Elizabeth Eaton: Journalism is for telling stories, making a difference


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Elizabeth Eaton is a recent graduate of the University of Arizona, where she earned her bachelor’s in journalism and received minors in environmental science and Spanish. She was a finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award her freshman year for her work as a columnist at the Daily Wildcat. During her sophomore year, she placed as a finalist in the Mark Finley Gold Pen Newswriting Competition. At the end of her junior year, she was honored as the Science Journalism Student of the Year.

She first became interested in environmental reporting during a summer in Costa Rica as a student reporter for Ecochronicle.

She was able to peel back the country’s curtain of ecotourism to uncover the environmental issues that lay at its heart. She discovered that the diverse orchid gardens within the cloud forest of Monteverde were in danger. Not only were the flowers being stolen from their home by poachers, but the rapid change in climate was limiting where they could grow. She collaborated with another student to produce a multiplatform story complete with video and photos to fully convey the significance of orchids in Costa Rica.

She returned to the University of Arizona in the fall for an internship with Edible Baja Arizona, a local food magazine. With a renewed perspective on environmental issues, she began to learn and report on Tucson’s food system. She wrote about how the impact of water-intensive agriculture and ranching weighed on the minds of Tucsonans, which prompted her to pursue a minor in environmental science. In the field, she learned about hydroponics from a cattle rancher and visited a greenhouse and chicken coop managed by a K-12 school. In the classroom, she studied soil properties and the complex water laws in Arizona and California.

She continued to write about food and culture for the Arizona Daily Star, and worked with a designer to create graphics to explain the meaning behind Tucson’s UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation. By going beyond talking-heads and experts generally interviewed by the media, she found inspiring stories from Tucsonans whose lives have been changed by food in Southwest Arizona.

She spent the summer writing about juvenile drug smugglers and Arizona energy controversies for the Arizona Republic. She tackled a border county policy of prosecuting juveniles as adults and even interviewed a young teen who faced years in prison and a felony on his record. She also produced a demystifying piece which explained the complexity of building an interstate power line, and who will benefit – and suffer – from its construction.

She was a NASA Space Grant Intern at the Arizona Daily Star her senior year and extensively covered the OSIRIS-REx mission and its leaders. She also covered a movement to designate a local area as a national monument, and even trekked out to the remote site with archaeologists to better write an emotional 2,000-word story about the history and legacy of the Great Bend of the Gila River.

In May, she will wrap up an internship with Science News in D.C., where she has been writing about breaking scientific discoveries, such as the presence of organic material on the dwarf planet Ceres. She quickly picked up on how to read a technical scientific paper, interview researchers, and turn those notes into an easy-to-read story accessible for a general audience. She covered everything from viruses and bacteria to skin-shedding geckos and pollinating drones.

Now she is looking for her next journalism adventure, either building on her skills in science writing, food journalism and investigative work, or some new area of journalism that she hasn’t explored yet.