Students from the Western Honors program have accomplished many things. But May 2019 graduate Sara Viner has added another accomplishment to the list: becoming the first undergraduate to publish an article in High Country News.
Viner’s article “Fires are indiscriminate. Recovery Isn’t.” explores how wildfire victims have different experiences dealing with insurance, especially in areas with a lower socioeconomic status. The article started as part of Viner’s Honors independent study program.
“I originally began by collecting data on destructive wildfires across the West,” Viner said. “I knew that I wanted [my project] to combine aspects of both my English and Environment & Sustainability degrees. Environmental journalism was a natural way to do this.”
By working with the recently opened on-campus office of High Country News, Viner was able to use that data as a springboard for her story. Over the course of the semester, she worked with High Country News assistant editor Paige Blankenbuehler to focus all of her efforts into a compelling narrative.
Viner credits the Western Honors program for letting her take on a project that would help her work towards a career she was interested in pursuing. Even though publishing with High Country News was a new partnership for the Honors program, Viner had full support from Honors Program Director Kelsey Bennett, Ph.D. to bring her vision to life.
After months of work, Viner understood that her story meant more than just a normal class project.
“Writing for such an accredited organization as High Country News is much different than doing school work,” Viner said. “It helped me consider all aspects and perspectives of my article under a new level of scrutiny. I took the fact checking process very seriously.”
But after confirming every last detail, Viner was ready to see the story online.
“Throughout the semester I knew the goal was for my work to be published,” Viner said. “But it wasn’t until near the end of the semester that it was confirmed it actually would be. I was both thrilled and a little anxious.”
You can read Viner’s full story here.