Environmental Writers’ Workshop, April 21

Environmental Writers Workshop – Burke Museum (Seattle) – April 21, 2012

We in the Pacific Northwest are fortunate to live not only in a place where nature abounds but also to live in place where place-based writers abound. Their writing brings in not only plants and animals, but also the human inhabitants, past and present, who dwell on the land. Whether it is exploring the wonderful world of feathers, considering the myriad ways of plants and animals of the the Pacific Northwest, or pondering the life of salmon in Seattle, these authors provoke us to reflect upon our own relationship to the natural world around us. Ultimately, they are forging a new way to look at nature and to develop deeper connections to place.

For the fourth year in a row, the Burke Museum brings together a trio of outstanding writers to present a one-day workshop on writing about the environment. Award-winning authors William Dietrich, Thor Hanson, and Judith Roche will lead classroom and field-based sessions, all taking place at the Burke Museum. They bring years of experience as writers, journalists, bloggers, and teachers. Each is an attentive observer who weaves together history, science, and field time into well-crafted, thought-provoking writing about the natural and cultural world.

Judith Roche is the author of three poetry collections, most recently, Wisdom of the Body, an American Book Award winner, which was also nominated for a Pushcart. She has written extensively about our native salmon and edited First Fish, First People, Salmon Tales of the North Pacific and has salmon poems installed at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle. She has been Distinguished Northwest Writer-in-Residence at Seattle University, has taught at Cornish College of the Arts, and currently teaches at Richard Hugo House.

Thor Hanson is a conservation biologist, Switzer Environmental Fellow, and member of the Human Ecosystems Study Group. His most recent book is Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle. His first book, The Impenetrable Forest: My Gorilla Years in Uganda, won the 2008 USA Book News Award for nature writing. Hanson lives with his wife and son on an island off the coast of Washington State.

Bill Dietrich is a Washington state career journalist-turned novelist, who has covered the environment and science for the Seattle Times and other newspapers. He shared a Pulitzer for coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and won a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award for his book on the Northwest timber crisis, The Final Forest. His 10 novels have been translated into nearly 30 languages. He taught environmental journalism at Huxley College of the Environment at Western.

Cost is $100, which includes lunch. Scholarships are available for students.

For more information, please email burked@uw.edu or call (206) 543-5591.

Additional info at:



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  • Anonymous

    I wish more people were bringing this issue up. I thought that Robin Williams press conference went WAY too far, and the sheriff seemed to be revealing all those details with a certain glee. Our “need to know” every detail seems to veer into morbid curiosity if not sheer nosiness, and these few days is probably just the start.

    None of it changes the fact Williams died.

  • AndySchotz

    Not sure if this link will be readable, but I wrote a Quill column about suicide coverage that has a different approach. Not that reporting on suicide shouldn’t be sensitive, but we shouldn’t automatically start with an assumption that it’s taboo, even when private citizens are involved.


    Doesn’t an accidental death in a home have an assumption of privacy, too? Why not tell journalists to tread lightly in those cases, too?

    The taboo is based on an outdated societal belief that there is, and should be, shame attached to suicide and it shouldn’t be discussed. Actually, it’s a serious mental health issue in this country and should be discussed often – tastefully.

    The question about reporting on specific details of Robin Williams’ death is another matter. The New York City tabloids and their ilk are always going to run roughshod on ethics; they thrive on pandering to lurid curiosity.

    The addition to the code has the opposite effect, inadvertently affirming the tabloids’ decisions. It makes it sound as if all bets are off when reporting on the death of a public person or public place. I would strike it.

  • Ryan Horns

    After 16 years in journalism, I’ve dealt with the suicide coverage many many times and it never gets easier. It’s a bit lengthy, but here is a column I wrote about it recently:

    “Sense and sensitivity”
    by Ryan Horns

    In the course of almost 20 years spent as a journalist, I can definitely say I have helped a lot of businesses and organizations make a lot of money. I’ve also helped highlight a lot of amazing people, heroes and idealists.
    Similarly, I’ve probably ticked off a bunch of people at times as well. Maybe I put your drunk driving charge in the police beat and you lost your job. Maybe I didn’t write about your granddaughter. Maybe I wrote about someone else’s granddaughter. Maybe I questioned a decision you made or covered your court case. Maybe I spelled your name wrong once and you’ve cursed my name ever since.
    I’m comfortable with this because I know I’m just the messenger. People sometimes make bad decisions. Those decisions put them in the newspaper, not me.
    Over the past month, however, I’ve learned without a doubt that writing about suicides is the single most sensitive topic a journalist can cover. This has bothered me.
    After being told off by a girl in the Journal-Tribune offices last week, the fact truly hit home.
    When investigators determined January’s house fire arson was a suicide attempt, I reported the story. That prompted the girl’s visit to the newspaper office: How I could write what I did? Why couldn’t I bury the story on page two? Why did it have to be on the front page? Why do I care more about selling newspapers than the feelings of the family? Why couldn’t I hold the story for an extended period of time so the family could properly mourn?
    Of course, I also admired the guts it took for her to stomp down to my office and confront a guy more than twice her age. She meant business.
    The only stammering answer we could give in the newsroom was that we are journalists. Good or bad, we “journal” what happens in the community every single day. When a house burns and countless firefighters and emergency responders go inside and put their own lives in danger to save someone, it becomes news. Whether I like writing about it or not doesn’t matter.
    Some media outlets pride themselves on only reporting good news. I understand the desire, but I don’t see how that is a service to the community. Newspapers must deal with reality and facts. This past month I’ve written about fatal car crashes, ice storms, groundbreaking ceremonies, a canine service dog helping a handicapped boy, veterans being honored, snow rolls and thieves. This is our story as Union County, the good and the bad.
    We are all merely humans; just as capable of being heroic as we are admitting defeat. The role of journalism is not to help a community avoid dealing with reality. It is about helping them learn to understand it.
    Then, I started noticing how many suicide attempts there were over the past two weeks. Almost two-dozen Union County people tried to take their own lives in the first half of February alone. Why isn’t anyone talking about that?
    Meanwhile, I was trying to write an article about Marysville resident Amanda Stidam as she trains for her annual Suicide Sucks marathon run to raise funds for suicide awareness. Stidam lost her own mother to suicide, and feels the more people talk about the reality of suicide, the greater chance society has to get people the help they need and save more lives.
    In full disclosure, during the early 1990s, I lost a family friend to suicide and wondered what I could have done to prevent it. After years spent getting to know such an interesting person, all I have left is a Bob Dylan record he gave me once.
    The irony of the situation is that while I was getting yelled at for bringing attention to a suicide; local agencies were simultaneously asking me to write about suicide awareness. It seemed clear that a gray area needed addressed.
    During last week’s Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) meeting, I decided to find out. In a room full of people affected by suicide at one point in their lives, I asked how a journalist could realistically write about it without offending anyone. One member asked what news purpose there is to writing about a suicide. Another suggested I treat the story as if I were writing about my own mother.
    I pointed out that I don’t typically write about suicide attempts, and rarely print the names of the victims – unless they burn down a house, or shoot guns, or drive their cars into ponds, or generally involve the entire community. Some people kill themselves to get attention; others quietly want a way out.
    Honestly, I wish I wrote more often about suicide victims. Maybe I should do feature stories about every single one, what led them to take their own lives and then ask their family and friends to comment.
    When it comes down to it, it’s not my job to uphold this myth that suicide doesn’t exist. Especially not when 20 people have tried to kill themselves over the past month in our community. These are our friends and neighbors. We can pull the wool over our eyes and pretend these deaths aren’t happening, or we can raise awareness, provide the help and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    -Ryan Horns is a reporter for the Journal-Tribune

  • AndySchotz

    Good column. Very thoughtful.

  • Aimee England

    I am being asked by family members of a suicide ( cause of death not made public nor released by police) to remove photographs of the scene as police investigated the fatality, which was called in as DOA on our local college campus. Police allowed me to photograph the scene from the roadway. Family members are demanding (by phone calls and comments in the story post) that the photos showing the vehicle ( on one was in it ) be removed. I have removed the photos that featured the vehicle more prominently, due the lighting and distance no private information could be revealed. Here’s the link to my news page. These have been shared on Social media ( the post shows 135 shares and shows 8472 people reached.) several times. This link is the one with truck photos removed. https://www.facebook.com/hillsdalecommunitynews/photos/pcb.790994900944937/790994730944954/?type=1&theater

    And the photo below is one of the vehicle and similar to others that were removed.

    Here some of the comments. :

    Janelle Lynn Brooks Why are these up here! People need to respect privacy

    Like · Reply · 1 hr

    Heather Bryan Take these pictures down now!

    Jessica ThomasAugust 27 at 9:14pm Have you people no shame. Yes, you may be proud of your police and such but, this woman has a family. She’s my mother! No respect for victims privacy…

    Freedom of speech!! Yankeys like all you of you, that is posting this. Your the main reason I moved south. Did ANY of you think of her family, or friends? How would you like to deal with someone you love taking their life. Then dealing with pictures on facebook? If the police would of been doing their job they would of found her way before this. Yes I know that you won’t posted this, but I know this family. They are all good people and to put them though this, is uncalled for. Did any of news paper people ask how long that she had been missing? That’s what I thought, just put a label on her and belittle her. She won’t know the difference because she is just one more number to all of you. That really stinks because she has a mom, husband, 3 kids, brother, sister, and grandkids. They have to put up with the B.S. that you print. I’m sorry but all of you are in the wrong!!!! If the family could find a lawyer that is as crooked as all of you, I hope they sue all of you for wrong doing.

    Mainly I am worried that they could report me to the social media host site (Facebook) for offending photos.
    Secondly, I can’t afford nor do I have the resources to be sued (were that even an option) My news page is community based and is free- done in free time for the love the community. I’d like to work on monetizing it)
    This last commenter is correct. I and agree with some of his points. She was missing for about two days, and I am not sure that certain police did thoroughly look for her from what I heard on the scanner. ( my interpretation could be wrong however). I feel that I reported the facts correctly. Other news sites posted “BODY FOUND”. with just graphics.
    Locally I am the only 24-7 news resource.


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