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Sara Peach

Sara Peach says serving as editor-in-chief for the multi-media project “Powering a Nation: The Quest for Energy in a Changing USA” was, “the most fun I’ve ever had at a job.” Even though the rigor of the job meant she didn’t get much sleep, it was “a tremendous growth experience.”

Peach, a Roy H. Park fellow, earned two degrees from UNC — a master’s in 2009 and a B.A. in Environmental Studies in 2005. She worked for two years in public relations for Rural Action, an environmental non-profit organization in Ohio, before returning to UNC. She saw a graduate degree at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication as a way to continue to tell stories about the environment, but on a larger scale.

“I write and produce videos of things that worry me,” she says. “I got to where I didn’t want to just tell stories about one organization.”

Powering a Nation was born when UNC was chosen as one of eight News 21 Incubators. News 21, a project funded by the Carnegie-Knight Initiative, furthers journalistic innovation and experimentation.

Professors Laura Ruel and Don Wittekind guided the team of twelve graduate and undergraduate students. The team selected the topic, researched energy issues, investigated and wrote the stories, designed and coded the web site, and produced and edited the videos. Along the way, they blogged about their experiences to give background and depth to the stories.

Peach managed not only her own stories and travel schedule, but she also kept her finger on the pulse of team members as well, often monitoring their work while she was in another state. The content-heavy site reflects the amount of work produced during that ten-week period. “I learned to be very organized. And how to keep a lot of lists!”

The effort paid off as the information-rich Powering a Nation site has won many awards.

Peach’s work continues. She has filmed NASA scientist James Hansen’s arrest at a mountaintop removal protest in West Virginia, covered threats to coral reefs in the Florida Keys, documented the work of Ohio citizens who halted construction of a coal-fired power plant, and reported from Copenhagen on the United Nations climate change conference.

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