Dustin Bleizeffer: Choices and Challenges of Wyoming Youth

Dustin Bleizeffer has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 20 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily covering the energy industry in Wyoming. Most recently he was Communications Director at the Wyoming Outdoor Council, a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford, and WyoFile editor-in-chief. He currently lives in Casper, Wy. Check out 'Love It and Leave:' The Choices Facing Wyoming's Youth along with this podcast episode!

Thank you for your time, Dustin!

Emy diGrappa (00:00):

Hello, my name is Emy diGrappa. Each week, we bring you stories asking our guests the question: why? We learn about passion, purpose, and the human experience. Brought to you by Wyoming Humanities with generous support of the Wyoming Community Foundation, this is What's Your Why?

                 Today, meet Dustin Bleizeffer, a journalist based in Casper, Wyoming. We will be talking about his work and journey as a statewide reporter and editor and this is part of the Wyoming Humanities Initiative called Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation. Welcome, Dustin.

Dustin Bleizeffer (00:55):

Thank you for having me.

Emy diGrappa (00:57):

I'm excited to learn more about you and especially I, I, I pulled up your, your bio that you grew up in Wyoming. Where did you grow up?

Dustin Bleizeffer (01:07):

I grew up in Gillette and, uh, spent a fair amount of my young childhood also in Wright, Wyoming during the construction of some of those coal mines in the southern powder river basin. But, uh, yeah. I, I, I, Yeah, I, I grew up in Gillette and started my journalism career there.

Emy diGrappa (01:26):

And what, what drew you to be a journalist?

Dustin Bleizeffer (01:29):

Oh, that's a good question. You know, I, I was interested in telling stories, and in journalism, beginning in high school, and, you know, I, I kinda took a break, uh, between high school graduation and my college career.

                 And when I went back to college, I, I wasn't sure that, that I would pursue journalism, but I kinda fell in with some folks who, who were studying journalism. And so, yeah, they kinda roped me back in and, yeah, got stuck with it ever since.

Emy diGrappa (02:07):

So what, what has influenced your life, um, being a journalist? What kind of journalists do you like to follow and, and what gives you inspiration?

Dustin Bleizeffer (02:16):

I think what gives me an inspiration is the ability to... first of all, hold those in power accountable, while also to give voice to those who may be don't feel that they don't have so much influence in the world around them.

Emy diGrappa (02:34):

Well and what was your inspiration, you know, about the things you write about, and you talked about, you know, you like to tell stories, but you also want it to be meaningful?

Dustin Bleizeffer (02:43):

Well, first of all, obviously it's real important for newspapers to be the paper of record in a community, so that people know more about the decisions that are being made by those who they vote into power. But the really interesting stories, like what really makes a community, are the people who live there and, and, and go to work every day or, uh, in other ways, make up the fabric of the community.

                 I don't care how small a town is. You know, every person in that town has a story and a contribution to the community, and, you know, in, in a viewpoint and in a story that's worthy, you know, and interesting.

Emy diGrappa (03:28):

And how, how... Because, it says here that you've worked, um, primarily covering the Energy industry, but also that you work as a coal miner and an oil field mechanic. And did, did that kind of launch you into reporting about the Energy industry?

Dustin Bleizeffer (03:46):

It did. Uh, it... although my, my journey to becoming an energy reporter was quite unintentional, I didn't have... it wasn't some grand design. You know, before I began my college career, I worked for a service company in Gillette that specialized in work for the oil field and coal mines.

                 And so, you know, during my four years there, you know, I did everything from delivering parts to coal mines to working as a mechanic's helper and a mechanic's apprentice, which allowed me to eventually visit a real coal mine in Wyoming and, you know, a few in North Dakota and Colorado, as well.

                 And as a college student, I worked a couple of summers as a summer hire at the Blacklander coal mine. One of those summers, I, I got to drive... Well, for the entire summer, I, I drove one of those large coal trucks and... boy, that was an experience.

                 (laughs) It really gave me a lot of respect for the job.

Emy diGrappa (04:49):

I bet it's, it's, it's, uh, a hard job.

Dustin Bleizeffer (04:52):

It is and it's really fascinating, you know, these coal miners, um, a lot of them commute to work, uh, sometimes almost an hour's drive, uh, to work a 12-hour shift, and then to drive home to catch as much sleep as they can before their next 12-hour shift, and, you know, safety is of the utmost importance because it can be dangerous.

                 These are massive machines. They're, They're moving earth in ways that... (laughs) I mean, you'll rarely find around the world. Uh, I mean, In fact, uh, the summer I was working at Blacklander, I, I saw some of the largest cast blasts in the world. These blasts were so large, I stood on top on the catwalk on my coal haul truck and the earth turned to jelly below us, you know? It, like, liquified the earth temporarily (laughs).

                 But, yeah. It, It, It, It's a big job, it's an important job, and not everybody can do it. It takes a lot of training and expertise.

Emy diGrappa (06:01):

And so, even though you became an editor and a reporter primarily in the energy industry, and you said that was kind of an accident, how did that accident happen?

Dustin Bleizeffer (06:12):

So fresh out of college, I went to work for my hometown newspaper, The Gillette News Record, and I was there for, I don't know, two or three weeks before the editor said, uh, "Has anybody in this newsroom visited a coal mine?" And I raised my hand and said, "I've been to all the coal mines." (laughs) And the editor said, "Great, you're our energy reporter."

Emy diGrappa (06:36):

(laughs)

Dustin Bleizeffer (06:37):

You know... I had no idea... I, I should have maybe planned to be an energy reporter, but it, but it worked out and I'm really grateful because, it, it was the best beat a reporter could ask for in Wyoming. Because, I mean, you, you soon learn about how the energy industry, you know, what it means to the lives of those who work ranches and in agriculture.

                 You know, sometimes they, they would work... ranchers would work at a coal mine kind of supplement (laughs) their, their ranching ambitions. Other times, you know, there's conflicts between, uh, energy development in, in mining, and you learn what energy means to, to just about every other job and aspect of life in Wyoming, and not just in these energy communities either.

                 Of course, I mean, as well as we all know, the revenue from energy, you know, help supports our schools across the state. So there's a really quick introduction to the rest of the state, even though my first beat was just, you know, just right there in Gillette in Campbell County.

Emy diGrappa (07:48):

What I like that you talk about you, you got to be, you know, boots on the ground and really see how energy and coal mining, uh, specifically, in the whole energy industry affects people's day-to-day lives.

Dustin Bleizeffer (08:03):

Yeah, yeah. In, In, In jade, and not just from an economic standpoint, either. These mining jobs, along with oil and gas too, uh, support this really strong kind of industrial service economy that we have that kind of spans from Gillette to Douglas, Casper, and Rock Springs.

                 You know, there's so many companies kind of in that industrial service belt. They've kind of sprang to life from early oil and gas development, uh, have adapted to servicing coal. And now, some are adapting to, you know, or perhaps an emerging wind energy industry, as well.

                 You know, jobs wise, you know, it, it's really been kind of, you know, the backbone of...a large part of Wyoming's economy.

Emy diGrappa (08:55):

Oh, absolutely. And, And when you're, when you're, uh, energy reporter, are you just doing stories about the companies? Are you doing, you know, personal stories? How, How exactly are you reporting about that?

Dustin Bleizeffer (09:11):

Well, you know, a lot of covering a beat is, is paying attention to trends in the industry and with specific, uh, corporations and companies. But, But always, you know, these trends and policy decisions impact real people who, you know, sit around their kitchen table and, and discuss, you know... they have a stake in what happens.

                 That's a new mining permit or whether it's kind of how to mitigate something, like, uh, the discharge of water from coalbed methane gas. It touches people's lives in very real ways, um, whether they work directly in the industry or they live in a community that, that depends on energy.

                 So yeah, I, I would really like to visit with, with those folks and put a kind of a, you know, a face and a name to a story to, to show that it's... this isn't just a policy discussion. It's, It's about our values and, and a quality of life here in Wyoming and for our neighbors.

Emy diGrappa (10:28):

And I think that that is such an important part of reporting is, is really giving a face to a story, and not just these are the facts. But really, how do the facts touch us.

Dustin Bleizeffer (10:42):

Yeah, uh, definitely. You know... (laughs) Sometimes, uh, it, it's, it's too easy to get carried away, you know, deep in the weeds on a policy or budget discussion. These are real people and these decisions have real impact on people's lives.

                 (laughs) With- Without that, you know, it, it's really hard to describe why it... a policy is important or not.

Emy diGrappa (11:10):

And I, And I think if you're not in that industry, it is... it's hard to imagine or picture yourself in, in those communities if you don't live right there, and are, you know, looking at people in the face, and actually talking to them about what's going on. And, you know, because you can't fly at 30,000 feet, you have to be be right there.

Dustin Bleizeffer (11:32):

Yes, indeed. And that, that was one of the real bummers about the, the, the pandemic, too, that made, um, you know, it made everybody's job more difficult no matter what you were doing. But, as, as a reporter, you lost that face-to-face contact to a great degree.

                 I mean, (laughs) Reporters still went out there with a face mask and, and talk to folks and, and probably did more interviews outdoors than indoors. I, I really miss that, uh, person-to-person, in real time, contact, because that's where, you know, that's where emotions and sincerity come through and just kind of interesting things about a person that you, you could never you, you know, you never get to realize or see, uh, in a phone call or a Zoom, (laughs), even.

Emy diGrappa (12:27):

Oh, exactly. And, And I feel that all the time as a podcaster, because I was doing all my podcasts, uh, in person and now I'm switched over to Zoom, which in a big state like Wyoming is pretty nice for me, in terms of podcasting because I can, I can reach out and, and talk to a lot of people across the state.

Dustin Bleizeffer (12:48):

Yeah, and in fact, you know, peop- people are in their vehicles in Wyoming, as you know, and I- I think this, this might not be exclusive to Wyoming, but, you know, one of the best methods reporters have to interview somebody is to jump in their vehicle and go for a drive.

                 (laughs) You know, and usually it's, it's a drive to go look at a ranch that's, you know, part of a story or a drive through some oil field or to a coal mine or, or what have you. Um, sitting in the cab of a truck (laughs) with a tape recorder... I, I love those kinds of... those interviews.

Emy diGrappa (13:27):

No, I do too. I, I think that's up close and personal. Well, I wanna switch over to learning about the journalism, the collaborative journalism project that you did with Wyoming Humanities and the story you chose, and why you chose those stories, and what you learned, and just tell us about that.

Dustin Bleizeffer (13:46):

Yeah. So, I, I think the, the seed behind the idea for, for my pitch was... came from a project from about four years ago. I just finished my fellowship term as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow and I, I kinda wanted to take some of those strategies and inspirations to do something new.

                 And so, I, I teamed up with Felicity Barringer, the writer in residence, uh, at the Bill Lane Center for the American West, and we wanted to highlight some rural counties in the West that were aging in population, and, and losing their young people to out-migration. And so, the first, first county we wanted to focus on was Hot Springs County in Wyoming, because that stood out in, in the state as the county with, with that most clear dynamic of an aging population in, in young people leaving.

                 And, you know, rather than go talk to the city council or the county commission, the first voices we wanted to highlight were young voices. So, the high school principal graciously allowed us to, uh, spend an afternoon with some high school seniors in their English class. And, And so we asked, you know, pretty basic premise, you know, where do you see yourself making your future in, you know, five years from now? Would that be in Wyoming?

                 And, you know, if not... if you were to leave the state, what would it take for you to come back? Uh, you know, what do you, what do you need to build your future in this state? We, We learned some things that we were a little surprised about, and, you know, that, that was this notion that there was just kind of a... a sense of resignation that, you know, young people leave the community and that's just how it goes. And so, there was this kind of unspoken, uh, love it and leave it sort of arrangement, which felt really significant that community and the rest of Wyoming should talk about.

                 And so, when I learned about this, this project... this potential, um, at the Wyoming Humanities Council, I, I wanted to continue that, that sort of effort. The Wyoming legislature had just convened and, you know, and, and they get a lot of airtime and print, you know, talking about their reasons for, you know, enacting certain laws or pursuing certain measures, and I, I felt it was a good time to kind of hand the mic over to young people in Wyoming, uh, especially, you know, in this point in time, where's Wyoming's, you know, already begun an historic transition dealing with an historic budget crisis.

                 I thought it was time to ask young folks, um, you know... first of all, kind of what it's like to be young in Wyoming, and, and again, do you see yourself, you know, making a future in this state and if not, why? You know, What would you need to do that?

Emy diGrappa (17:17):

Were they pretty open with you about their, their, um, thoughts, and ideas, and feelings about staying or leaving or just taking for granted that they're gonna leave? Were they very transparent?

Dustin Bleizeffer (17:31):

Yeah, yeah. So, I, I was very fortunate. I didn't have a, a lot of young people decline to participate. I kind of... I, I reached out to young people through various channels of civic engagement, um, trying to, uh, trying to find some young people who, um, have been active in their communities in, in some way.

                 And so, that kind of... that probably raised my chances of, of finding somebody who was willing to talk to a reporter, so there, there might be kind of that level of selection bias. But, uh, yeah they were, they were very open and, you know, in several said, you know, "Yeah, thanks for asking. I would love to tell you what it's like and what I'm thinking about in Wyoming."

Emy diGrappa (18:25):

So, name, name a or, you know, just tell us about a couple of those stories that stand out in your mind with these students and... or these young people and what you learned, perhaps, that you... that surprised you.

Dustin Bleizeffer (18:40):

They, They all reveal certain truths about the state. But, you know, there were a few themes that emerged and, thinking about both through the young people, Megan and Emily. They, They kinda represent this portion of the young population that the assumed straight out of high school that they were going to leave the state and make a future for themselves somewhere else.

                 But, along the way, can come back to the idea of making their futures in Wyoming based on, uh, just kind of learning more about themselves and what they need and kind of building a network, you know, of trusted people around them in their community, you know, even though they still felt the sense that if they feel like a stranger in their community when it comes to, you know, certain social issue, issues and politics and things like that.

                 But the... Yet, they were still kind of able to find their network of support and feel comfortable in their role in that community. And, And so, they, they could kind of right size or more deliberately direct how they wanna get involved, you know, maybe not on such, uh, a grand scale as, you know, a, a political race for the governor's seat or something like that. But, kind of more close to home types of, uh, civic engagement and, and by doing that, um, they said that they, they now feel more comfortable about their place in Wyoming.

                 And so, I, I, I thought that was really interesting. A- Another thing that emerged, though, were some young folks who, who been very active in, in, in social matters, uh, in Black Lives Matter rallies, getting involved in contacting their lawmakers to advocate for, for certain bills or against certain measures. There was a- a lot of kind of... that that experience felt like a kick in the gut and, and that it was maybe hopeless to try and change, or nudge, the bigger politics and cultural issues in the state.

                 And- And so, you know, they're kind of reassessing how they wanna be involved or whether they wanna be involved in Wyoming in the future.

Emy diGrappa (21:17):

Even though they're thinking about leaving, they're still thinking about how they can stay? There's two sides of that story, right?

Dustin Bleizeffer (21:25):

Yeah, you know, and it's not unusual and it's not necessarily a bad thing either when, when, uh, young folks, you know, uh, leave the state, go acquire skills and experiences, and then, uh, a lot of times wanna come back to Wyoming. And, you know, that's a real... that's a real value. That's a real asset that, you know, young people can bring back to the state. And so, some of, some of the young folks think of, think of leaving the state in those terms and, and that's really encouraging.

                 And, in fact, you know, there is kind of a Wyoming ex-patriot community out there, um, that, that follows the news and, and keeps in contact with their friends and family back home in Wyoming that kind of, you know, rooting for the state and wondering if they can help in some way, uh, that might bring them back. And, And so, I, I thought that was really intriguing, that there's, you know... once a person leaves a state that they could really contribute one day by bringing their worldly experiences and, and new skills and energies, uh, back to the state one day.

                 But, yeah. There's also this sense of, uh, there were a few that plan on leaving and not coming back, uh, you know, I, I had one young person say, "Okay, I tried. I got screamed and yelled at. I'll just take advantage of the Hathaway scholarship and then I'll, I'll leave the state.

Emy diGrappa (23:01):

Where, Where did you go to school, Dustin?

Dustin Bleizeffer (23:03):

So, yeah. I, I went to school in Gillette and then I, I went to the University of Wyoming.

Emy diGrappa (23:08):

So you been a Wyomingite for- forever, so you didn't leave the state?

Dustin Bleizeffer (23:14):

Nope, not really. (laughs) No, and, uh, my wife and I raised two boys in, in Wyoming, too and our, our oldest son just graduated from the University of Wyoming and moved to Denver, uh, to, to get a job in tech.

Emy diGrappa (23:31):

Good for him. Well, he might be back.

Dustin Bleizeffer (23:33):

(laughs)

Emy diGrappa (23:33):

There- There's this thing called the rubber band effect and I've talked to a lot of Wyomingites and when they graduate from high school, they wanna go out and see the world and leave this, you know, these small communities to experience... to have other experiences. And then, they get out in the world and they realize how amazing Wyoming is. Even though they might not agree with all the politics, they, they still come and find their niche.

Dustin Bleizeffer (24:02):

Yeah, well, I mean, (laughs) Wyoming's a very unique place and there- there's so many outdoor spaces that, that really kind of becomes a part of a person's identity, you know? They're, They're drawn to that place in the Big Horn Mountains or, you know, along the Green River, just, you know, a, a physical space, you know, becomes so much a part of somebody's identity and, you know, Wyoming has that going for it in spades.

                 Um, and, you know, the best quality of life is if you could, you know, work in Wyoming earning a sustainable wage, and if you're fortunate enough, get to travel frequently to those big metro areas and other places in the world, you know, that, that kinda mobility, you know, that, that's the best of both worlds in my mind.

Emy diGrappa (24:56):

Yeah, it, it truly is. It truly is and I, and I think, uh, with your sons, how, how... what have your conversations been with them? Are they, you know... Do they have that kind of desire to... Well I'm here, but I'm gonna go and experience the world. I'm gonna graduate from U-W and do something else?

Dustin Bleizeffer (25:20):

Yeah, I think, I think so. When you grow up in a place like, like Wyoming, these communities are very familiar and, you know, after 18 years or so, at least in my experience too, Sometimes you feel like, "Oh, this is so boring." (Laughs) And, you know, of course. You wanna get out into the world and explore new places, and, and, and different cultures and opportunities.

                 And so, yeah... I definitely see them, uh, leaving the state and, you know, whether they would wanna come back one day, um, I don't know. But, we, we talk about it in terms of what's best for you, you know, really, what's best for you? What's gonna make you happy and fulfilled?

                 And if that's, you know, moving to Denver to get a job in tech and play in a band, or, you know, wherever in the world, that's, you know, that's what a parent hopes for their child. You know, they also wanna be close-

Emy diGrappa (26:27):

(laughs) We're self- We're selfish at the same time. (laughs)

Dustin Bleizeffer (26:33):

There is that side of the coin, too.

Emy diGrappa (26:34):

Yup (laughs). We want you to go out and live your life, but not too far away. 'Cause I need to, I need to go see you. I want, I wanna know what you're doing in your life.

Dustin Bleizeffer (26:43):

Yeah, I mean, you know, um, and when you do move away, make sure its a really cool place that we wanna come visit, too.

Both (26:52):

(Laughs)

Emy diGrappa (26:52):

Truly be spoiled (laughs). Have all the best of both worlds in all ways when you live in Wyoming. You have wide open spaces. You can still travel and experience, but you still get to come back to your wide open spaces, which is refreshing.

Dustin Bleizeffer (27:12):

I will say, though, you know, one thing that really struck me about talking to young people across the state in this point in time was even though they'd, you know, they spent most of their lives here, uh, a lot of these young people... just their sense of feeling alone... not only feeling alone, but sometimes feel ostracized in their home- little hometowns and there's this notion that, you know, small town life in Wyoming is just extra friendly, uh, great place to raise a family.

                 When you're talking to young folks who not a lot of them come from all kinds of backgrounds, including from the energy... you know, parents working in the energy industry and you name it. You know, they discovered that they don't share all their parents' values and, and it just really struck me, um, how in, in small towns, even outgoing young people who get involved, uh, still had this sense that, that the larger part of the community, or in the larger part of the state, just doesn't have my back. You know, that was really profound.

Emy diGrappa (28:26):

Well, what is your answer to that? What, What do you think we can do for our young people, or especially the people that the young people that you spoke to, what would make a difference in, in that perception they have or their reality? What, What would we do differently?

Dustin Bleizeffer (28:43):

Um, you know, I, I think that would involve asking young people questions and actually listening... listening and responding. You know, I think there's also a notion that not a lot of young people vote in Wyoming, but as one person explained it to me, when you're young, you know, it's hard to take the time to take on the state's biggest challenges. You're just figuring out who you are. Uh, you're trying to advance your education. Um, you're scrounging around for money, you know?

                 And so, maybe after college, young people, uh, leave the state to establish themselves elsewhere then, you know, you've lost that young perspective in local elections. You've lost that young perspective in energy on, you know, uh, all sorts of community and state level challenges. Um, And so, as Wyoming exports, it's young people, you know, there's every so often we have a boom cycle where others move into the state, uh, following the energy and, you know, a lot of them... you know, some of them tend to stay. You know, that's one way, you know Wyoming finds itself having an aging population.

                 One young person said, you know... One idea might be, you know, if, if the state would forgive your, uh, student loans in exchange for, you know, working the next five years in, in Wyoming. You know, that might help... That could be an extension of the Hathaway Scholarship Program, um, and, you know, one of the main drivers behind that was to help keep young people in the state. So, I thought that an intriguing idea.

Emy diGrappa (30:45):

Yes, I do too. I actually like that idea. That, That would be interesting for, for Hathaway to, uh, explore that to see how that would work. Even if they just did, uh, an experiment with it-

Dustin Bleizeffer (30:59):

Yeah.

Emy diGrappa (30:59):

- real time. It would still be, uh, you know, moving in the right direction.

Dustin Bleizeffer (31:05):

Yeah, and I, I think, uh... our Wyoming, um... Workforce Development is... they're analyzing. I, I just had another thought that you had asked what might help them see a future for themselves in the state and I also heard a lot that, uh, cultural and social values matter a lot. They, They wanna see Wyoming, you know, be more proactive in welcoming L-G-B-T community, and more welcoming to immigrants, and just more willing to put up these flags to say Wyoming's a welcoming place. Um, they don't feel like that's the case right now.

Emy diGrappa (32:00):

That, That is truly interesting. It, It would be... It'd be good to talk further with them about that and I think, I think, because they're in that transition place in their life, being in high school, where am I going to go next? You know, you really need young people to take up root and to make a difference.

Dustin Bleizeffer (32:22):

Equality really matters is a thing that I heard and too often I heard that from, uh, a young a woman who said that, you know, she doesn't feel safe as a woman in Wyoming, and she wants to feel safe. Um, that those type of values in social justice really matter, uh, beyond the ability to have a secure job.

Emy diGrappa (32:48):

That... And that's what I was saying earlier, "If we don't have young people staying to support change and be part of the change, and they leave, then we're still in the same cycle. Nothing changes." Because you really need those committed young people who wanna remain and want to commit themselves to making changes.

Dustin Bleizeffer (33:14):

Yeah, I mean, and I mean... this is... this should concern everybody in Wyoming. Uh, you know, losing our young people, uh, to all these, um, growing economies around us, uh... it's a real threat to the state's future.

                 This is something that the state really needs to pay attention to, you know, and it's, it's not like one program can address it. It really takes a kind of a more openness from neighborhood and community level too. That is where it needs to begin. There's also this kind of sense of a disconnect between, you know... the way the people live their lives in their communities and the actions that are running legislature takes. It doesn't seem a one-to-one sort of direct correlation is another, uh, theme that I heard.

Emy diGrappa (34:18):

Right, and, and that, that's an ongoing, um, conundrum, um, I've heard that from women in my first, but last podcast and, and it is, it is definitely a matter of what works in a... you know, how do you become part of the conversation and how do you get inside that circle to have... to make change? And, and you... and in order to make change, you have to make the sacrifice to be part of the, the conversation.

                 And sometimes, that's not an easy... that's not easy, because you, you have to travel to Cheyenne, for example, and maybe you're a woman and have... you have two children, your kids are in school... it's just not that time in your life that you can just take off for weeks at a time to be in the legislature. So, it's, it's, it's a challenge for us, for sure.

                 There's no one magic pill that we get to take.

Dustin Bleizeffer (35:23):

That- That's true.

Emy diGrappa (35:25):

So, for my last question, I wanna ask you, what do you see for your future in your journey as, as a reporter in Wyoming?

Dustin Bleizeffer (35:34):

Well, I am... I'm very happy because I'm going to return to, uh, while file as full-time reporter, I'll be covering the education beat, which I'm really excited about. Uh, sometimes it's really good for a journalist to step into different worlds.

                 And so, now I will have been an energy beat reporter, an editor, freelancer, and now, um, uh, learning, you know, looking at Wyoming and Wyoming lives, uh, through the lens of education. And so, I'm really stoked about that and I'm also going to launch into a Fellowship project this summer, uh, that will have me, uh, spending the next, uh, four months, uh, launching a journalism project to really, um, kind of advance the discussion in coal communities about how they want to sustain themselves as the coal industry declines to kinda... really push the discussion beyond politics to more practical matters.

                 What assets do we have? How can we use them? What are our values? And to kind of really take ownership of that ownership so that they can then, in turn, tell the state exactly what they need, um, and kind of also, you know, kinda lay the foundation for when federal help can come, too, for these energy communities in transition. And so, I'm really excited about that project, as well.

Emy diGrappa (37:30):

Wow, you're doing a lot. Good for you. It has been great talking to you, Dustin. Thank you for your time.

Dustin Bleizeffer (37:36):

Oh, thanks for having me.