Behind the scenes with Kathi Kowalski

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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 Kathiann (Kathi) Kowalski who reports out of Cleveland and has been with Energy News Network since 2013. Her “typical” work day is anything but typical.

When did you begin reporting on energy issues?

About 15 years ago, a science magazine I wrote for regularly had an upcoming issue on “Future Power.” The deadline for pitches was the same day that a snafu in FirstEnergy’s service territory triggered a major blackout. I missed the deadline but got the go-ahead for “Blackout!” The feature reported on what happened and why it took more than a day to get the grid back up and running in all the affected areas.

More seriously, covering energy matters grew naturally out of my reporting on a range of science and social issues. The 25 books I’ve written include titles on alternative energy, climate change and hazardous waste sites. Additionally, the hundreds of articles I wrote before joining the Energy News Network’s reporting team include features on climate change, fracking, the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, air emissions, infrastructure, transportation and more.

What unique approach do you bring to the Energy News Network?

Before turning to journalism, I practiced environmental and business law with a large firm. That experience helps me understand various laws and issues relating to energy and the environment. It also helps me view issues through a different analytical lens. I appreciate the value in understanding the arguments from different sides. I don’t only want to know what happened, but I also want to strategize about what parties’ motivations are, what they might do next, and what the responses to those moves might be.

Your coverage for Energy News Network focuses on Ohio. Is that where you’re from?

I’ve lived in Ohio longer than anywhere else. I grew up in Long Island and then moved here after attending law school in Massachusetts. I still love visiting the seashore when I can. In the meantime, I enjoy heading up to Lake Erie.

How do you typically start your day as a working journalist?

As a working freelance journalist, I have very few “typical days.” I often start checking emails and embargoed release services after sipping decaf coffee and reading the paper. But sometimes I’ll try to try to nab a source in another time zone or catch someone who gets into the office super early. Other times I’ll do one more round of proofreading and editing on an article I worked on late the night before. Or, I’ll respond to editorial questions on a piece.

What happens after that?

It all depends. I may do phone interviews and then type up notes. Or I may get a couple of hours to write up articles I’ve done the research for. And yes, that takes time!

Unexpected events happen too. For example, I may shift plans to listen in on a press call that got scheduled with short notice. Or I may learn about developing news and change my schedule to be able to cover that. Sometimes I see a motion or brief has been filed in a case I’m following. Perhaps I’ll read through a couple of reports and start making connections I want to address. Or, I may get edits back and need to revise a feature to make it better.

Do you get out of your home office?

Whenever possible! Within the last few months, I’ve covered the opening of a new Northeast Ohio headquarters for a construction company that does a lot of energy efficiency and renewable energy work. I attended a legal conference where counsel addressed issues relating to corporate reporting, climate change, shale gas and fracking, and more. I also got out to a technical conference with research reports on shale gas, an industry meeting on battery storage, a science association’s annual meeting, and a pub meet-up of wind energy supporters. And if there’s a field trip somewhere, I want to be there. If there happens to be a beach or hiking trail along the way, that’s even better!

Read Energy News Network stories by Kathi Kowalski.

The Energy News Network is published by Fresh Energy, a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for clean energy policy. The Energy News Network is an editorially independent news and information site, and its contents should not be considered to reflect policy positions of Fresh Energy or our donors.

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