How hard was it to get the information you needed from government officials? What advice can you share with other reporters on talking to insiders?
DR: It really depended. I took a trip to Atlanta to interview people in the CDC, and the bulk of that trip was just driving around door-to-door trying to convince people to talk to me on the spot because I had already tried through emails, LinkedIn, phone calls — even handwritten letters. I got a lot of doors slammed in my face. It was a learning experience.
Sometimes it was just luck, sometimes it was just getting someone on the phone and letting them know you were there to listen to what they had to say, that you didn’t already have the story in your head and weren’t just a reporter on a deadline. A lot of it was just being as human as you can.
EG: Ali and Bridget had done a lot of public records requests at the state level. So we had all these documents detailing the programs in the states. Having that information in hand can sometimes help in getting an interview with an official, and having those documents definitely helped us understand the programs when it was difficult to get officials on the phone.
VP: One thing I found that was helpful in proving that you’re not just there to get a story was instead of saying like, “I’ve found this…” or “Someone told me that you’re doing this wrong…” it was helpful to show that you understand the different struggles and constraints that they’re working under and that you’re willing to hear the whole story behind it.
What do you hope the impact of this story will be?
VP: Before reporting on this, when I thought about climate change, I thought about mitigation and not adaptation. That there are actual impacts happening in the United States as the result of climate change was not something I thought critically about very much. I hope to see more people thinking about the issue and how to solve it.
DR: I hope what our story shows is that there are people who care about this subject and are trying to work and just don't have the resources to prepare Americans for the impending impact. Hopefully we might see some change, we might see more investment in this issue and more awareness of the fact that climate really does have a significant impact on health, and it will continue to be the case and get progressively worse in the future.
EG: Our reporting shows that climate is already impacting health. It’s not just a future problem. We don’t have a handle on it now. Health officials like to say that every heat death is preventable, and while there may not be as many deaths as for things like the flu, not even one heat death should happen. I hope the story shows that we could be doing more now, and that action will only help us with the impacts that are expected in the future.