For Amanda Gillooly, becoming the communications manager for the Group Against Smog and Pollution felt like coming home again.
In the last several years she served as a writer, public relations, and social media specialist for several law firms and non-profit organizations, but she missed the watchdog role she enjoyed as a longtime member of the media.
Gillooly, of Neville Island, graduated with a degree in journalism and mass communication from Point Park University and worked as a beat reporter for the Valley Independent, Beaver County Times, and Observer-Reporter.
She then made the jump to digital journalism, working as the local editor for the Canon-McMillan Patch, one of a group of local news websites.
That’s when she became aware of and concerned about issues related to Marcellus Shale development in the beat she covered. During her tenure at Patch, she made it her mission to be a watchdog for the communities she was covering.
“As a reporter it was shocking to me to attend these municipal meetings and realize how little balanced coverage there was about Marcellus Shale issues,” Gillooly said. “The complex topic required me to learn a great deal about not only environmental issues, but also topics related to permitting and violations.”
After the Patch network shut down local operations, she decided to launch an independent investigative reporting website devoted to Marcellus Shale issues, Marcellus Monitor.
“At that point there was a flurry of activity in Washington County related to waste water impoundments, and violations there—all at a time when Act 13 was being challenged,” she said. “I found there was a major leak at an impoundment that was not being reported on by the mainstream media.”
That all changed after Gillooly said she begged a local activist and pilot to take an aerial shot of the Jon Day Impoundment so that people and members of the media could see for themselves how much of a wreck it was.
“Soon after, all the local media was covering the story,” she said. “DEP inspectors were called in, and the public thankfully became aware of how much of a mess the cleanup was.”
The experience, Gillooly said, made her aware of just how much of a difference a few committed individuals can make and how it’s more important than ever to educate the public on environmental issues that impact us all.
“In my capacity as communications manager at GASP I look forward to being part watchdog, part educator,” she said.
Gillooly added that she’s beyond excited to come on board as GASP celebrates its 50th year.
“GASP has done so much to help improve air quality in the Pittsburgh region over the last five decades and we continue to fight the good fight, holding truth to power, and acting as a true environmental steward,” she said. “I look forward to highlighting and celebrating all that we’ve accomplished and getting the word out about the work we continue to do in the name of clean air.”