The “Liberal Arts in Action” series allows alumni to speak, in their own words, about the value of a liberal arts education. Emily Atkin is a staff writer at the New Republic.
I’m an environmental reporter and writer for the New Republic, a century-old magazine of progressive politics and culture in Washington, D.C. My position is sort of a hybrid cross between a traditional reporter and an opinion writer. Every week, I write long-form articles that reveal new facts and stories about our environment and the policies that control it. But I also offer my own analysis and opinion of what those facts mean, and what we should do about them.
Lately, I’ve been focusing on the environmental impact of major hurricanes, and the politics of natural disaster response. But I’ve covered everything from melting permafrost to EPA regulations to rodent takeovers of major cities. My job also entails countering misinformation about climate science, revealing and telling stories of people and places affected by climate change throughout the world.
I tell these stories by using simple reporting tactics I first learned in the SUNY New Paltz Journalism program. I find experts, I call them, I pester them until they answer—an art form I first learned from Rob Miraldi in Journalism I. I unearth public documents from awfully-formatted government websites, which Adam Bosch taught me how to do in Journalism II. I use excel spreadsheets to compile and analyze data, which Mary-Beth Pfeiffer showed me how to do in Computer Assisted Reporting. And I ask a lot of questions of public officials, which I became great at after I did my semester at the Legislative Gazette in Albany. Lisa Phillips taught me how to take the information I gathered and turn it into a narrative story; Howie Good taught me how to tell it with style, morality and fearless urgency. In short, everything I do today is a product of my education.
My liberal arts education allowed me to find journalism, which became not only my career, but my life’s passion. So, not to be an overly sentimental weirdo, but it really does mean everything to me.
It would be impossible to choose one faculty member from the Journalism program [who inspired me]. Every professor I worked with helped shape my career. And they continue to today—just last month, I asked Adam Bosch for a story idea, and he gave me a great one. I’m very grateful for my continued relationship with these people.
To read more alumni profiles, visit the Liberal Arts in Action website.