Some within the U.S. government are bracing for climate change as one of the next major threats to national security. Is the U.S. ready for the coming risks? That is the question 10 reporters examined for this project.

Global Warning is supported by the McCormick Foundation, which awarded fellowships to the post-graduate students to work on the inaugural project of the National Security Journalism Initiative . Started by the Medill School of Journalism, the initiative aims to be a resource for those reporting on national security issues.

In addition to appearing on the “Global Warning” website, most of the stories were published by media partner. The McClatchy Newspapers’ Washington website published stories by Charlie Mead and Anne Snider, Malathi Nayak, and Jessica Chen, which also were distributed to more than 600 other newspapers through the McClatchy-Tribune news service. Stories by Jacquelyn Ryan, Heather Somerville and Emmarie Huetteman are running in The Washington Post in coming weeks. Both media partners are linking to the entire project online.

The Reporters

Sarah Chacko finished her graduate requirements at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism this August. She joined the program in January, after working for six years in Texas and Louisiana. After graduating from Texas Christian University in 2004, Sarah moved to the small town of Killeen, Texas, where she covered the mayor’s office and city council. She then moved to the Denton Record-Chronicle, a subsidiary of the Dallas Morning News, where she covered their rapidly expanding school district. Most recently, Sarah spent two years at the Capitol bureau of The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge, where she won state and national awards for her coverage of the state’s poverty issues.

Jessica Q. Chen is a California native who has a B.S. in biology from the University of California, Irvine.  In 2004, she spent a year in New Zealand, where she realized her love for writing and traveling.  As a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism, Jessica specializes in investigative reporting.  She has reported from the Czech Republic and Macedonia, and hopes to pursue a career in foreign correspondence. Jessica worked as an online editor for Entrepreneur magazine and freelanced for the AllBusiness.com technology channel, Korean American Journal and The Daily Practice, a resource for yoga studio owners.  She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

Jessica Binsch came to Medill in 2009 to pursue her master’s degree, focusing on multimedia storytelling and political affairs reporting. She’s passionate about digital journalism and new forms of storytelling. She was born and raised in Germany and holds a bachelor’s degree from Free University Berlin in communication science, political science and North American studies. She interned at various media outlets and co-founded a blog covering transatlantic relations. Jessica is fluent in German and English, and she loves to read and travel.

Charles Mead comes from Seattle, Wash. He attended Boston College and spent a semester at University College London. Charles majored in political science before attending Medill in fall 2009, and he spent the past summer reporting for The American Lawyer magazine. He is concentrating in business reporting, and will spend the first months of 2011 as an intern with Bloomberg News before finishing his degree at Medill’s Washington newsroom in the spring.

Heather Somerville has a background in investigative reporting with a focus on national security and immigration. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and is skilled in digital storytelling, photojournalism and Flash graphic design. Currently based in Washington, D.C., Heather’s journalism career began in 2008 with The Charlotte Observer. She has been a reporter and assistant editor for community newspapers in North Carolina. On the side, she taught English as a Second Language at a community college. Heather received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Colorado State University in 2006 and has done volunteer work throughout Latin America since 2000. Her travel has led her far from her New England roots but she remains a die-hard Red Sox fan.

Malathi Nayak was born and raised in Bangalore, India. Trained as a lawyer, she followed her heart into journalism. Before coming to Medill, she attended law school in Bangalore and worked for two years in New Delhi as the legal correspondent for Mint, an Indian business newspaper in partnership with the Wall Street Journal. She hopes to pursue a career in international reporting with a focus on developing countries and frontier economies. Her reporting interests lie in issues at the intersection of law, business, politics and social development. At Medill, she trained in investigative, broadcast and multimedia storytelling techniques. In the past ten years, she has acted in theatrical productions across India and learned Indian classical music.

Sonja Elmquist came to Medill from covering crime at the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C. Participating in Medill’s business reporting concentration, Sonja interned at Bloomberg News, writing market coverage on the commodities team in the Chicago bureau. Before becoming a journalist, Sonja taught English as a second language to adult students in Cairo, Egypt, and Hamburg, Germany. Sonja also served in the Army National Guard as a radio operator. Sonja brings to the project an interest in the way that a changing climate will impact U.S. domestic security and the military’s ability to respond to conflict.

Annie Snider is an environment reporter who has covered energy issues at the local and federal level, invasive species in the Great Lakes region and climate change adaptation. Prior to attending the Medill School of Journalism, where she earned a Master’s in science reporting, Annie worked at Environmental Defense Fund in New York City and was a freelance science writer covering the biomedical field. Annie held a Carnegie-Knight digital reporting fellowship this summer.

Emmarie Huetteman came to Medill in 2009 from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in political science and anthropology. Previously, she worked on senior political analyst Jack Lessenberry’s show at NPR affiliate Michigan Radio and served as a columnist, associate editor, and editor-in-chief at the university’s newspaper, The Michigan Daily. While studying public affairs reporting at Medill, Huetteman has covered policy issues including education, campaign finance and national security.

Jacquelyn Ryan holds a master’s degree in business reporting from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s degree in feminist studies from University of California, Santa Cruz. Before joining Medill’s National Security Journalism Initiative, Jacquelyn worked at the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle & Daily Bulletin, Beverly Hills (Calif.) Weekly, KZSC, Santa Cruz (Calif.) and Health-e News Service (South Africa). She also riled up audiences for a year at the Late Show with David Letterman.

The Editors

Josh Meyer left the Los Angeles Times/Tribune’s Washington Bureau in early 2010 to help launch the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative, which aims to find the best ways to teach and to do national security journalism in this changing media environment—especially across all digital platforms. Meyer won numerous local, state and national awards in his 20 years at the Times, including in his last nine years as paper’s terrorism/national security reporter. He remains based in Washington, D.C., at the newsroom of Medill, the journalism school of Northwestern University. He teaches a class on “Covering Conflicts, Terrorism and National Security” and leads groups of post-graduate students on three-month investigations as part of the initiative’s National Security Reporting Project. As the initiative’s director for education and outreach, he is also responsible for helping build the initiative’s efforts to assist and inform working journalists and scholars as well as students and educators.

Ellen Shearer is the William F. Thomas Professor in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and director of the school’s Washington Program, Medill News Service. She led the news service’s investigative projects in 2004 and 2006, which created databases of privately sponsored congressional travel as part of the reporters’ investigative series of stories. In 2008-09, she followed up with the news service’s Pentagon Travel series, in cooperation with the Center for Public Integrity.

Ellen was a leader in the News21 project on privacy and civil liberties post-9/11, which won a special citation from National Press Foundation. She created and directed “Y Vote 2000: Politics of a New Generation,” a project to cover the presidential campaign to engage young adults.

She is the co-author of “Nonvoters: America’s No-Shows” and has written chapters in five media books. Before joining the Medill faculty, she was a senior editor at New York Newsday, a consulting editor at Newhouse News Service, marketing executive at Reuters, and held positions as senior executive, bureau chief and reporter during a 10-year stint at United Press International.

katdownsKat Downs is the Innovations Editor for Graphics at The Washington Post, where she creates data-driven interactive graphics and multimedia projects. In three years there, she has designed and developed dozens of interactive graphics on topics as diverse as North Korean prison camps, the U.S. unemployment rate, and the 30th anniversary of D.C.’s 9:30 club. Before coming to the Post, she developed interactive graphics at The Baltimore Sun and USA TODAY. A native of North Carolina, she majored in visual communication at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Scott B. Anderson is a Medill School of Journalism lecturer specializing in interactive publishing and also leads interactive strategy for the National Security Journalism Initiative. Prior to Medill, Anderson spent 10 years as the head of editorial at Chicago-based Tribune Interactive (TI), the umbrella organization for Tribune Company’s award-winning national network of newspaper and broadcast station websites. Previously, he was an editor, reporter and founding executive producer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Anderson is a longtime active member of the American Society of News Editors and Online News Association.

nelsonhsuNelson Hsu is the Lead Editorial Designer for NPR where he creates interactive experiences that include informational graphics and multimedia presentations. Prior to NPR, he spent nine years at The Washington Post playing a similar role. Many of the projects he has worked on have won awards including a Pulitzer, Peabody and DuPont. Nelson is a native of the Washington D.C. Metro area and majored in Fine Arts at the University of Maryland.

candiceCandice Marks is the administrative assistant to the National Security Journalism Initiative. Candice previously worked for four years with the Law Offices of B. Mayo Robertson as an office coordinator. She has over 15 years’ of progressive administrative experience. In previous years, she held clerical positions with various non-profit organizations, such as the Council on Social Work Education and the American Arbitration Association. Candice has extensive experience in the fields of administration, secretarial and customer service.


  1. Peter Carter MD says:

    How wonderful to have a team of journalists dedicated to reporting for the survival of humanity as global warming climate catastrophe looms ever larger and closer- as it has to by the basic science (no models needed to know now).

    You are morally and emotionally courageous to take on this daunting task.

    The two biggest stories ever – are being denied and going unreported.

    These are the two greatest dangers to our survival.

    1. The greatest threat to the survival of huge climate change vulnerable populations and to humanity as a whole is the multiple adverse impacts of global warming and climate disruption on agricultural productivity. Apart from Lester Brown, there is no great concern from our institutions of the now inevitable impacts on world and regional food security. With the meltdown of the Arctic summer sea ice the two best agricultural regions in the world of central North America and Europe are vulnerable.

    The people of the world in all nations have a right to be warned.

    2. The greatest threat to the survival of most life on Earth is cascading Arctic climate feedbacks, that in a 2007 paper James Hansen and others said put the planet ‘in imminent peril’ and could unleash a ‘cataclysm’.

    Our situation today is that all of the risk factors for the long feared runaway global warming and climate change are now operant, but there is no sign of our leaders or leading institutions even being alarmed.

    ➢ Positive climate feedback from loss of albedo with meltdown of Arctic summer sea ice.
    ➢ A recent and continuing spike in atmospheric methane due to methane positive carbon feedback emissions.
    ➢ Positive carbon feedback methane emissions (increased) from warming northern peatlands.
    ➢ Positive methane carbon feedback from increasing methane emissions of seasonally frozen lakes and ponds in Siberia.
    ➢ Positive methane common feedback emissions from thawing permafrost.
    ➢ Positive methane carbon feedback emissions (i.e. the opinion of Drs N. Shakhova, and I. Semiletov) from melting ocean floor methane hydrates on the East Siberian Sea continental shelf.

    My heart felt thanks to all of you and God speed your great work, Peter Carter (Canada)

    • Martin Mangino, Ph.D. says:

      We will leave the current interglacial warm period and enter the next ice age and agenda driven “journalists” from Columbia and NPR will continue to “report” global warming. What an unimaginable lack of intellectual curiosity and blind indoctrinated agenda driven ambition. Here’s the hypocrisy, even global warming journalists look before they cross the street.

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