My name is Rhiannon Fionn, and I’m affectionately known as the “Coal Ash Queen” in large part because I’ve been researching and writing about the stuff for years. Today, my transmedia project on the topic, Coal Ash Chronicles, is in full swing. The goal is to collect stories from all sides of the issue; my research has already taken me as far as Alaska. (Yes, I drove! Here are some photos.) It includes original reporting, a documentary film, a non-fiction book, and numerous social media feeds; watch the extended trailer here:
Trading words for dollars was my childhood dream. That dream became reality in 2008 when I started The Word Trade as a project for an independent study class at UNC Charlotte*. Today, I work full time as a independent journalist. My work ranges from covering everyday news to an ongoing (now nearly seven-year) investigation into coal ash, America’s second-largest waste stream after mining waste. I’ve also written numerous op-ed pieces for Creative Loafing, Charlotte’s alt-weekly.
I’m a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists, and I am a co-founder of the Greater Charlotte Society of Professional Journalists. I’m also the national spokesperson for Working Films’ “Coal Ash Stories” program which screens documentary shorts, including the extended trailer above, in communities around the county. On Feb. 5, 2016, I testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights regarding the nexus of coal ash waste and environmental justice as it worked to prepare a report for Congress and the president. Read my testimony here.
Some current and former clients include The Huffington Post, Charlotte magazine, the Carolina Weekly Newspapers, Creative Loafing, Crossroads Charlotte, The Mecklenburg Times, Qcitymetro.com, Skirt! Magazine, The Charlotte Observer, The Seattle Weekly, and DeSmogBlog.
*I began freelancing in 2006 while still a student at the University of North Carolina Charlotte where I earned a degree in Communication Studies/ Mass Media with a minor in Journalism, graduating in May 2009.