I can trace my professional and personal roots back to the predecessor of the Mountain Xpress — Green Line. When people ask why I do what I do, part of the answer is my time as a reporter for the Green Line in the early ’90s. At the time, I was assigned to write a story about what was then the Champion Pulp and Paper Mill in Canton (where I lived at the time). The mill had been discharging its wastewater pollution into the Pigeon River for generations. Tennesseans living downstream were fed up and complained about how it polluted their community and caused cancer. As an investigative reporter for the paper, I learned about how the North Carolina government granted exemptions to the company, allowing it to evade clean water laws. Through our reporting, we helped bring the issue to light, and North Carolina was eventually forced to clean up the mill.
I was disheartened by how my North Carolina government had fallen down on the job enforcing pollution laws. So I became personally involved in working to clean up the mill and advocating for a clean Pigeon River. This environmental advocacy work led me to pursue a law degree. Subsequently, I spent 10 years working on water issues in Tennessee, and I am now an attorney in Washington, D.C., for the Natural Resources Defense Council, where I work on issues facing our climate.
Working at Green Line — my first job out of college — put me on my career path. I learned about the essential nature of providing balanced reporting, never taking no for an answer and the importance of seeking the truth. In many ways, I do a lot of the same in my current work, starting with research, investigation, understanding the story and then communicating to the right audience. I am very grateful for Green Line’s early training ground and proud to have been an early team member of Mountain Xpress’ precursor.
Danielle Droitsch is a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.