Reaching out to readers for their input

In early 2013, when I was a junior at Allegheny College, the school’s trustees considered leasing some of the school’s land for natural gas drilling.

As an editor of The Campus, the college’s student-run newspaper, I was pleasantly surprised when a Pittsburgh reporter called me about the topic, which I’d been covering for the paper.

The reporter worked for a news outlet I’d recently begun to follow — PublicSource.

Drilling companies were interested in deep shale natural-gas extraction, which uses the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique, better known as fracking. The school considered leasing land at Bousson Forest, the school’s 283-acre environmental research reserve.

Many campus community members were confused and upset that the college, which promoted itself as a “nationally recognized leader in the campus sustainability movement,” would consider such offers.

In an attempt to stifle controversy and help the college come to a decision, Allegheny’s trustees appointed a coalition of professors, students and community members, called the Bousson Advisory Group, to facilitate discussions on how the school might respond to the leasing offers.

That year, fracking was a hot topic on campus and in Meadville, the city the college calls home and that lies atop the Utica Shale. But there’d been little local or statewide coverage of the issue. That is, until Natasha Khan, PublicSource’s energy and environment reporter, got in touch with me about a story she was pursuing.

Khan was researching how nearby colleges were responding to the Marcellus Shale drilling boom. She had come across my coverage of one of the advisory group’s community forums on whether the school would open its doors to the fracking industry.

Khan asked me questions about what was happening on Allegheny’s campus: What had I witnessed? What did students think about the leasing offers? How did I think the situation would play out?

She knew I didn’t have all of the answers. She knew that my predictions were my own personal interpretations of the situation. Regardless, she wanted to know what I thought.

Khan’s interest in the topic of colleges and fracking led her to write the in-depth, multimedia story, “What happens when a ‘green’ college considers fracking?”

Multiple news outlets picked up her story, which included a mosaic of videos featuring the different opinions of students, professors and officials at the college. Allegheny students told me they appreciated the attention she paid to chronicling their thoughts and viewpoints.

I witnessed how valuable collaborations between journalists and their readers can be. Now, as PublicSource’s multimedia intern, I’m eager to learn what our readers think we need to be covering, and to follow up on their tips.

During my time at PublicSource, I want to reach out to readers. After all, we’re PublicSource. Just as we are a news source for the public, we also ask the public to be our source of information.

What is it you are interested in seeing on video or reading about from PublicSource?

Reach Molly Duerig at 724-799-4098 or at mollyduerig@gmail.com