Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting, Large: SEJ 22nd Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment

First Place and Winner, Nina Mason Pulliam Award for Outstanding Environmental Reporting

"The Amazon, Undone" by Terrence McCoy, Júlia Ledur and Cecília do Lago, with photos by Raphael Alves and Rafael Vilela, for The Washington Post

Screenshot of first-place story #1, Carmody Reporting, Large
Screenshot of first-place story, Carmody Reporting, Large


Story links:

  1. "Death in the Forest" (photos by Raphael Alves)
  2. "Devouring the Forest" (reported with Júlia Ledur)
  3. "The God of São Félix" (reported with Cecília do Lago; photos and videos by Rafael Vilela)
  4. "A Failure of Enforcement" (photos by Rafael Vilela)
  5. "The Killing of Dom and Bruno" (photos and videos by Rafael Vilela)

Judges' comments: "When thinking of what stories performed the best, three main components were crucial to putting together an exceptional story. The article or series must include captivating storytelling, high-quality data and should have an impact or reveal details to the reader in a way that allows them to connect the dots to wider environmental issues. No package encapsulated these elements more so than the 'Amazon Undone' series put together by The Washington Post. The package took a whole-system approach to looking at deforestation in the planet's largest and most vital rainforest. Each article meticulously walks the reader through a contributing factor to the rapid deforestation of the Amazon. Whether that be from Americans' love of beef to rapacious politicians eager to turn a profit, each topic was covered using compelling maps, insightful interviews with locals and shocking videos to dazzling effect. To put together this story, the reporters had to gather an enormous amount of data from an environmental agency that had been crippled by low morale and a lack of support from its own government. They retraced the steps of the most high-profile Brazilian murder cases in 2022. And they quantified the rate of forest loss using satellite imagery. The time and effort put into this piece is astounding, and the sum of the package's parts proved to be a gripping story that provides a window into one of the most protracted and destructive environmental issues of our time."

Bio: Terrence McCoy is The Washington Post's Rio de Janeiro Bureau Chief. He has twice won the George Polk Award and was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2023. He served in the Peace Corps in Cambodia. He joined The Washington Post in 2014, and has been a staff writer on the local, national and foreign desks. He is from Madison, Wisc., and lives in Rio de Janeiro with his wife and son.


Second Place

"Forever Pollution Project" by Stéphane Horel for Le Monde


This cross-border project authored and coordinated by Stéphane Horel included the following media partners: Le Monde (France); NDR, WDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany); RADAR Magazine and Le Scienze (Italy); The Investigative Desk and NRC (Netherlands); Knack (Belgium); Denik Referendum (Czechia); Politiken (Denmark); YLE (Finland); Reporters United (Greece); Latvian Radio (Latvia); Datadista (Spain); SRF (Switzerland); and Watershed Investigations / The Guardian (UK). 

Judges' comments: "The breadth and detail of research and data journalism undertaken by Le Monde to write 'Revealed: The massive contamination of Europe by PFAS 'forever chemicals'' is both impressive and leads the reader to direct and disturbing conclusions about the state of forever chemical contamination across the European continent. Reaching out to numerous institutions and filing Freedom of Information requests, the team compiled a massive dataset of water, soil and organism samples that led them to uncover 17,000 'known contamination' sites and map additional presumptive contamination sites based on scientifically reviewed methodology. Married with a database they compiled of facilities manufacturing PFAS in Europe, the team built an interactive map for Europeans to get a better sense of the forever chemical contamination in their area, and even their own town. The damning investigation distributed by 12 different European media partners explains that decision-makers have known about the risks for 17 years, but the public has largely remained unaware of their prevalence, until now. For this truly eye-opening investigation, we are glad to recognize the reporting of Stéphane Horel, Le Monde, and the whole team behind this work."


Third Place

"Toxic Burden: How American Chemical Regulations Failed the Public" by Neil Bedi, Kathleen McGrory and Sharon Lerner for ProPublica

Story links:

  1. "The U.S. Never Banned Asbestos. These Workers Are Paying the Price." (photography by Rich-Joseph Facun, graphics by Haisam Hussein)
  2. "Lawmakers and Public Health Advocates Call for Congress To Finally Ban Asbestos"
  3. "Workers Across America Break Their Silence on Decades of Asbestos Exposure" (photography by Rich-Joseph Facun, special to ProPublica)
  4. "Why the U.S. Is Losing the Fight To Ban Toxic Chemicals"
  5. "As Workers Battle Cancer, the Government Admits Its Limit for a Deadly Chemical Is Too High"

Judges' comments: "ProPublica set out to examine whether the United States' willingness to let two major chemical companies use carcinogenic asbestos in making chlorine had resulted in situations in which workers were protected. After a massive reporting effort by Neal Bedi, Kathleen McGrory and Sharon Lerner involving tracking down workers in Niagara Falls who had been exposed at a now closed chlorine plant, the investigation demonstrated that workers throughout the country were working in situations with significant dangerous exposures to asbestos. Once initial stories were published, workers from plants across the country came forward and the story grew into an even more impactful look at how chemical regulation has failed to protect workers for decades. A new comprehensive ban on asbestos is now being considered and just as EPA has proposed a ban, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is being urged to take more seriously its own oversight of plants using dangerous chemicals. It took enormous work by a ProPublica team, but the United States may now be on the verge of taking a step many countries have done and ban asbestos. Cutting through secrecy and failed regulation, ProPublica has provided the groundwork for a much broader understanding of why asbestos has lingered in corners of the U.S. workplace."


First Honorable Mention

"'Forever Chemicals' Are a Growing Problem. Here's What We Found When We Tested Wisconsin's Drinking Water." by Laura Schulte and Katelyn Ferral for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Story links:

  1. "'Forever Chemicals' Are a Growing Problem. Here's What We Found When We Tested Wisconsin's Drinking Water."
  2. "'Forever Chemicals' Are in Their Drinking Water. So Why Are Some Towns Slow To Act?"
  3. "U.S. EPA Is Recommending Low Limits for 'Forever Chemicals.' Many Wisconsin Communities Have Tested Over It."

Judges' comments: "At team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel decided to deal with their state's lack of information about 'forever chemicals' and in particular the quality of available drinking water by actually arranging for a complex testing system to examine the risks residents faced. Such an effort had never been done before by a journalistic organization. This unprecedented effort initially provided results in four tests that showed that a third of the drinking water sampled had levels of these 'forever chemicals,' or PFAS, above EPA recommended limits. Ultimately with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, to supplement Journal Sentinel funds for testing, reporters Laura Schulte and Katelyn Ferral conducted 36 additional tests and the results showed PFAS levels up to 128 times the federal limits. These tests were developed from drinking water the reporting team obtained by visits to citizens of communities across the state. The Wisconsin state legislature held hearings and may fund a broader testing program. Local governments as well are taking a hard look at their program. Readers throughout the state accessed the coverage, not just from the Journal Sentinel, but also across the USA Today state network."


Second Honorable Mention

"Hidden Menace: Massive Methane Leaks Speed Up Climate Change" by Michael Biesecker and Helen Wieffering for The Associated Press

Story links:

  1. "Hidden Menace: Massive Methane Leaks Speed Up Climate Change"
  2. "Hidden Menace: Hundreds of Sites Spew Methane" (video)
  3. "EPA Announces Flights To Look for Methane in Permian Basin"
  4. "EPA Cites 2 Oil and Gas Firms Over Permian Basin Pollution"

Judges' comments: "This comprehensive investigation into methane leaks in Texas was hard-hitting, with just the right amount of local flavor to make for impactful, holistic storytelling. The work that went into this data collection is admirable. The fact that the EPA announced it would conduct methane monitoring flights over the Permian Basin following the article's release, and then went on to fine and cite two companies responsible for such methane leaks, demonstrates the importance of such reporting. Revealing a usually invisible polluter, this story shines an infrared camera on an issue that is solvable and can't be ignored. As one interviewee in the piece put it, 'If carbon dioxide is the fossil-fuel broiler of our heating planet, methane is a blowtorch.'"


Third Honorable Mention

"The Power of Big Oil" by Raney Aronson Rath, Andrew Metz, Dan Edge, Jane McMullen, Gesbeen Mohammad, Robin Barnwell, James Jacoby, Eamonn Matthews, Sara Obeidat, Emma Supple, Russell Gold, Sarah Waldron, Lauren Ezell and Katherine Griwert for PBS

Team roles:

  • Raney Aronson Rath, Executive Producer, FRONTLINE
  • Andrew Metz, Managing Editor, FRONTLINE
  • Dan Edge, Series Producer
  • Jane McMullen, Producer/Director, Ep. 1 Denial
  • Gesbeen Mohammad, Director/Producer, Ep. 2, Doubt; Producer, Ep. 3, Delay
  • Robin Barnwell, Producer/Director, Ep. 3, Delay
  • James Jacoby, Senior Producer, Ep. 2; Doubt; Ep. 3, Delay
  • Eamonn Matthews, Senior Producer, Ep. 2; Doubt; Ep. 3, Delay
  • Sara Obeidat, Producer, Ep. 1, Denial; Ep. 2, Doubt; Ep. 3, Delay
  • Emma Supple, Producer, Ep.1 Denial
  • Russell Gold, Consultant  Ep. 1, Denial; Ep. 2, Doubt; Ep. 3, Delay
  • Sarah Waldron, Executive Producer BBC
  • Lauren Ezell, Senior Editor, FRONTLINE
  • Katherine Griwert, Editorial Coordinating Producer, FRONTLINE

Story links:

  1. "The Power of Big Oil"
  2. "A Government Scientist Warned About Climate Change in 2001. Exxon Mobil Sought to Have Him Removed."
  3. "California Is Investigating Big Oil for Allegedly Misleading the Public on Recycling"
  4. "The Fossil Fuel Industry Marketed Natural Gas As a Cleaner Alternative. But They Weren't Monitoring for Methane Leaks, Former Exxon Mobil Engineer Says."
  5. "Inside Big Oil's Push Against Climate Change Action"

Judges' comments: "Half the battle of educating people is meeting them where they are. In today's world, perhaps no medium is metabolized more than video. And the three-part series put together by the team at PBS was a wonderful example of how to educate the public. They walked viewers through the entire history of Big Oil's campaign to obfuscate their culpability in contributing to climate change. First, we learned what had long been the practice of large industries such as tobacco — denying that fossil fuels contribute to climate change despite years' worth of their own data that proved otherwise. Then we learn about their effort to sow doubt and undermine the science. And lastly, we learn about their strategy of delaying actual change, which is what seems to be happening now as companies pledge climate goals while undermining the policies to further them. The end result is a series that reveals the players and tactics in one of the most crooked schemes in history. It's this type of information that will be crucial to shedding light onto an industry that has tried to keep its role in fueling climate change in the dark."


The Society of Environmental Journalists' annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment honor the best environmental journalism in 10 categories, bringing recognition to the stories that are among the most important on the planet. Prizes are $500 for first-place winners and $250 for second-place winners in all categories. Plus, the Nina Mason Pulliam Award for the "best of the best" environmental reporting will award $10,000 to one entry selected from the first-place winners of SEJ's Awards for Reporting on the Environment. The Pulliam Award also includes travel, registration and hotel expenses (up to $2,500) for the winner, or representatives of the winning team, to attend SEJ's annual conference.

The SEJ contest is the world's largest and most comprehensive environmental journalism competition. This year, a record-breaking 589 entries in 10 categories were judged by independent volunteer panels of journalists and professors.

On November 16, 2023, at SEJ's 2024 Journalists' Guide to Energy & Environment event in Washington, D.C., we'll announce live the winner of the Nina Mason Pulliam Award and its $10,000 cash prize.

SEJ's 2023 Esteemed Judges and Screeners
SEJ's 2023 Awards Committee

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