The journalism major will investigate climate injustice in Robeson County, examining a region devastated by two hurricanes in recent years.
As a North Carolina native, junior Emery Eisner knew that Robeson County was ravaged by hurricanes in 2016 and again in 2018. Now the journalism major is going to make sure others are aware, too, and examine the aftermath of the storms.
Eisner is the recipient of the Pulitzer Center’s Climate Science Reporting Fellowship, a grant that will allow her to research the climate injustice occurring in Robeson County. The county, one of about 150 majority-minority counties in the U.S., was devastated by hurricanes in 2016 and 2018. Eisner said that while she saw reports on the county when the hurricanes occurred, there has been little follow-up coverage in the years since. This inspired her to pitch her coverage idea to the Pulitzer Center, which raises awareness of underreported global issues. In addition to receiving funding for her project, Eisner is part of the 2021 cohort of the Campus Consortium Reporting Fellows.
“Coming from North Carolina, I think it’s going be really exciting to do a story about North Carolinians,” Eisner said. “This is a community that has really been underserved, and deserves a little bit of spotlight.”
Elon University is one of the Pulitzer Center’s more than 30 Campus Consortium partners, an educational initiative that brings Pulitzer Center staff and journalists to Elon’s campus twice a year. With Elon’s membership in the consortium, students – like Eisner – have the opportunity to work with the center on developing reporting projects, which have been featured on the center’s website and are disseminated through media partners.
Past Elon students who have participated in the student fellowship initiatives have investigated topics such as the resurgence of leprosy in Brazil and redefining gender roles in Rwanda.
Kelly Furnas, lecturer in journalism and adviser to Elon University’s student newspaper, The Pendulum, helped Eisner work through her ideas and finalize her application. Furnas said he is always excited when students can work with the Pulitzer Center.
“They provide a tremendous amount of mentorship and guidance throughout the entire process in terms of coaching, but also in terms of pitching, and trying to place stories,” Furnas said.
The fellowship application asked for story ideas focused on new scientific discoveries, or information related to the impacts of climate change within the United States. In its call for applications, the Pulitzer Center specifically mentioned its interest in proposals related to climate change in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Environmental reporting is a fast growing area of journalism, Furnas said, and he looks forward to seeing Eisner’s final results.
“For her to be able to spend months working on a project that’s going to have significant impact on not just the community, but on anyone who is taking note of the effects of climate change, has a lot of benefits for her but also for the community she served,” Furnas said.
Eisner has already started her research for the project, and hopes to visit Robeson County in person during the summer.
“This is my first professional opportunity. This is the first time I am getting out in the real world and doing pretty hard-hitting, real-life reporting,” Eisner said. “I’m really excited to do a story that could have a big effect on the local area where I grew up.”
Eisner is an active member in Elon’s student media organizations, serving as a producer and reporter with Elon News Network. Additionally, she was the editor-in-chief of Phi Psi Cli, Elon’s student yearbook, during the 2019-20 academic year.