SEJ's 27th Annual Conference Agenda — Saturday


Concurrent Sessions
Sixth Extinction Plenary
Beat Dinners

Exhibitors and Advertisers

Agenda Coverage Lodging/ Travel Advertisers/ Exhibitors Environmental News About Pittsburgh



As a journalism organization that believes in an open society, SEJ each year welcomes a diverse group of attendees to our annual conference. Attendees include representatives of business, government and environmental groups, as well as working journalists, academics and students.

Because non-journalists are here, you may see or hear presentations or responses to presentations that you might not expect from mainstream journalists. The presentations and any responses do not necessarily reflect the views of SEJ or any of its members.

As our guest, you should respect our interest in open discussions of environmental issues by thanking all participants in sessions you attend and not disrupting presentations of views you disagree with.

Finally, please respect our rule that SEJ members are given preference during question-and-answer sessions.



Saturday, October 7, 2017

All sessions, as well as registration, exhibits and breaks,
will be at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown,
600 Commonwealth Pl, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, (877) 999-3223,
unless otherwise indicated.



7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Location: 2nd floor at the far end of the Ballroom foyer

Pick up your badge and conference materials here. If you didn't sign up for the Sunday breakfast at Phipps Conservatory, there might still be room. Check with registration and sign up there.


SEJ Information Table

7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Location: 2nd floor, Ballroom foyer

Sign up here for Saturday mini-tours and beat dinners. Read up on Board candidates, find information about SEJ Award winners, membership and services.


SEJ Exhibits

7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Location: Grand Ballroom and Grand Ballroom Foyer

Haven't stopped by yet? It's your last day to see what the 2017 exhibitors have to offer. Learn about environmental issues and innovations, journalism fellowships, see some great displays and add to your source list.



9:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Location: Grand Ballroom

The UPitt bookstore is on site to sell SEJ members' and speakers' books, as well as offering environmental books handpicked for the SEJ conference.


Breakfast with Exhibitors

7:30 - 8:45 p.m.
Location: Grand Ballroom

Grab breakfast, browse the exhibits, network with colleagues and watch technology demos.


Concurrent Sessions 3

9:00 – 10:15 a.m. (with exception of CRAFT 1 and CRAFT 2; 9:00 a.m. - Noon)

Data Journalism: How to Find It, Mine It, Animate It
9:00 a.m. - Noon
Location: King's Garden 5
Attendees: Bring your laptop to this session.

This session will teach the basics of data journalism for beginners and problem-solving skills for the more experienced, focusing on practical tips for freelancers and small newsrooms. The first hour offers two options. Choose a hands-on tutorial for beginners in Google Sheets 101 to analyze spreadsheets (we’ll use Google Sheets instead of Excel to avoid Mac/PC conflicts): sorting, filtering, simple calculations and possibly pivot tables if there’s time. Or, for those who don't need the introductory workshop, join a discussion around ideas, skills and projects. In the next hour, we will walk you through specific examples of environmental stories that relied heavily on data, focusing on how they were done — and how you can translate that into your own projects. In the last part of the session, we'll present a few free and simple digital tools to help freelancers and small newsrooms to tell professional-quality stories without investing too much time or money. All three parts of the session will be followed by their own Q&A. Coverage.


Bernardo Motta, Neighborhood News Bureau Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Theory and Community Journalism, Department of Journalism and Media Studies, University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Jamie Smith Hopkins, Reporter, The Center for Public Integrity
Lisa Song, Reporter, ProPublica

Safety, Digital Security and Legal Rights for Journalists
9:00 a.m. - Noon
Location: King's Garden 4
Note: You do not need to bring a laptop or smartphone to this workshop.

These are challenging times for journalists and their sources. Reporters are being arrested more frequently, increasing the potential for police searches of phones and computers. The Obama administration prosecuted nine whistleblowers over eight years, and President Trump has called journalists “enemies of the people.” Laws protecting journalists and sources haven’t kept up with the powerful digital surveillance and data collection tools now available to governments and companies. This workshop will offer guidance on how to analyze digital vulnerabilities; assess the pros and cons of tools for controlling the storage, use and access of digital information; and provide basic information on working with whistleblowers. Coverage.

Emily Gertz, Environment, Science, Technology Journalist and Editor
Harlo Holmes, Director, Newsroom Digital Security, Freedom of the Press Foundation
Josh Levy, Founder and Director, Digital Security Exchange
Peter Sterne, Senior Reporter, Freedom of the Press Foundation and Managing Editor, U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

New Media Business Models (in a Post-Truth Era)
Location: Brigade Room

Can entrepreneurial drive and creativity pay for reporting? As ad sales wane, should publishers seek grants, earned income or both? Is crowdfunding worth the effort? Peek inside playbooks of national journalism outlets and a local media leader. Freelancers wanting to monetize a project, editors looking for creative inspiration and publishers (both for-profit and nonprofit) seeking different revenue sources — this panel has your name on it. Expect strategies on business plans, partnerships, sponsored podcasts and events, digital products such as e-books, and more. Coverage.

Moderator: Tina Casagrand, Publisher/Editor, The New Territory Magazine

Beth Daley, Director of Strategic Development, InsideClimate News
Steve Katz, Publisher, Mother Jones
Dale Willman, Program Director, Resilience Fellowship Program, City University of New York

Working the Disaster Beat
Location: Rivers Room

Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the epic flooding of Houston, exploding chemical plants, raging wildfires in the west — and whatever else happens after we go to press — made headlines this year, along with the Trump administration's plan to "deconstruct" government. We'll hear from reporters who've been covering breaking environment news: from how to cover a small piece of a huge story to how to stay safe. Coverage.


Moderator: Mark Schleifstein, Environment Reporter, | The Times-Picayune

Jes Burns, Southern Oregon Environment Reporter, Earthfix
Ryan Maye Handy, Texas Oil, Gas and Utilities Reporter, Houston Chronicle
Bruce Ritchie, Florida Energy and Environment Reporter, POLITICO

Climate Change, Conflicts and Displaced People
Location: King’s Garden 3

Around the world, in places from West Africa to the Middle East, climate change is contributing to conflicts and spurring migration. How can we find and tell stories of people who are displaced by climate change or whose climate-related struggles are spilling over into violence? This session will explore how journalists can reveal the links between the effects of global warming — from strained water supplies to wild weather to rising seas — and the hardships that are fueling conflicts and prompting increasing numbers of desperate people to pick up and move. Coverage.


Moderator: Ian James, Reporter, Water and Environment, The Desert Sun

Geoffrey Dabelko, Professor and Director, Environmental Studies, Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, Ohio University
Hannah Fairfield, Climate Editor, The New York Times
Beth Murphy, Producer and Filmmaker, The GroundTruth Project

Building Sources and Trust in the Environmental Justice World
Location: King's Garden 2

Environmental justice stories are hard to tell. Whether a polluted inner city neighborhood, a remote Native American reservation dealing with drought or a neglected, poor farm town, people in these communities have an understandable suspicion of reporters poking around. Top EJ reporters and community organizers will discuss how to build trust and find the voices to tell some of the most important stories of our time. Coverage.

Moderator: Brian Bienkowski, Editor, Environmental Health News and The Daily Climate

Talia Buford, Reporter, ProPublica
Yessenia Funes, Environmental Justice Reporter, Earther
Sarah Martik, Community Organizer, Center for Coalfield Justice
Nikhil Swaminathan, Senior Editor, Grist

Species on the Move: Climate Change and Shifting Ecosystems
Location: King's Garden 1

Roughly half of the world's species are on the move in response to rising global temperatures. Flora and fauna on land are shifting their ranges northward and upward in elevation at an average 10 miles per decade — and the rate is even faster in marine species. We'll examine how our ecosystems and species are changing in a matter of decades, and the far-reaching ramifications of these shifts on everything from public health to agriculture. Coverage.

Moderator: Kat Bagley Maher, Web Editor, Yale 360

Robert Colwell, Distinguished Research Professor, University of Connecticut; Adjoint Curator in Entomology, Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado
Alisa Opar, Articles Editor, Audubon
John (Jack) Williams, Professor, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin - Madison

The Fate of Renewable Energy Under Trump
Location: Chartiers

The market for renewable generation is facing headwinds as the Trump administration pulls back from the U.N. Paris climate agreement and aims to issue policies friendly to fossil fuels. Cost improvements for solar and wind and federal tax incentives have helped grow renewable power in the U.S., but how will Trump’s energy policies impact the market? Coverage.


Moderator: Stephanie Tsao, Reporter, S&P Global

Peter Kelley, Vice President, Public Affairs, American Wind Energy Association
Lauren Randall, Director of Public Policy, Sunrun
Matthew Wagner, Manager, Renewable Energy Development, DTE Energy
Dan Whitten, Vice President of Communications, Solar Energy Industries Association


Beverage Break

10:15 - 10:45 a.m.
Location: Grand Ballroom

Sponsored by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers


Concurrent Sessions 4

10:45 a.m. – Noon (with exception of CRAFT 1 and CRAFT 2; 9:00 a.m. - Noon)

Data Journalism: How to Find It, Mine It, Animate It (continued)
9:00 a.m. - Noon
Location: King's Garden 5

Safety, Digital Security and Legal Rights for Journalists (continued)
9:00 a.m. - Noon
Location: King's Garden 4

Investigative Reporting: How to Dig Deeper
Location: Brigade Room

Walk out of this session armed with investigative tools you can apply to your own work, regardless if you are a freelancer, staff beat reporter or seasoned journalist. Hear from winners of the recently announced Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding In-depth Reporting from SEJ. You'll get tips and takeaways from document mining to coming up with a sharp, focused question to propel impact-driven work. Coverage.

Moderator: Beth Daley, Director of Strategic Development, InsideClimate News

Kyle Bagenstose, Staff Writer, The Intelligencer and Co-Author of SEJ-Award-Winning Series "Unwell Water"
Sharon Lerner, Health/Environment Reporter, The Intercept and Author of SEJ-Award-Winning Series "The Teflon Toxin"
Jenny Wagner, Health and Investigative Reporter, The Intelligencer and Co-Author of SEJ-Award-Winning Series "Unwell Water"
Lance Williams, Senior Reporter, Reveal/The Center for Investigative Reporting and Co-Author of SEJ-Award-Winning Series "The Wet Princes of Bel Air"

Making the Great Lakes Great Again
Location: Rivers Room

The Great Lakes have long relied on binational cooperation to address everything from water levels and invasive species to pollution control and water quality. Early on the Trump administration set out to eliminate $300 million in restoration funding for the Great Lakes, a move blocked by Congress. Still, the administration’s determined efforts to loosen environmental regulations — particularly the Clean Water Act — threaten the Great Lakes’ future. What will be Trump’s impact on Great Lakes? This panel will offer insider perspectives on Great Lakes policy and explore opportunities and strategies for further reporting in a hostile environment. Coverage.

Moderator: Lynette Wilson, Ted Scripps Fellow 2017-2018, Center for Environmental Journalism, University of Colorado Boulder

Jon Allan, Chair, Board of Directors, Great Lakes Commission and Director, Office of the Great Lakes, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Dave Dempsey, Senior Advisor, FLOW and former Policy Advisor, International Joint Commission
John Dickert, President and CEO, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

Will the Next Global Climate Leader Please Step Up?
Location: King's Garden 3

The Trump Administration has essentially retreated from international action on climate, withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate pact and zeroing out international climate funding touted by both the Obama and Bush administrations as recognition of U.S. responsibility as one of the top global emitters. We’ll talk about how countries are likely to respond at the next round of UN climate talks in November in Germany; whether the Trump administration will sit on the sidelines in the negotiations or forcefully push what it is touting as a pro-fossil fuel agenda onto the agenda. Panel members will address how state and U.S. companies are stepping into the breach to either voluntarily cut their carbon emissions or strengthen state mandates. They’ll also take a look into the future and weigh in on whether those state, local and corporate actions can ever fully compensate for a gap in federal action, and whether other nations now have reason to be wary of any future U.S. effort to return to the table in the global effort to combat climate change. Coverage.

Moderator: Dean Scott, Senior Reporter for Climate Change, Bloomberg BNA

Vicki Arroyo, Executive Director, Georgetown Climate Center, Georgetown Law
Bob Perciasepe, President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and former Deputy Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Ana Unruh Cohen, Government Affairs Director, Natural Resources Defense Council and former Director of Energy, Climate and Natural Resources for Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)

Expanding the Environmental Justice Tent
Location: King's Garden 2

Recent high-profile stories in Flint and Standing Rock brought the environmental justice movement into the mainstream — and revealed that stories about people, pollution and health are in nearly every town and city in the U.S. and throughout the world. How, as reporters, do we identify these stories? How do we get them to resonate with audiences outside the movement? And what role does race play in environmental justice coverage — and what is the difference, if any, between environmental justice and environmental racism? Coverage.

Moderator: Nikhil Swaminathan, Senior Editor, Grist

Derrick Jackson, Climate and Energy Writer, Union of Concerned Scientists and Essayist, The Boston Globe and ESPN's The Undefeated
Sarah Martik, Community Organizer, Center for Coalfield Justice
Brentin Mock, Staff Writer, CityLab
Naveena Sadasivam, Staff Writer, The Texas Observer

Beyond Megafauna: Small Species, Big Loss
Location: King's Garden 1

Many species evolve to use particularly narrow habitats. When the specific conditions required by those species disappear, so do the species. This is the extinction crisis that no one is talking about. What’s happening to the reptiles, snails, insects and other species that don’t command the public’s attention? What’s being done to save them? How many are we losing before we even know that they existed? What are we losing as they vanish into extinction? Coverage.

Moderator: John Platt, Editor, The Revelator, Center for Biological Diversity

Jason Bittel, Freelance Wildlife Journalist
Tierra Curry, Senior Scientist, Center for Biological Diversity
Justin Wheeler, Web and Communications Specialist, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

Resources vs. Recreation in the Fight for Public Lands
Location: Chartiers

Since January, there's been what amounts to a modern-day land grab in the West. On one side are those who want to use the land's natural resources — precious metals, oil and gas especially. On the other, the hunters, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts see a right to recreation. There have been victories for both: The joint resolution to repeal the Bureau of Land Management's "public input happy" Planning 2.0 rule for one. The withdrawal of HR 621, a bill that called for the disposal of 3.3 million acres of public land, for another. Then there's the unprecedented Department of Interior review of 27 national monuments, designated under the Antiquities Act, for possible reversal or downsizing. Luminaries in the outdoor-retail industry are fighting alongside hikers, hunters and, yes, trail runners, to keep the land public. Coverage.

Moderator: Ryan Krogh, Features Editor, Men’s Journal

Caty Enders, Contributing Editor, The Guardian and Knight Science Journalism Fellow
Whit Fosburgh, President/Chief Executive Officer, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Corley Kenna, Director, Global Communications and Public Relations, Patagonia
Land Tawney, President/Chief Executive Officer, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers


Lunch Plenary

The Sixth Extinction... Live and Personal!

Noon - 2:00 p.m.
Location: Grand Ballroom

Two of the world’s remaining 3800 wild tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park, India. © Steve Winter/National Geographic. Click to enlarge.


Why are conservation efforts failing so many iconic species? What will it take to embrace specific or geopolitical solutions radical enough to save tigers and other big cats, great apes, rhinos, elephants and other endangered species? This provocative plenary will ask tough questions of leading experts. Via live video links, we will also connect with those fighting what amounts to a war to protect wildlife and hear stories from the front lines of the planet’s sixth major extinction event. Coverage.


Moderator: Jeff Burnside, Ted Scripps Journalism Fellow, 2017-18, and SEJ Board Member

Randall Arauz, Founder, Sea Turtle Restoration Program Association
James Deutsch, Director of Biodiversity Conservation, Paul G. Allen Philanthropies
Ofir Drori, Founding Director, EAGLE Network
Jane Goodall, Jane Goodall Institute (invited)
Sharon Guynup, Journalist; Global Fellow, Wilson Center; National Geographic Explorer
Andrea Heydlauff, Director, African Parks Foundation
Peter Knights, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, WildAid
John Webb, Attorney at Law and retired Assistant Chief, Environmental Crimes Section, U.S. Department of Justice


A River of Mini-Tours

2:15 - 5:30 p.m.

Sign up on-site for the tour of your choice at the SEJ Information Table beginning Wednesday afternoon.

Departure: Following the lunch session, go downstairs to the Benedum Room. SEJ staff will be there to help you find your bus. Buses will be staged for departure in the order below. Tours 7 and 8 do not have buses, but meet up with tour leaders and walk together from the Benedum Room.


1. Kayak the Allegheny River and Land on Sycamore Island

We’ll explore Pittsburgh’s river environs by kayak and on foot with a unique island visit. The Allegheny River has long been a playground for recreational boaters and anglers, and we’ll paddle the flat, slack water of the lower Allegheny, which is lined with small river towns, lush greenery and marinas. We'll provide information on paddling Pennsylvania’s waterways and some of the Allegheny River’s history and current themes: Invisible dams, bald eagles, and plastic bottles. We will land on Sycamore Island for a 45-minute guided tour of this unique floodplain hardwood forest preserved by the Allegheny Land Trust. Cost: $25 (cash only!) payable the day of the tour, includes kayak, paddle and lifejacket.

Tour Leaders: Tim Palmer, Author/Photographer; Mary Ann Thomas, Reporter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review/Valley News Dispatch

Speaker: Tom Dougherty, Vice President of Development and External Affairs, Allegheny Land Trust

Cap on size: 12


2. On the Ground with Pittsburgh’s Food and Sustainability Trailblazers

A new generation of chefs, farmers and food-waste experts is helping transform Pittsburgh into one of the nation’s leaders in sustainable city living. The group 412 Food Rescue will school us on food-waste and food-cycle issues as we make our way to the Giant Eagle supermarket in Gibsonia to carry out a rescue operation. The store’s sustainability officer and a representative from a food pantry or other food-donation recipient will talk about the program’s origins and impact. Then we're off to nearby Chatham University to tour its Eden Hall farm campus and learn about its brand-new Center for Regional Agriculture, Food and Transformation (CRAFT).

Tour Leaders: Beth Kracklauer, Food and Drinks Editor, Off Duty Section, The Wall Street Journal; Jocelyn Zuckerman, Freelance Writer and Editor

Speakers: Alice Julier, Associate Dean, Falk School of Sustainability, and Food Studies Program Director, Chatham University; Leah Lizarondo, Executive Director, 412 Food Rescue

Cap on size: 40


3. Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale, PA

What shapes the making of one of the country’s most influential environmental writers? We’ll tour the four-room historic house where Rachel Carson was born and lived from 1907 until 1929 and learn about how her childhood shaped her lifelong aspirations and later writings. We’ll discuss Carson's environmental ethic as it was shaped by her time in Springdale and Pittsburgh and the relevance of her bio-centric view of the world to today's issues of climate change and global pollution. Renee Lertzman leads a discussion on the psychological dimensions of what made Carson’s work and message resonate so powerfully, and what this means for all of us on the front lines of environmental journalism. NOTE: There is a chance to walk a 10 - 20 minute “sensory & exploratory” trail — wear appropriate shoes. Coverage.

Tour Leaders: Kirsi Jansa, Documentary Filmmaker and Journalist/Visiting Researcher and Video Journalist, Institute for Green Science, Carnegie Mellon University; Renee Lertzman, Environmental Psychologist and Author, "Environmental Melancholia: Psychoanalytic Dimensions of Engagement"

Speaker: Jeanne Cecil, Executive Director, Rachel Carson Homestead Association

Cap on size: 24


4. Stroll Through the Park along a Restored Stream

This tour will take you to the largest urban stream restoration project in the United States completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Covering 6.5 square miles, Nine Mile Run was plagued with sewage, straightened to make room for a highway and neglected for years. The restoration work reconfigured the stream channel, constructed wetlands, stabilized the stream bank and incorporated native plantings. Today, the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association conducts a variety of innovative urban ecology projects that involve the community in helping to improve the health of the watershed.

Tour Leaders: Kathy Knauer, Executive Producer, The Allegheny Front; Lou Reynolds, Fish Biologist and Watershed Resident

Speaker: Joe Fedor, Member, Board of Directors, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association; Lenna Hawkins, Deputy District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Cap on size: 20


5. Bobs' Beer Tour — From the Classroom to the Taproom

Join us for a singular Pittsburgh experience! We'll begin at Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering for "Engineering Beer" — one of only a few Brewery Engineering courses taught at an American engineering program. Professor Bob Parker will condense a semester class into less than an hour and explain the science behind making civilization’s oldest manufactured beverage. After that, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Bob Batz will lead a tour of some of the ‘burgh’s best breweries to apply what you learn in the classroom. You’ll also learn how these microbreweries are integrating sustainable practices into business plans and contributing to the economic impact of small towns throughout the region. Coverage.

Tour Leaders: Bob Batz Jr., Associate Features Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Paul Kovach, Director of Marketing and Communications, Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh

Speaker: Bob Parker, Robert v.d. Luft Professor, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and Department of Bioengineering; Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh

Cap on size: 40


6. National Aviary

The only indoor, nonprofit zoo in the U.S. dedicated to birds, the National Aviary features free-flight, mixed-species exhibits and focuses on conservation and education. We’ll hear about breeding programs for Andean condors and two bird species from Guam that were decimated by introduction of the brown tree snake. We’ll also visit the bird hospital, learn about preventing bird window strikes and have an up-close experience with African penguins.

Tour Leaders: Cheryl Hogue, Senior Correspondent, Chemical & Engineering News; Dawn Stover, Independent Writer and Editor

Speakers: Steven Latta, Director of Conservation and Field Research, National Aviary; Robert Mulvihill, Ornithologist, National Aviary

Cap on size: 40


7. Bike to "Heaven" — Currently on Pittsburgh's North Side

See Pittsburgh on two-wheels, as this tour cruises along the river trail to see the world's largest bicycle museum and shop, Bicycle Heaven, and chat with owner Craig Morrow. On the way to "Heaven", we'll download the Next Bike Application to smart phones, unhitch bikes from one of Pittsburgh’s 50 Healthy Ride stations, then ride along with Jamin Bogi, of Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP). GASP has developed an air quality monitoring system that attaches to bicycles, in hopes of monitoring pollution along cyclist routes. Note: It would be helpful to download the Next Bike Application prior to the tour and enter your credit card information. Bikes are $2 every 30-minutes, so this tour will cost an estimate of $12. Coverage.

Tour Leaders: Rebecca Lessner, Graduate Assistant, Environmental Journalism, Point Park University; Charles Quirmbach, Environment Reporter, Wisconsin Public Radio

Cap on size: 20


8. Making a Point

SEJ has convened in a lot of places and visited many special sites, but here's a chance to give a little something back to our host city. We'll walk across the street to Point State Park to meet Jessica Rohrdanz, the park's environmental education specialist, who'll talk about its history as a French and then an English fort, and its later transition from rail yard and red light district to parkland. Then she'll give us gloves and invite us to help pull invasive weeds for a while before finishing up with a tour of the Fort Pitt Museum. Come help us make a little SEJ history and see the roots of Pittsburgh.

Tour Leader: Don Hopey, Environment Reporter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Cap on size: 15


Beat Dinners in the ‘Burgh

7:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Consult your beat dinner flyer in your conference packet, or below, for details. Sign up at the SEJ Information Table for the beat dinner of your choice. You’ll spend Saturday evening out on the town enjoying dinner and robust discussion at some of Pittsburgh’s finest eateries, featuring a mix of ethnic cuisines, locally sourced menus and special diets. Attendees pay for their own dinner.

Most beat dinners are within walking distance of the Wyndham hotel. Three dinners however will require buses – the ACE Hotel dinner, The University of Pittsburgh dinner and the Building a Sustainable Local Food System dinner.

Buses for these dinners will load at 6:30 p.m. at the Benedum Room at the Wyndham hotel for arrivals at restaurants about 7:00 p.m.

Other beat dinners have restaurant information included on the sign-up sheet, including the address and phone number. Maps with the restaurant locations are also available.

Cost legend:
$ = <10 for an entree
$$ = 10-20
$$$ = >20


1. Essential Environmental Reporting Tools in the New Climate

Environmental reporting has become more essential, and more challenging, as politics and “alternative facts” replace science in many public forums. What types of training and resources would make it easier for you to cover these stories and engage your audiences in this period of pushback on facts and science? As Metcalf Institute celebrates 20 years of helping journalists bring science to the conversation, we want to hear from you. We invite you to share your ideas as we feast on great food, shoptalk, and networking.

Moderator: Sunshine Menezes, Executive Director, Metcalf Institute

Restaurant: Diamond Market Bar & Grill, 430 Market Street; $$, sandwiches and burgers made with “handpicked” ingredients and local flare

Maximum group size: 25


2. Branching Out Overseas: Teaming up to deepen international environmental reporting

From Brazil to India, SEJ members are covering environmental stories with far-reaching impacts. How can we deepen reporting on issues from climate change to deforestation, do impactful investigations and find opportunities for collaboration? At this dinner, journalists will share experiences and tips, and talk about how to improve international environmental reporting.

Moderator: Ian James, Reporter, Water and Environment, The Desert Sun

Speaker: Karla Mendes, Freelance Investigative Journalist

Restaurant: Christos Mediterranean Grille, 130 6th Street; $$, cozy, family-owned restaurant offering homestyle Greek recipes

Maximum group size: 25


3. Asthma

In some urban areas with severe ozone pollution, up to 25 percent of children between the ages of six and nine may have asthma. Innovative at-school treatment programs have cut 9-1-1 calls by 90 percent and absenteeism by 50 percent.

Moderator: Neil Strassman, Editor, Tarrant County Newsletter

Restaurant: The Yard Market Square, 100 Fifth Avenue; $$, gastropub with burgers, sandwiches and gourmet grilled cheese

Maximum group size: 25


4. Using Rivers to Tell Stories

Every river overflows with stories. The most obvious is the journey, from top to bottom, but the winding, watery pathways show all that we do to the land, connecting times, places, and people in profound ways. Join author and photographer Tim Palmer, who has had 25 books published about rivers, river conservation and related topics, for a lively discussion of the opportunities, the enticements, and the challenges of writing stories about rivers.

Moderator: Sara Shipley Hiles, Assistant Professor, School of Journalism, University of Missouri

Speaker: Tim Palmer, Author/Photographer

Restaurant: Six Penn Kitchen, 146 6th Street; $$$, “American bistro” with locally-raised ingredients and sustainably-sourced fish

Maximum group size: 25


5. Retirement: The Next Act

What are the best ways to take advantage of opportunities that abound when long-time environmental journalists retire or move into semi-retirement? What are the challenges? What are your questions? Retirement can be a chance to "rewire" — to grow, travel and experience new adventures. It can also pose challenges. In a reprise of last year's popular beat dinner, Jim Detjen, SEJ's founding president and a professor emeritus at Michigan State University, will lead a discussion where SEJ members can share their experiences about this new stage of their lives.

Moderator: Jim Detjen, retired Professor, Michigan State University

Restaurant: The Foundry, 381 N Shore Drive; $$$, locally-sourced farm fare and seafood

Maximum group size: 25


6. The Missing Beat

The national story about oil and gas fracking has been missing a critical component — the citizen complaint. After a key discovery in 2011, Public Herald spent five years extracting thousands of complaint investigations that were shelved and shredded by state and federal officials. We mapped and released these records in early 2017 via an open source database,, which has influenced conversations and policies about fracking's true impacts on drinking water resources. Join us to learn how to apply this project to regions near you. For more, visit

Moderator: Melissa Troutman, Executive Director, Public Herald

Restaurant: Stone Neopolitan Pizzeria, 300 Liberty Avenue #100; $, counter-service pizza and casual atmosphere

Maximum group size: 25


7. Building a Sustainable Local Food System

Opened in March of 2016, Pittsburgh’s only vegan Polish establishment was named Best New Restaurant of the year by Pittsburgh Magazine. Chef-owners Kate Lasky, a sixth-generation Pittsburgher, and Tomasz Skowronski, whose parents emigrated from Warsaw, source locally for their pierogis — stuffed with either sauerkraut and mushroom or smoked potato, greens and roasted parsnip — and other dishes, including a vegetable-pâté sandwich with pickles, smoked onion rémoulade, pickled beet and mustard on house-baked seed bread. The warm, intimate space features a hand-crafted-wood bar and back patio, and the cocktails, crafted from house-made syrups, infusions, shrubs and tinctures, are all under 10 bucks. Lasky and Skowronski will talk about the vision behind Apteka, followed by a conversation with Jeralyn Beach, General Manager at Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance, and Grant Ervin, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Pittsburgh. The family-style meal will be $40 including tax and tip (excluding drinks).

Moderators: Beth Kracklauer, Food and Drinks Editor, Off Duty Section, The Wall Street Journal; Jocelyn Zuckerman, Freelance Writer and Editor

Restaurant: Apteka, 4606 Penn Ave., Bloomfield; Family-style meal: $40 (excluding drinks)

Maximum size: 25


8. How to Better Translate Science (a hosted dinner)

Our dinner topic for the night is wonderfully varied, from sustainability to translating science for a polarized nation. But before we start, we’ll take a brief tour of some of the 30 Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning. The rooms, all but two which are used as classrooms, were designed to represent the culture of various ethnic groups that have settled in Allegheny County since the 18th century. For dinner, we’ll enjoy a taste of the 21st century dining hall menu in the William Pitt Union, formerly the Beaux-Arts Hotel Schenley, built when Oakland was Pittsburgh’s premiere cultural destination. No longer limited to wing nights and bland carbs, university dining halls are integrating sustainable practices in sourcing, preparation, serving and even composting. During dinner we’ll be joined by Eric Beckman, Distinguished Service Professor of Chemical Engineering and co-Director of Pitt’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. He will discuss innovations in sustainability as well as how journalists can address issues of cognitive bias, the politics of sustainability and how we can better translate science.

Moderator: Perry Beeman, Managing Editor, Business Record

Restaurant:  Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh — dinner provided by the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Note: No license for alcohol in the cathedral. Wine with dinner only.

Maximum group size: 40


9. Pittsburgh’s Farm-to-Table Food Renaissance

Two years ago Zagat declared Pittsburgh the best food city in America, an accolade earned by a wave of young chefs boldly reinventing the city’s culinary scene with creative takes on local, farm-to-table fare. Bethany Zozula, the executive chef of the Ace Hotel’s Whitfield, is a rising star among them, making the Ace the perfect spot from which to explore the city’s food movement. Located in a century-old YMCA, Pittsburgh’s Ace is also an exemplar of adaptive reuse; we’ll dine in the hotel’s vintage gymnasium with ping pong and corn hole at our disposal. Zozula has planned a family-style, three-course meal (see menu here) featuring both a vegetarian dish and trout that was farm-raised in circulating cold water at the family-owned Laurel Hill Trout Farm. The Whitfield Sommelier, Joslynne McDonough, will walk us through a tasting of a sustainable wine and the pastry chef, Casey Renee, has concocted some ingenious adaptive reuse of her own for dessert. The $40 cost includes tax and tip (but not drinks).

Moderators: Hal B. Klein, Pittsburgh Magazine and Liza Gross, Freelancer

Restaurant: Ace Hotel, 120 S Whitfield Street; $40 total – three courses including vegetarian option

NOTE: This beat dinner had advance sign-up online in order for the Ace to prepare the catering. Sign up ended at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 4.

Maximum group size: 40


Wednesday, October 4
Thursday, October 5
Friday, October 6
Sunday, October 8