Energy News Network partners with Detroit Equity Action Lab

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Photo credit: Cybelle Codish

The following case study was produced by Kevin Gaffney of the consulting firm Seiche.

In May of 2019, Energy News Network and the Detroit Equity Action Lab launched a new partnership with the goal of supporting energy news stories, written by journalists of color, that explore how energy issues are directly impacting their community. As part of the partnership, ENN provided a professional photographer and editorial guidance to complete the stories in addition to insight on how to respond to negative feedback from a utility featured in one of the pieces.

“This partnership worked. The reporters got the mentorship they needed. The stories were finished with photography and editorial support, then shared by an entire community of people that normally might not be presented with this perspective,” said Martina Guzman of the Detroit Equity Action Lab.

For her story, In Detroit, a legacy of inequality creates obstacles to clean energy, reporter Biba Adams covered how Detroit resident Tim Summers installed solar power on his home with the hope of achieving energy independence and long-term savings. The story also delved deep into the financial and logistical barriers that prevent many residents of Detroit from going solar, including strong opposition to community solar programs from area utilities.

Although published at the end of the month, the story was widely shared and would become one of Energy News Network’s most-read stories for May. 

“This story, in particular, is about Black people in Detroit getting solar panels,” continued Guzman. “That was fascinating to me. Detroiters were taking control of their energy costs and no be so dependent on DTE Energy.. People kept on sharing it and sharing it and reading it and reading it. The entire process, working with ENN was very successful, I’m very happy with how everything turned out.”

A second story in the series, “We won”: Environmental activists claim victory after Detroit incinerator closes by Kianga Moore also saw strong readership and was shared broadly on social media by organizations including the Sierra Club, NAACP’s Midwest Region III, Environmental Health News and the Detroit People’s Platform.

ENN director Ken Paulman says the project will provide a template for similar efforts going forward.

“This was a small step but we learned a lot from this partnership and look forward to doing it again,” he said. “It’s critical for news organizations to think harder about whose voices are present in their work and how they are represented. Improving the diversity of our contributors and sources is a top priority for the Energy News Network, and we’re grateful for Martina’s guidance in helping us to move forward.”