My name is Rhiannon Fionn. Folks call me the “Coal Ash Queen.” That’s because I’ve been researching and reporting on the stuff since the summer of 2009.
Coal ash is a type of industrial waste. Its management is a big issue wherever coal is burned. Coal ash can be land-filled, left behind aging earthen dams, recycled into products like concrete or mined for rare earth minerals. It can also contaminate air and water with a list of ingredients that read like the periodic table. Many of the elements in coal ash threaten public health with diseases that range from birth defects to cancer.
Today, Coal Ash Chronicles, my transmedia project on the topic, is in full swing. The goal: Collect and share stories from all sides of the issue across the United States. The project includes original reporting for news outlets, a documentary film, a non-fiction book, numerous social media feeds and an effort to upload and share public documents related to the topic via DocumentCloud.org.
Watch the film’s extended trailer here:
Trading words for dollars was a childhood dream. That dream became reality in 2008 when I started The Word Trade as a project for an independent study class at the University of North Carolina Charlotte.*.
Today, I work full time as an independent journalist, filmmaker and author. My work ranges from covering Charlotte-famous trials, food and protests to an ongoing investigation into coal ash, America’s second-largest waste stream. 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 and 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 trailer above, in communities nationwide.
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 Southeast Energy News, 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 DeSmog Blog.
*I began freelancing in 2006 while a student at UNC-Charlotte. There I earned a degree in Communication Studies/ Mass Media, with a minor in Journalism.