Download (190 KB)
Master of Arts (MA)
Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism
School or Department
When I arrived in Northern Michigan last May, I came equipped with the pre-reporting I needed to follow this story. I moved to the area just as the Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s deadline to shut down Line 5 approached. But more than seven months later, the 68-year-old pipeline still carries 540,000 barrels of crude oil through a waterway hydrologists’ have deemed “the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes.”
Enbridge Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac is more than just another contentious pipeline. This dispute is brewing at the intersection of state and federal jurisdiction. It highlights present energy needs and how they conflict with political promises of decarbonization. And at the very center of the issue is the tension between two treaties: one with our international allies to the north, and the other with sovereign tribal nations.
Constructing a longform audio story about an unresolved and ever-changing news story has been a real challenge. I found myself restructuring this script every few weeks as the legal tug-of-war dragged on. I will continue to make those revisions as Interlochen Public Radio seeks to air this work as part of a mini-series for its environmental podcast, Points North.
The following story kickstarted my career as an audio journalist. This graduate program taught me how to report, cut and mix audio and—perhaps most importantly—how to write a pitch. From there, I began following this issue as a freelance reporter. That unexpectedly led to a full-time position as an environmental reporter with Interlochen Public Radio.
None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t dug into this developing story as a graduate student. Part two of this project has already been aired and published, which shows how this master’s program can propel determined students into their professional work.
While I’m proud of this project, I don’t see it as finished work. I see it as the backdrop to a story that will only grow more important in the coming years.
Great Lakes, energy, pipelines, treaty rights, fossil fuels, Straits of Mackinac
Shea, Patrick S., "Dire Straits: A Tale of Two Treaties" (2021). Graduate Student Portfolios, Papers, and Capstone Projects. 304.
© Copyright 2021 Patrick S. Shea