In our “behind the scenes” blog series, get to know our amazing team of dynamic journalists who make the Energy News Network possible. This month, we profile Bill Opalka who reports out of Albany, New York and has been with the Energy News Network since 2018. Bill covers Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.
What made you decide to become a journalist?
My father worked for the railroad in an era when big city newspapers were still shipped by train. Growing up, we had papers from all over the Northeast in our house, which fascinated me. I would learn something new every day about places I had never been or about things I knew nothing about. Those are some of the reasons all of us have, I think, for sticking with this career through all the adversity.
You mentioned growing up in the Northeast, where is your hometown?
I grew up in a working-class community outside Albany, New York, at about the time the region started to deindustrialize. As the state capital it was insulated somewhat from the worst of the downturns. And it’s an area rich in history, with a lot of idyllic rural communities. It’s also close to the Adirondack Mountains and the Berkshires, which are beautiful and fascinating places. After living elsewhere for quite some time, my wife and I were able to return last year for life in the “country.”
How did you get your start in journalism?
I was a stringer for the Associated Press covering federal court before embarking on the usual career path of community news, local government and eventually the business desk in a city daily.
When did you begin focusing on energy issues specifically?
I was working in Pittsburgh more than 20 years ago when electric utility restructuring was all the rage. It seemed to be a very interesting topic that few people understood, and yet no one cared about until their lights went out or their bills spiked. So, I volunteered for the beat. It was also a time when wind turbines started to dot the landscape, which seemed really novel. Little did I know that when I moved to Connecticut a few years later, a magazine publisher was looking to create the first-of-its-kind wind magazine based in the United States. I’ve been focused on clean energy for various outlets ever since.
Why continue to do journalism in such a tough market?
Energy is one of the most interesting and important stories going on right now, not just locally or nationally, but globally. It’s not something anyone can pick up immediately, so it’s worth contributing what I can to a better understanding.
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