursday tours. Attendance
on each tour is strictly limited, so registering early is important.
Departure times vary (see below), but all Thursday tours will
return to the Hotel Roanoke about 5:00 p.m. Planning is still
underway, so please check back for more details. For those
looking for some exercise, tours 6, 7, and 8 are your best options.
Other tours involve moderate exercise. Tours 5 and 9 are best
suited for wheelchair accessibility (contact SEJ headquarters, 215-884-8174, for
1. Almost Level 1: Cutting Down Mountains for Coal
6:00 a.m. departure, lunch included, $30 fee
Kayford Mountain, about an hour south of Charleston, WV. Notice how the massive dragline is dwarfed by the scale of the operation.
Photo by Vivian Stockman, OHVEC.
Click to enlarge.
Larry Gibson's piece of Kayford Mountain used to be the lowest
peak for miles. Now it's the highest. There's no better place to see
the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining — a practice that
is feeding a growing demand for coal and leveling wide stretches
of Appalachia. See an active mine and hear from people who
live near the mines and the processing plants and coal trucks
that serve them. See mine reclamation and hear from industry
representatives who'll tell you why what they're doing is good
and necessary. Driving time — 6 hours total. But there will be beautiful
scenery, informative speakers, and documentaries on the
way. Also, see related event: Mountaintop removal
flyovers, available to SEJ members from independent sponsors Friday
2. What Are Forests Worth? What Are They For? Can We Sustain Them?
7:00 a.m. departure, lunch included, $30 fee
The southern Appalachians provide a rare look at the changing
face of America's forests. Walk onto an acre that was traditionally
property of companies like International Paper nowadays and
you're likely to find it's owned by something called a REIT or a
TIMO... or maybe just some guy named Bob. See how foresters,
community groups, and others are spurring a new take on sustainable
forestry; how the U.S. Forest Service struggles to balance
recreation demands with timber operations; how invasive species
are literally eating away Appalachian hillsides; and how emerging
"niche" forest products could bolster rural communities. Driving time — 3 hours total.
3. Rural Energy: Wind, Hydro, and Development in the Highlands
7:15 a.m. departure, lunch included, $30 fee
Virginia's western Highlands are some of the most pristine rural
mountain regions left in the Eastern U.S. Bath and Highland
counties are among the least populated east of the Mississippi,
with county seats of fewer than 300 residents. But, like much of
the rural U.S., these counties face new development pressures
from energy industries and vacation home speculators. Highland
County, with only a $7 million annual budget, has approved a $60
million wind power project. Construction is set for this year and, if
built, it will be the first industrial wind power facility in the state of
Virginia. Driving time — 4 hours total.
4. Healthy Food Shed
7:30 a.m. departure, lunch included, $30 fee
In the wake of global warming concerns and food-borne
illness outbreaks that could be partly the result of growing
and processing methods used in industrialized
agriculture, consumers are starting to pay attention to
how their food is raised and how far it travels. Farmer,
writer, and speaker Joel Salatin is the poster child of the local food
and farming movement. We'll visit Salatin's 550-acre diversified
Polyface Farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and find out why his
spread is, in the words of Michael Pollan, "one of the most productive
and sustainable farms in America." And we'll hear from other
industrious farmers, folks serving up everything from food to fiber
to fuel in their communities. We'll also scope out some regional
examples of Big Farming. Driving time — 3 hours total.
5. A National Treasure at Peril — the Blue Ridge Parkway
8:00 a.m. departure, lunch included, $30 fee
Why are the Blue Ridge Mountains "blue"? Join us for the answer,
traveling along lush ridgetops that were over-forested in the
1900s to the most photographed site on the parkway, Mabry Mill.
The early 1900s community-gathering place today operates as a
restored gristmill, sawmill, and blacksmith shop. As the parkway
approaches its 75th anniversary, however, America's Favorite
Scenic Drive faces environmental issues and federal budgetary
shortfalls resulting in 57 unfilled staff positions. Air pollution
emanates from coal-fired power sources, the mighty hemlocks are
dying, and flourishing development blocks scenic views. Driving time — about 4 hours total.
6. Old River, New Challenge
8:30 a.m. departure, lunch included, $55 fee
Two Thursday tours (#6 & 7) offer attendees canoeing and/or kayaking opportunities. Photo of Nick Kovarik by Bill Kovarik.
The New River, a misnomer if ever there was one, is one of the
world's oldest rivers. It's also among the most beautiful. We'll
paddle canoes six to eight miles past towering cliffs and rolling
meadows. At the put-in, ecologists from Virginia Tech will conduct
an electro-fishing demonstration and provide a brief presentation
of the New's diverse aquatic species. After taking out, we'll drive
a short distance downstream to where the local power company
is planning to landfill coal-fired power plant ash in the floodplain
of the New. Speakers will address the controversial issue of
managing coal combustion residues. Note: You will encounter
mild whitewater rapids on this run. Basic canoeing skills preferred. Driving time — 3 hours total.
7. Journey Down the James
9:00 a.m. departure, lunch included, $55 fee
Follow the E. coli and nutrient trail from mountain farms to the
Chesapeake Bay on a canoe journey down the James River. You'll
hear how nutrient and sediment runoff impacts water quality for
everyone. You'll also see why farming in the mountains affects the
bay hundreds of miles downstream as you paddle down about 10
miles of river through farmland and pristine forest. This trip is suitable
for beginners, but expect to be on the water between four
and six hours with several breaks. Canoes and a limited number of
kayaks are available. Driving time — 2 hours total.
8. The Appalachian Trail — Land with a Past
9:30 a.m. departure, lunch included, $30 fee
Like great chunks of the Appalachian Trail, which goes from Georgia
to Maine, the roughly 11 miles of the trail's Catawba Ridge
section pass over land that once held buildings. The jewel of this
ridge is a rocky overlook, McAfee Knob, federally protected since
1987. The trail protection project marked a backward progression
of sorts, from developed to backcountry — a reclamation of
industrial and residential lands. Come and hike the trail to McAfee
Knob and see the Catawba Valley below, which is slowly being
invaded by houses. "See" what used to be on the trail — houses,
a swimming pool, hunting camps. At the top, try your hand at
geocaching, the latest backcountry enterprise. Hiking distance: 7
miles round-trip. Driving time — 1.5 hours total.
9. Nuclear Power — from Ore to Volts
10:00 a.m. departure, lunch included, $30 fee
There are five stages in the life of nuclear power: mining, processing
ore, enrichment of uranium to commercial or weapons grade,
fuel fabrication, and utilization in a nuclear power plant. This
tour covers the nuclear cycle with visits encompassing three of
these stages. We'll visit a 1,000-acre farm, once owned by Thomas
Jefferson, and now proposed as the U.S.'s first uranium mine
outside the Southwest. Next, we tour a fuel fabrication facility and
a full-scale nuclear plant training center, owned by the French
nuclear giant AREVA NP Inc. We'll watch an actual production run,
from delivery of the enriched uranium through to the completion
of 12-foot-long nuclear fuel rods that power the nation's 104 commercial
reactors. At the training center, we will see the inside of a
nuclear power plant, with full-sized cutaways of steam generators,
reactors, and other equipment. Driving time — 3 hours total.
Independent Hospitality Receptions and Exhibitor Sneak Peek
After a day of adventure, wind down with old friends and new
acquaintances in the maze of exhibits and receptions throughout
the Hotel Roanoke. Wine and dine with environment and
technology exhibitors and independent hosts. Festivities kick off
immediately following your return from tours. And, check back here beginning in July to see lists of receptions and exhibitors
as well as evening sessions added to the agenda.
Friday, October 17
Almost Level 2: Mountaintop Removal Flyovers
The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition is teaming up with
SouthWings to give journalists a bird's-eye view of one of the
most environmentally controversial industry practices in Appalachia.
Volunteer pilots will fly participants from the Roanoke
Regional Airport into West Virginia for a loop around the coalfields.
Morning and afternoon flights are planned for Friday and
a morning flight on Saturday, all weather permitting. Tour takes
about 3 hours. Space very limited. SEJ members only. Cost: $40, payable to Ohio Valley
Environmental Coalition. Participants register in advance and schedule a
flight time with Tonya Adkins at OHVEC, firstname.lastname@example.org
or 606/286-1442. For more information on the independent organizers of
this tour, visit SouthWings and OHVEC.
Exhibitor Breakfast and Craft Breakout Sessions
Join us bright and early for continental breakfast with exhibitors
and green technology enthusiasts. Browse the exhibits and talk
with experts about a myriad of environmental issues. Then join
your colleagues for roundtable discussions on a wide range of
Opening Plenary: Old King Coal: What's His Role in America's Energy Future?
Coal provides half of America's electricity and is the nation's most
abundant domestic fuel source. But burning coal is a major source
of greenhouse gases. And mining coal takes a toll on workers,
mountains, streams, and forests. What role can — and should —
coal have in the nation's future energy diet? Experts on all sides,
including American Electric Power CEO Michael Morris and
"Big Coal" author Jeff Goodell, will debate the issue during our
opening plenary session moderated by XM Satellite Radio's Bob
Concurrent Sessions (morning and afternoon; times TBA)
Please see Friday and Saturday Concurrent Sessions below for tentative topics.
Always a popular favorite, grab your lunch and choose a
discussion table or small breakout session on a wide
range of reporting tips, timely topics, and lively newsmakers.
Do-It-Yourself Beat Dinners
A wide variety of restaurants are within easy walking distance
of the Hotel Roanoke, and SEJ is reserving all available options.
Check here beginning in July for details on leading your
own dinner or joining dinners organized by others.
Saturday, October 18
Breakfast Plenary Session: Environmental Justice and the Poor
The plenary session
includes a full breakfast. Pre-registration and $25 fee required.
Since its inception in the 1980s in North Carolina, the environmental
justice movement has drawn attention to the inequitable
environmental risks that many African-American communities
have long been forced to bear. In Appalachia, these same inequitable
risks have been borne by poor white communities. Noted
expert Robert Bullard leads a diverse panel discussing where the
movement came from and where it's headed.
Concurrent Sessions (times TBA)
Please see Friday and Saturday Concurrent Sessions below for tentative topics.
Lunch and Plenary Session: Election 2008 and the Environment
The invitations are out. If we can't lure the actual candidates
themselves, then we'll at least expect the top environmental advisors
from each camp, as well as congressional leaders, to meet
head-to-head to discuss their candidates' and parties' visions for
our future environmental policy.
Sign up on-site beginning Wednesday afternoon for SEJ's popular
mini-tours. Options this year may include: GPS technology, megalandfills,
black bear research center, green buildings, agriculture
research, Tall Growth Tree Chamber, sediment flumes and creek
restoration, prescribed forest burn, aquaculture center, and the
Saturday Night Party: All Aboard!
SEJ conference manager Jay Letto and a J-class coal train. Photo by Bill Kovarik.
Click to enlarge.
Pre-registration and $35 fee required.
Join the SEJ Party Train for an evening full of fellowship, food and
drink, and music and dancing. Okay, so we're not really riding a
train. But, we're doing the next best thing. The venue is the Virginia
Museum of Transportation, located just minutes
from the Hotel Roanoke. We'll hear — and sing and dance to
— regional music while dining on local barbeque. The party takes
place outside in the museum's rail yard, where SEJers can check
out a collection of vintage locomotives, the kind that for decades
hauled coal, other freight, and passengers on the old Norfolk and
Western Railway. Inside the museum is a wide array of transportation
exhibits. Check back here for updates.
Sunday, October 19:
Pre-registration and $25 fee required.
Join us for a full breakfast and a relaxed literary morning as some
of SEJ's favorite authors read from their works at the historic Hotel
Roanoke. The Virginia Tech Bookstore will have books available for
purchase and author signing, and we encourage all SEJ member
authors to have their books on display. Breakout sessions will
include a publisher's pitch-slam and separate sessions on travel
books, science and policy books, and environmental history.
And you won't want to miss the main event, a rendezvous with
regional authors Wendell Berry, Ann Pancake, Penny Loeb,
Sunday-Wednesday, October 19-22
Post-Conference Tour: From the Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay
The bus departs from Hotel Roanoke shortly after noon on Sun., Oct.
19, following the morning program of authors, and runs to Wed., Oct.
22. The $325 fee includes transportation, lodging, Sunday morning
breakfast, and most meals throughout the tour. Please book return
flights out of Richmond, with airport drop-off at 2:30 p.m. (for flights
departing no sooner than 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 22). The bus will return to
Roanoke about 6:30 p.m.
Come see the Chesapeake Bay, North America's largest and
historically most productive estuary, and learn firsthand about the
continuing struggle to save it 25 years after it became a poster
child for regional ecosystem restoration. We'll take you from the
headwaters of the James River, where you'll see efforts to control
stubborn farm pollution, to the shore of the bay, witnessing along
the way the sprawling suburbia that is the bay's other nemesis.
After an overnight stay in a state park, we'll go by boat to Tangier
Island, a traditional fishing community in the very heart of the
bay, to immerse ourselves in the human factor of this complicated
story. While staying at the Port Isobel Lodge of the Chesapeake
Bay Foundation, we'll explore a salt marsh by canoe, seine for fish,
and learn about the bay's "dead zone." Finally, we'll head back to
the mainland to see an oyster farm and hear from experts at the
Virginia Institute of Marine Science on the latest bids to bring
back the bay's signature oysters and crabs. Deadline to sign up is
August 6; include your departing airport and time. Deadline to cancel for
refund, less $25 processing fee, is August 16. Please check back here
Back to the
Friday and Saturday Concurrent Sessions
Check back here often for updates on sessions and speakers. Please note:
SEJ members and working journalists
will be given preference during the question-and-answer periods.
New This Year!
Want to catch up, keep up, or get ahead of the new media landscape? We have two well-equipped computer labs this year, and we plan to take full advantage of them with sessions offering hands-on experience with audio, video, podcasting, mapping, and turning data into stories. Other sessions will cover what's happening with mobile media, search engine strategies, blogs, social media, citizen journalism, crowdsourcing, entrepreneurial media projects, and much more. Learn the skills and mindset that can keep environmental journalism — and your career — going strong, regardless of the fortunes of mainstream news organizations.
Computer Labs and Craft Workshops on the Cutting Edge
- The Freelance Pitch-Slam
- Covering Tragedies and Disasters
- Environment Reporters of the 21st Century
- Book Publisher Pitch-Slam
- Energy 101: A Primer for Reporters
- TV and the New Media
- Covering Climate Change without Getting Whiplash
- The Dating Game: Connecting Scientists and Journalists
- How to Be Your Own FOIA Lawyer
- Getting the Goods: Using Court Records for Environmental
- Coal Around the Globe
- Carbon Sequestration: Silver Bullet or Black Hole?
- Almost Level: Mountaintop Removal Overview
- Beyond Coal: Strategies for Appalachian Reclamation and
- Must We Grow? Conservation, Green Lifestyles, Alternative Energies
- Take Two: Nuclear Power Reconsidered
- Biofuels: Beyond the Steel Cage Debate
- Is Energy Independence Green? Liquid Coal, Tar Sands, Natural
Gas, and More...
- Close Quarters: Could an End to Population Growth Help Stabilize
- Climate Change and Agriculture
- After Tomorrow: Can We Adapt to Climate Change?
- Climate Change and Emerging Legal Challenges
- Are the Oceans Already Lost?
- Water Quality from the Headwaters to the Chesapeake Bay
- Dams: Past, Present, and Future
- Ends of the Earth: Polar Science and the Environment
- Sharing Life on Earth: Biodiversity in Appalachia and Beyond
- Animal Business: Wildlife Trafficking and International Law
- Joy Ride or Ecocide? ATVs on Public Lands
- Suburban Decay: The Sub-prime Mortgage Mess as an Environmental
- The Rollercoaster World of Toxicology
- Women's Environmental Health Issues
- Toying with Toxics: Childhood Exposure to Chemicals
- Workers and the Environment: Asbestos and Other Occupational
- Environmental Policy, Public Opinion, and the Election
- Broken Bridges and Straight Pipes: Aging Infrastructure and the
- Environmental Justice and the Economy: From Cap-and-Trade
Concerns to Green-Collar Promises
- The Clean Air Act's Unfinished Business
Back to the