An undergrad studying Medieval History and Classical Studies who went on for a master’s at the University of Chicago, Patrick knows how to delve into primary source materials. “I had to take in lots of information, then find a way to tell those stories to others. It was really good training for journalism.”
What is your job, what does it entail, and how does it contribute to what people hear on air?
I report on the environment and science. I’ve always loved computers, and our news team was looking for new ways to analyze data with stories to tell – so I volunteered. Recently I combined two state datasets in a way nobody had before, and discovered students with disabilities were suspended or expelled more often in Connecticut. The data angle is new, and I’m honing new skills.
Tell us a little about your background – where you grew up, went to school, etc.
I grew up in Connecticut, moved away for school, and then came back in my early 20s. I really love it here! When I was away, I was surprised by how much I missed the beautiful scenery and all the trees.
How did you get your start in journalism?
I wrote for my college newspaper and worked at my college radio station, WXVU. My show aired from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., and I’m pretty sure it was terrible radio, but I loved it. Now I’m drawn to areas that are underexplored as newsrooms shrink, like environmental reporting. It’s an area people really value.
What are your go-to sources for inspiration?
My new baby! He’s got this inexhaustible well of curiosity. It’s refreshing my own sense of curiosity, reminding me there are lots of interesting stories out there to be curious about.
Any recommendations for what’s worth reading, listening to, watching, and/or seeing?
I love Nature on PBS. Recent book favorites include Spin by Robert Charles Wilson and Circe by Madeline Miller.
When friends and family visit, what is your “can’t miss” recommendation for Connecticut?
Connecticut has a ton of wonderful small ice cream shops that my wife and I love to visit. One “can’t miss” spot is Old Lyme Ice Cream
Do you have any nonpublic media guilty pleasures you can share?
Tabletop games! My friends and I grew up playing the “Star Wars Customizable Card Game,” still a regular fixture in our play rotation. A more recent favorite is “Gloomhaven,” with hundreds of components packed in a box that weighs more than a mid-sized dog. You pick a hero, go on an adventure, and there’s lots of storytelling involved.
Why is local journalism so important right now?
So many local stories need to be told, and making personal connections with the community is so important for quality reporting. That’s why I think it’s critical for journalists to get away from their desks and participate actively in the local community. You really just need to “be there” for good indepth reporting on local issues.
What’s on your radar these days?
Lately I’ve been looking at the changes in energy in the state and the region. The grid in New England, which is so diversely populated, is changing to include newer, cleaner renewable energy sources like offshore wind power, nuclear energy, and natural gas infrastructure. These stories need to be told. Now, with our health reporter Nicole Leonard on board, together we’re looking at basic issues of water quality in Connecticut. Many people have private wells, so we’re looking at the testing requirements for wells and what contaminants are being found there. The recent PFAS spill into the Farmington River didn’t affect drinking water, but it raised people’s awareness and they’re starting to raise the question “What’s in the water I’m drinking?”
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
My mom, who is the most giving person in the world, used to tell me, “kill ‘em with kindness!”
Hear Patrick’s reports on air and online at wnpr.org. His science reporting for The Beaker is at thebeaker.org.