Planet Detroit’s first intern Jena Brooker moving on to greener environmental reporting pastures

Brooker will begin a fellowship this month with national environmental publication Grist

Regular Planet Detroit contributor Jena Brooker is saying goodbye to Planet Detroit (for now). Jena will be moving on to a fellowship with Grist, an online environmental newsroom that calls itself “a beacon in the smog.” She’ll report on climate change and environmental issues across the Midwest.

I was introduced to Jena by Martina Guzmán, the Race and Justice Journalism Fellow at the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University Law School. As part of her role, Guzmán works to connect journalists of color with job opportunities across Metro Detroit’s media organizations. Brooker identifies as a biracial person of color.

“Jena started as an intern and left as a full-fledged reporter committed to writing about environmental issues that impact BIPOC communities,” Guzmán told me. “We need an army of Jena’s to do this work.” 

Jena Brooker. Courtesy Photo,

Brooker began working as a paid intern with Planet Detroit in December 2019, and soon began reporting stories on a range of topics including energy, pollution, nature, and more. She also helped out behind the scenes with social media and fundraising support, among other things.

It’s been an honor to mentor her in her first steps toward building her professional life. I’m so proud of her — not only is she a talented young journalist, she genuinely cares about the people and issues she writes about. Although I am sad she is leaving, I’m also excited to see her career evolve and look forward to the stories she will produce in the future. And I am thrilled that her experience with Planet Detroit helped her gain the notice of a well-established and highly regarded environmental publication like Grist.

What started as a short internship with Planet Detroit became much more, Brooker told me. As she simultaneously explored journalism and teaching in the Detroit school district over the past year, she found her vocation in journalism.

“For the first time I could actually see myself in a specific profession that allows me to serve the community,” she told me. “I feel so grateful for the mentorship from Planet Detroit, and honored by the opportunity to hear and share stories of local community members.” 

She’ll continue to report on Metro Detroit and the larger Midwest during her fellowship with Grist, highlighting solutions and reporting on efforts to create healthier communities. She’ll also contribute to Grist’s daily newsletter, The Beacon, which delivers “a daily dose of good news” to readers’ inboxes.

Jena told me she’s thankful to the many environmental leaders and community members she interviewed “for working with me so graciously while I learned the ins and outs of reporting on the environment.”

We’re hoping she comes back to report for us again. Until then — best wishes, Jena!

You can keep up with Jena and her work by following her on Twitter: @j_e_n_a_b.

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