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The Great Lakes in 2019: Senior Correspondent Gary Wilson’s look back at the headlines

The Great Lakes in 2019: Senior Correspondent Gary Wilson’s look back at the headlines
January 2, 2020 Gary Wilson
Photo by Dustin Tinney via flickr.com cc 2.0

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series taking a look back at 2019

When you cover the Great Lakes as a journalist, the adage “never a dull moment” applies.

And 2019 was definitely not dull.

My reporting kicked off in January from a frigid Federal Plaza in Chicago where furloughed U.S. EPA employees rallied to protest the shutdown of the federal government.

As the year started to wind down in November I found myself reporting from another frigid setting. It was on a boat in the Illinois River where a bunch of journalists were receiving a briefing on Asian carp and the

Photo by Tom Henry via Gary Wilson

Gary Wilson on the Illinois River, Photo by Tom Henry

commercial fishing efforts to keep them out of Lake Michigan.

A whole lot happened in between, but first a few thoughts about the evolution of Great Lakes Now and its coverage:

In 2011, the various groups, agencies and commissions who worked on Great Lakes issues agreed to hold their annual conferences in one place at the same time. It was called “Great Lakes Week” and it took place in Detroit.

What an opportunity to put a spotlight on the Great Lakes from the heart of the Great Lakes, said the top execs at Detroit Public TV. Voila! Great Lakes Now’s earliest rendition was launched with three days of live reporting, interviews and features on the spectrum of issues that impact the lakes.

The cherry on the topping was former Vice President Al Gore of climate change fame giving the keynote speech putting a national spotlight on the lakes.

Subsequent annual Great Lakes Week coverage took place in Cleveland and Milwaukee, and I was privileged to do live commentary for all three.

Fast forward to 2017, and the Great Lakes Bureau, which would house Great Lakes Now, is established. I rejoined the team that year and, for a while, it was the news director and me doing our best to report for the digital platform while the documentary team produced features as resources were available.

But things were changing fast, and in late 2018 additional reporters were brought on who could report directly from places like Lake Erie and even Canada.

And in 2019 Great Lakes Now took a giant step with the launch of a monthly TV show that covers the issues, science and culture of the lakes and the region.

Want to know how the crew on a lake freighter gets mail? That’s covered HERE.

What’s it like to live on an island in the Great Lakes year around? There’s a feature on that HERE.

You get the picture. The hot issues like PFAS will still be covered but so will the culture of the region that makes it unique.

Back to 2019.

I hit the ups and downs of the Detroit River’s restoration, the end of water shutoffs in Chicago, manure spills in Wisconsin and the resurgence of bottled water wars.

I expect 2020 to be as busy and dynamic as 2019. What’s ahead?

We know water levels will continue to be of interest to businesses, boaters, residents and community leaders around the Lakes.

Politics will never be far “down the page” as the 2020 presidential and congressional elections kick into season and Great Lakes states are a key part of that puzzle.

In Michigan, we expect a court to rule on Michigan’s suit on the Line 5 pipeline and all eyes will be on Ohio as it launches its billion dollar plan to combat Lake Erie’s algae. Plus Asian carp: will 2020 be the year that Illinois finally comes on board with the plan supported by the region?

Those are big issues for the Great Lakes, and Great Lakes Now will be there.

Thanks for following Great Lakes Now! As always, please be in touch with ideas or reactions: glb@dptv.org.

Featured Image: Lake Michigan, Photo by Dustin Tinney via flickr.com cc 2.0

More stories from our look back at 2019

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