Theresa Davis is a reporter covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal in New Mexico.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What’s been one of the most rewarding aspects of your work in your first year with Report For America?
This work teaches me something new every day. I feel I have been able to report stories that wouldn’t be covered otherwise. One source even hugged me after my article published; she appreciated the focus on environmental issues that affect the area she loves.
You cover water and environmental issues with the Albuquerque Journal in New Mexico. Tell us one surprising thing that most people do not know about your beat.
Water issues are complicated. I have had to learn a lot about the law and science. I also think many people who don’t know Albuquerque would be surprised to learn how connected people in this city are to their natural environment.
You also recently wrote an essay about the way water in the Rio Grande impacts life in New Mexico. What’s been the reaction to that essay?
I wrote about how the Rio Grande means different things to different people. But those lines tend to blur. I think that has resonated with different groups who all see their own interests in water issues as important.
Give us some of your reporting tips: How do you develop your sources?
I try to listen and be genuine. I was taught that a source should not be surprised by anything in an article. I work hard to give sources an opportunity to respond or clarify as I learn new details of an issue. That makes them more willing to talk to me when the next article comes along.
Climate change is one of the biggest news of interest of our time. Where do you find guidance and advice for reporting such a topic knowing that some readers might be skeptical of the science behind it?
There are lots of excellent environmental journalists reporting important stories right now, especially at local news outlets. Often these issues are only covered by national media when something goes wrong — like a large wildfire, lead in the water supply, floods, or a high-profile environmental court battle. But reporters are covering the environment every day on a small scale. That reporting is a valuable tool to see how the climate crisis is affecting a variety of places and industries. I strive to include the best available scientific information in my articles, so that readers know it’s not just me making these claims. I also work to interview people who are not paid to advocate for special interests. If all of my articles were “doom and gloom” about the climate crisis, readers would tune out. But I would not be doing my duty as a journalist if I never mentioned any of the very real issues caused by water shortages and warming temperatures.