As executive director of the Society of Environmental Journalists, I’m surrounded by my heroes every day. But there is one person that sprung to my mind immediately when we launched the #HonoringTheHeroes campaign: Elizabeth “Lizzie” Grossman.
Lizzie was not only an incredible environmental journalist, she was a mentor and a friend. Although I only got to know her for a few years before she passed in 2017, I enjoyed every minute of our long and free-flowing conversations. I count myself lucky to have learned some important personal lessons from her and her work, including:
Don’t be afraid to be ahead of the curve: Lizzie’s books on e-waste and green chemicals were among some of the first general interest publications on those topics, inspiring many others to follow. But instead of revisiting those themes, she moved on to the next under-reported topic, such as the health of workers in our food systems. She always seemed to be looking farther ahead than anyone else.
Environmental journalism includes covering human rights: More than once she told me that human rights—to clean air, secure water, safe food, healthy work—were her beat. At the time, that seemed impractical and perhaps even heretical. Today, environmental health and justice reporting is growing, thanks to pioneers like Lizzie and others.
Live your legacy: Lizzie warmly welcomed people no matter their background or position; I saw her engage and disarm everyone from senior policymakers to my shy daughters. But she was fierce too; there was no stronger advocate for freelancers or environmental health reporting on the SEJ board of directors. Through the “Lizzie” Fund for Environmental Journalism, SEJ honors her legacy by welcoming and supporting freelancers reporting on environmental health.
“When is your nice friend coming to visit us again?” my daughters would ask me, looking forward to the small gifts she’d bring and the games she’d play with them. Like them and so many others that Lizzie touched, I miss her. But I’m pleased to be able to honor her as a Hero of Environmental Journalism with my donation to the “Lizzie” Fund for Environmental Journalism. Read more about the journalists and the stories that the fund has supported here.
Please join us in #HonoringTheHeroes of journalism on Twitter this holiday season. Add your heroes' names to our Wall Of Heroes by making a donation of any amount to SEJ. Those funds will help these heroes of journalism continue to tell the world's most important stories.
Thank you and Happy Holidays,