When I think of the great attributes of the Chesapeake Bay, I think of its diversity, nearly 3,200 of species of plants and animals. I think of its shallowness, guaranteeing its amazing productivity. I think of its bountiful fisheries, extensive forests and vast marshes. I think of the amazing cast of characters who have assembled to protect it. That is when I think of Karl Blankenship and the Bay Journal.
And I am not alone, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation recently honored Blankenship with its Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to the environmental field.(To read about the recipients of other CBF awards this year, see “CBF honors 4 for their effort to protect Bay.”
Blankenship has been the editor and principal writer ever since the Bay Journal was launched in 1991.
The Journal is the “paper of record” for the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort, and is frequently cited in reports, books and other publications. It is widely read (and relied on) by policy makers at both the state and federal levels, as well as by citizens, scientists, journalists and others interested in the Chesapeake Bay or coastal issues. It is a dependable source of accurate, comprehensive coverage of scientific and policy issues, thanks to the extraordinary writing and analytical skills of Blankenship.
I always smile when I think of former director of the Chesapeake Bay Program, Bill Matuszeski, who generally had a handle on all that was going on. When I asked him one day how he was able to juggle so much information, he replied “ I read it in the Bay Journal. How does anybody around here know what is going on?”
And so it has grown over the years to become the most widely read journal of any large-scale environmental restoration program in the country.
Nearly two decades ago, Blankenship was an environmental writer for the Harrisburg Patriot-News when he was persuaded by a good friend to look into a journalism job with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
Blankenship had enjoyed his work covering environmental issues and thought that working with an environmental organization for “a few years” would give him a greater knowledge of environmental issues.
That few years turned into 17 profoundly important years for the Bay restoration effort, which has come to rely on Blankenship’s in-depth reporting.
During that time, Blankenship built the Bay Journal from an idea into a cutting-edge source of information on the restoration. Spanning both the watershed and the breadth of issues that confront the Bay—from land, to air, to water and fisheries—he proved that he could cover them all with a depth and conviction that no one else comes close to matching.
Blankenship’s roots in the region are deep. His birth record will tell you he is a native of Michigan, where he grew up spending the summer on Grand Traverse Bay, part of Lake Michigan. But genealogists will find a deeper linkage. Blankenship’s roots are in fact in Jamestown, where they believe that his first ancestor in North America arrived in 1644. No wonder he has been willing to cover the John Smith National Historic Water Trail so often in the Bay Journal!
Respect for Blankenship and his work extends far beyond his readership of 50,000. He has been widely published in regional and national magazines and is frequently consulted on the creation of environmental publications as well as communicating science and environmental issues.
He has also won numerous awards for his work including the June Sekoll Media Award from the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Society in 1998; the Environmental Excellence Award from the Maryland Department of Environment in 1992; the Salute to Excellence from the Maryland Governor, also in 1992; and the 2001 Excellence in Journalism Award from the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation, a coalition of 14 scientific and conservation organizations.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon an individual in our region.
When Blankenship looks at the beautiful cast bronze osprey on his mantelpiece, let it remind him of the incredible respect that his colleagues have for him in this region.
Thank you, Karl Blankenship, for helping all of us to better understand.