SEJ's 2010 Award Winners for Reporting on the Environment

October 15, 2010

The Society of Environmental Journalists' winners of the 2009-2010 Awards for Reporting on the Environment will be honored Oct. 13 at a gala in the University Center, University of Montana, Missoula, on the first day of SEJ's 20th annual conference.

SEJ's journalism contest is the world's largest and most comprehensive awards for journalism on environmental topics.

Twenty-nine entries in 11 categories were selected by a panel of distinguished judges, with two honorable mentions. The panel of reporters, editors and journalism educators pored over 216 entries to choose the finalists representing the best environmental reporting in print and on television, radio, the Internet and in student publications.

SEJ's Rachel Carson Environment Book Award winner receives $1,000 and a pair of marble bookends bearing the contest, book and author information. The student winner receives $250, a crystal trophy and up to $750 in travel assistance to the annual conference. Each of the other winning entries receives $1,000 and a crystal trophy.

Here's a list of the winners with some of the judges' comments:

Outstanding Explanatory Reporting, Print

First Place: Agent Orange: A Lethal Legacy, Chicago Tribune
Jason Grotto, Tim Jones, Kuni Takahashi, Chris Walker
The Chicago Tribune's five-part series on Agent Orange's lethal legacy explains in heart-wrenching detail how the weapons of war can keep on maiming and killing decades after hostilities end.

Second Place: Climate Change, The Associated Press, Charles J. Hanley and Seth Borenstein

Third Place: The Writing on the Wall, Los Angeles Times, Julie Cart

Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting, Print

First Place: Toxic Waters, The New York Times
Charles Duhigg
Charles Duhigg's groundbreaking and impactful look at America's drinking water is the unanimous choice among judges for the Carmody investigative print award. The length, scope, and revelations contained in the Toxic Waters investigation made an impressive contribution to the public debate on water use in the U.S.

Second Place: Natural Gas Drilling: A Threat to Water?, ProPublica, Abrahm Lustgarten, Joaquin Sapien, Sabrina Shankman

Third Place: Who's Watching the Farm?, Wisconsin State Journal, Ron Seely

Outstanding Beat Reporting, Print

First Place: The Seattle Times, Craig Allen Welch
Welch solidly reported on a wide range of topics, from the demise of local shellfish industries to conflict between wolves and ranchers, and deteriorating levees, with superb writing. Welch used a wide variety of voices to tell compelling local stories that tie into larger regional or global issues.

Second Place: The Last Jaguar, Arizona Daily Star, Anthony J. Davis and Tim Steller

Third Place: Green China, The New York Times, Keith Bradsher

Outstanding Online Reporting

First Place: The Last Untamed River, Radio Free Asia, Minh-Ha Le
A memorable project that vividly depicted the dimensions of an environmental issue unfamiliar to many people. This visual voyage down the Mekong River from its source to its mouth brought to life a river ecosystem — make that ecosystems — of enormous complexity.

Second Place: A Visit to the Farallon Islands, KQED Quest, Lauren Sommer, Andrea Kissack, Craig Rosa, Paul Rogers

SEJ's Rachel Carson Environment Book Award

First Place: Heart of Dryness: How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought, Walker & Co, James G. Workman
Judges were impressed by this book's originality and ambitious approach. Heart of Dryness explains the global water crisis through the eyes of the Bushmen of Botswana, a group of persecuted people who have learned to survive in the Kalahari Desert and its longstanding drought.

Second Place: Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It, Island Press, Robert Glennon

Third Place: Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss, University Press of Florida, Craig Pittman and Matthew Waite

Outstanding Beat/In-Depth Reporting, Radio 

First Place: Architects Share Green Building Ideas, PRI's The World
Jason Margolis
This piece stood head and shoulders above the competition for the reporter's skill in taking a simple and increasingly familiar concept — greenhouse gas emissions — and helping the listener understand it in terms of the spaces so many of us inhabit during our workdays …The content was surprising, revealing and compelling, and the manner in which it was conveyed to the listener was masterful.

Second Place: Coal: Dirty Past, Hazy Future, Michigan Public Radio and The Environment Report, Mark Brush, Shawn Allee, Lester Graham, Rebecca M. Williams, Erika Celeste, Sandra Sleight-Brennan, Julie Edelson Halpert, Matt Shafer Powell

Third Place: On Their Own Terms, PRI's Living on Earth, Ingrid Lobet 

Outstanding Student Reporting

First Place:  Powering a Nation: The Coal Story
Sara Peach, Jenn Hueting, Monica Ulmanu, Chris Carmichael (University of North Carolina)
Environmentalists argue that removing Appalachian mountaintops to mine coal is a disaster. For many who live in that hardscrabble area, it seems an economic necessity. Sara Peach and her student team from the University of North Carolina captured that basic division, and its many nuances, in a well-constructed series of interviews and images presented in a style that's dispassionate and non-judgmental and, largely because of that, makes clear how wrenching this issue is.

Honorable Mention: University of Montana Grace Case Project, Laura Lundquist (with a team of 31 students and three professors) 

Honorable Mention: Trouble in Rossmoor: The Woodpecker Chronicles, Bay Nature Magazine, Daniel McGlynn

Outstanding Beat/In-Depth Reporting, Television

First Place: Climate Change Winners and Losers
CBS Evening News and CBS Sunday Morning
Ben Plesser and Mark Phillips
The judges were unanimous in awarding first prize in the "BEAT/IN-DEPTH TV" category to "Climate Change Winners and Losers." This two-part report was a superb example of what television does best: taking us to places and showing us what is happening with strong, clear images. There was obviously a lot of research that went into this story about the extreme edges of what's happening with climate change, but it didn't get in the way of the storytelling. The writing was crisp, precise and witty. The reporter's on-camera appearances were dramatic and engaging, from riding in the dog sled in Greenland to snorkelling in the Maldives and demonstrating by walking in the water what the consequences of rising sea levels could be.

Second Place: Quest: National Parks Special: Bringing the Parks to the People, KQED Quest, San Francisco, CA, Christopher Bauer, Jenny Oh, Sheraz Sadiq, Amy Miller, Gail Huddleson, Paul Rogers

Third Place: Transit Development vs. Open Space/Ancient Site, KSL-TV, Salt Lake City, UT, John Daley

Outstanding Small Market Reporting, Print

First Place: Green vs. Green: Environmentalists Duke It Out
Monterey County Weekly, Kera Abraham
By examining conflicts in which both sides laid plausible claim to being champions of the environment, Abraham offered an unusually sophisticated and thought-provoking examination of what it means to be green. Her pieces were thoroughly reported, engagingly told, fresh and fair-minded.

Second Place: A Quiet Hell, Houston Press, Chris Vogel

Third Place: Soup-to-Nuts: Small Market Reporting, Earth Island Journal Jason Mark

Outstanding Story, Television, Small Market

First Place: Poison Water
WHIO-TV, Dayton, OH
Kathryn Burcham
The judges were impressed with the reporter's research and development of this strong, local story. She and her station demonstrated a commitment to a subject that other media outlets may have been tempted to overlook. Her tenacity is evident by the positive results that were achieved for the residents of Garden City. This story is not available electronically.

Second Place: The Air We Breathe, WTAE-TV, Pittsburgh, PA Jim Parsons, Michael Lazorko, Kendall Cross

Outstanding Story, Television, Large Market

First Place: Seahorse Sleuths
KQED Quest, San Francisco, CA
Joan Johnson, Jenny Oh, Shirley Gutierrez, Kenji Yamamoto, Josh Rosen, Paul Rogers
A compelling piece about a strange and fascinating creature jeopardized by the global trade in dried seahorses. Beautiful images, combined with solid editing, made this entry stand out, as did the documenting of efforts by scientists and advocates to save the seahorse. This story was made exceptional by the power of great underwater video as well as undercover video from inside the markets where a startling number of seahorses are sold.

Second Place: Borneo: Human and Environmental Health, PBS NewsHour, Fred de Sam Lazaro, Nicole See, Tom Adair, Skip Davis

Third Place: Algae Power, KQED Quest, San Francisco ,CA, Gabriela Quiros, Josh Rosen, Henny Oh, Linda Peckham, Gail Huddleson, Amy Miller, Paul Rogers 

* From the quarterly newsletter SEJournal, Fall 2010 issue.