A decade ago, the internet had only just begun to emerge as a dominant media platform. And for all of its potential, the world of online news was still a bewildering place for many readers.
On March 16, 2010, Fresh Energy and RE-AMP launched a new project to help sort things out. Midwest Energy News, a daily collection of energy coverage from around the region, was intended to help readers navigate the “firehose” of information and find the most important stories about the clean energy transition.
At the time, MinnPost media columnist David Brauer noted the site’s launch, saying “The ultimate worth of Midwest Energy News will be the strength of its curation, and if it lives up to its substance-emphasizing mission statement, it will be one for conscientious Minnesotans to bookmark.”
Ten years later, Midwest Energy News has evolved into the Energy News Network, a national news service with four full-time staffers and 15 part-time contributors around the country publishing 500 original articles every year. Today more than 25,000 people subscribe to ENN’s five daily email digests, with nearly 100,000 people visiting the website each month.
“I’m super-pleased but admittedly not surprised, Midwest Energy News is still going, a decade in,” Brauer told us recently. “A smart bet was placed on experienced journalists and what was then, quaintly, a very undercovered energy landscape. It’s all become a bigger part of our lives and as journalism resources have shrunk, I think everyone there should be proud they filled the gap with solid info that proved out.”
Ken Paulman, a former managing editor at Minnesota Public Radio who joined Fresh Energy in 2009 and continues to run ENN today, worked with Star Tribune veteran Ron Meador, then the director of RE-AMP’s Media Center, to grow the new service.
“We really started out with nothing,” Paulman said. “We had to work hard to find our audience through social media and other interactions.”
In January of 2011, Midwest Energy News published its first original article, a feature on recently adopted siting standards for wind turbines in Wisconsin that were about to become a target of the state’s new governor, Scott Walker.
“The timing of that story was kind of remarkable, Kari [Lydersen] had written a deep explainer of the new standards, and then when Scott Walker decided to undo the whole thing, that story became a really important reference point,” Paulman said. “Kari’s work really set the tone for the journalism we’ve tried to focus on. We’ve never sought to compete with anyone else, but to do work that fills in the gaps and provides substance and context.”
In 2014, Fresh Energy developed a partnership with the MacArthur Foundation that led to the launch of a parallel site, Southeast Energy News, the following year. In 2017 the project was expanded nationally, and the Energy News Network was born.
With an expanding focus that includes more reporting on equity issues as well as partnerships with other news organizations, the Energy News Network is continuing to evolve to provide a vital service in a constantly changing media landscape.