Everyone loves a good story. When we’re young, stories entertain and teach us. As we get older, they may take on a different form—a magazine article instead of a picture book, for example—but the ultimate purpose is the same. By sharing stories, we make sense of the human experience and can understand complex situations or concepts more clearly.
For Amanda Paulson, a veteran journalist who now heads up special projects at her family’s Bobolink Foundation, being curious and telling stories is the most important part of any job. “I think of journalists as professional question-askers,” she says. “I love to write and travel and talk to people and hear their stories, so journalism seemed like the perfect career for me.”
During more than two decades with the Christian Science Monitor, Paulson covered education, politics, and immigration, and was the paper’s chief environment, climate, and science writer. She believes that journalism plays a critical role in society, “perhaps more now than ever, when many people just gravitate to the news sources that tell them what they want to hear.” She also believes that good journalism should tell a story: “People learn through stories. It’s how they start to care about issues.”
Paulson herself was drawn to conservation through stories. Not only those her mother told as The Nature Lady—a program she led for more than a decade to help foster a love of nature in elementary school students in suburban Chicago—but also the stories she heard during time spent studying in Kenya during college. It was an experience she calls “foundational” in piquing her interest in the role communities play in conservation.
Today, when she thinks about what successful conservation looks like, community support is the first thing that comes to mind. “Protection of ecosystems and landscapes is important, of course, but protection is only durable if it is rooted in local communities. They have to both help design and benefit from conservation efforts. Otherwise, you can end up with things that look good on paper but don’t have any staying power.”