From Mine Spills to Primaries — Reporting for The Durango Herald

Ed Graham Interviewing Ben Carson’s son in NH

By Dean’s Intern Edward Graham at The Durango Herald

I was very fortunate to serve as The Durango Herald’s Capitol Hill reporting intern for the Fall 2015 semester, and even more fortunate to have my internship extended through Spring 2016.

Over the past several months, I’ve explored a number of legislative issues of interest for the newspaper’s readers in southwestern Colorado. This has included a strong focus on national responses to the August 2015 Gold King Mine disaster, in which contractors working on the abandoned mine site for the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally unleashed more than 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas River, which runs through Durango.

Images of the contaminated river, which took on an orange-colored hue, made international news and shined a spotlight on the large number of abandoned hardrock mines across the U.S. that are leaking toxic contaminants into vital waterways.

Over the past few months, I’ve written a number of articles focusing on the mine spill’s impact. I’ve covered hearings, written about proposed bills, and worked with the offices of Colorado’s congressional delegation to cover their ongoing efforts to respond to the disaster.

To mark the six-month anniversary of the spill, I set up interviews with Colorado U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, as well as Durango’s congressman, Rep. Scott Tipton, to better discuss the national response to the spill since it occurred. Working with the team in Durango, who focused on local and statewide responses, we created a special six-month digital package to look at lessons, improvements, and needed remedies that resulted from the spill’s impact.

Even with the impact of the D.C. blizzard, which completely disrupted the congressional schedule for almost an entire week, I was able to interview all three congressional leaders and several environmental activists and record audio components from the interviews for the newspaper’s website. I also wrote about proposed legislative responses currently in Congress and worked on a larger piece about state and national efforts to tackle the problem of leaking mines.

Although I’ve written a lot about the mine spill and other environmental issues of special concern to southwestern Colorado, I’ve had the opportunity to write about a wide variety of topics. I’ve interviewed some of Colorado’s former senators to include their perspectives in stories about issues such as climate change, covered the 2016 State of the Union address, and localized other national stories.

One of the highlights of my internship was the chance to do some on-the-ground coverage of the New Hampshire presidential primaries for the newspaper. I was fortunate to be selected for AU’s Presidential Primaries class, with the centerpiece of the course being a five-day reporting trip to New Hampshire. I worked with my professors and the editor’s in Durango to write several articles about the primary, and even found and interviewed several Colorado natives in New Hampshire that helped bring the stories back to Durango:

In N.H., Fiorina campaign mixed politics with a big-game party

Durango native visits New Hampshire for primary excitement

The internship with The Durango Herald has solidified my interest in political reporting, while also providing me with the opportunity to pitch and pursue other interesting news stories. I’ve already written more than 40 articles for the newspaper, and I’m very excited to continue producing content for another few months!