Great Lakes Offer Great Stories to Reporters in the Know

April 11, 2018
Aerial image of a harmful algal bloom in the Western Basin of Lake Erie, on Sept. 25, 2017. Photo: Aerial Associates Photography, Inc. by Zachary Haslick, NOAA

TipSheet: Great Lakes Offer Great Stories to Reporters in the Know

For the eight states that drain into them — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York — the Great Lakes are big news, and the journalists who are ready with background and sources can do a better job of covering them.

What kind of news? Here’s a smorgasbord of developments to consider:

  • Fertilizer-fueled algae blooms in Lake Erie can threaten to shut down drinking water systems for cities like Toledo.
  • Fights erupt over appropriation of the precious water by industrial operations like the planned Foxconn plant in Wisconsin.
  • Invasive species like zebra mussels, sea lamprey and now, possibly, the Asian carp pose ecosystem threats.
  • Toxic chemicals like PCBs are still found in the water and can go up the food chain.
  • Boating, sport fishing and sandy beaches offer fantastic recreation — if opportunities can be preserved.
  • A rusting industrial base focused on the lakes still poses economic and environmental challenges.

Some more things to know: Fresh water is a very valuable commodity, and the Great Lakes contain more than one-fifth of the world’s total surface water. By surface area, they are the largest fresh water system in the world. The lakes supply drinking water to tens of millions of people living near them.

Not only that, but with the St. Lawrence Seaway, they open North America’s industrial and agricultural heartland to world shipping.

Think of the Great Lakes as a constellation of cities: Chicago, Milwaukee, Gary, Duluth, Thunder Bay, Green Bay, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Toronto, Buffalo, Rochester, Oswego and even Montreal.

Think of it also as a drainage basin that includes surrounding agricultural regions of New York, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Key resources for reporting Great Lakes stories

Now, with that picture in mind, here are some resources that can help as you cover the Great Lakes:

* From the weekly news magazine SEJournal Online, Vol. 3, No. 15. Content from each new issue of SEJournal Online is available to the public via the SEJournal Online main page. Subscribe to the e-newsletter here. And see past issues of the SEJournal archived here.

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