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

First Place

"The Water Manifesto: Osun (Water For Gold)" by AnuOluwapo Adelakun for TheCable Newspaper Journalism Foundation

Screenshot of first-place story, Carmody Reporting, Small
Screenshot of first-place story, Carmody Reporting, Small


Judges' comments: "The reporter's commitment to uncovering the truth, even at personal risk, and dedication to understanding the complex factors are commendable. By amplifying the voices of the artisanal miners and demonstrating how their basic survival is contrasted with the exploitation by foreign corporations, the video educates viewers and humanizes those directly affected by it. The storytelling approach, which integrates personal narratives and the cultural and religious significance of the Osun River to the Yoruba-speaking people, adds depth and emotional resonance to the reporting. The comparison drawn between the Chinese miners and the vulnerable local population highlights the power dynamics at play and underscores the environmental and social injustices being perpetuated."

Bio: AnuOluwapo Adelakun is an investigative journalist, documentary filmmaker and policy researcher working on underreported issues in Nigeria. She holds a Master's degree in Journalism and Documentary Practice from the University of Sussex and a Bachelor of Science in Politics and International Relations from Lead City University, Ibadan, Nigeria. Anu is a founding member of the Women's Economic Imperative (WEI), a UNICEF Voices of Youth alumni, Carrington Youth Fellow of the US Consulate in Nigeria, US Consul General Award Recipient, UN WOMEN/Empower Women Global Champion for Change, UK Foreign & Commonwealth Chevening alumna, USGEEA Women Achievers awardee, Bertha Fellow and served as the pioneer director of video productions at TheCable Newspaper, Nigeria’s leading online publication. Anu focuses on the multidimensional effects of public mismanagement and the inequalities that arise and persist from the same.


Second Place

"Inside Nigeria’s Shocking Wildlife Crimes and How Culprits Escape Justice" by Ini Ekott for Premium Times

Story links:

  1. "Investigation: Inside Nigeria’s Shocking Wildlife Crimes and How Culprits Escape Justice" (Premium Times)
  2. "In Nigeria, a Decade of Payoffs Boosted Global Wildlife Trafficking Hub" (Mongabay)

Judges' comments: "This says it all: 'No suspect, amongst them Nigerians, Chinese, Malians, Guineans and Ivorians, served a jail term over the last decade for illicit trafficking of animals. The government said it obtained four convictions in the last 11 years – three were awarded small fines.' Freelancer Ini Ekott painstakingly documented the government lies about cracking down on widespread wildlife crimes. Through sometimes risky interviews with gang members and operators, the story resulted in new laws and an uptick in convictions."


Third Place

"Inside India’s Illegal Shark-Fin Trade" by Shamsheer Yousaf and Monica Jha for Scroll

Team roles:

  • Reporter, Data Visualizations, Videographer, Photographer: Shamsheer Yousaf, Freelance Journalist
  • Reporter, Data Collection, Video Editing: Monica Jha, Freelance Journalist

Judges' comments: "Two independent reporters pulled off the veil of secrecy over the extent of illegal shark-fin trade, which is decimating this apex predator. Faced with stonewalling by India, China and Hong Kong, they set out on a 7000-kilometer journey on the east and west coasts of India, talking to shark fishers, local traders, customs officials and exporters. This risky and largely unexplored reporting on a vast underground economy showed how it worked, and explained the secret network of traders. They also drew out obscure data to show how government reporting is a fiction. They documented the trade with rare video of shark finning and slaughter. And they also reported on some solutions — examples of successful protection of sharks."


First Honorable Mention

"Something in the Water" by Liza Gross, Peter Aldhous and Anne Marshall-Chalmers for Inside Climate News

Story links:

  1. "A California Water Board Assures the Public That Oil Wastewater Is Safe for Irrigation, But Experts Say the Evidence Is Scant" (Anne Marshall-Chalmers, UC Berkeley fellow, contributed reporting)
  2. "Why Did California Regulators Choose a Firm With Ties to Chevron To Study Irrigating Crops With Oil Wastewater?"
  3. "California Regulators Banned Fracking Wastewater for Irrigation, But Allow Wastewater From Oil Drilling. Scientists Say There's Little Difference."
  4. "When an Oil Well Is Your Neighbor"
  5. "Drought-Wracked California Allows Oil Companies To Use High-Quality Water. But Regulators' Error-Strewn Records Make Accurate Accounting Nearly Impossible" (co-byline: Peter Aldhous, freelance reporter)

Judges' comments: "Across this series of articles, Inside Climate News effectively lays out the complex environmental and energy issues currently at play in central California. As Liz Gross reports, regional drought has made water a more precious resource, at the same time that valuable oil reserves are becoming harder to extract, requiring more and more water for so-called enhanced-recovery processes. Gross does an admirable job explaining what is known (but often ignored) — and perhaps more importantly, what is unknown — about the environmental and human health impacts of the chemicals used in the injection process."


Second Honorable Mention

"Out of State, Out of Mind" by Robert Lewis for CalMatters

Judges' comments: "The reporting of CalMatters on California's historic and ongoing practice of shipping its toxic waste to other states with less stringent laws shines a light on the reality of the widespread impact of stringent local environmental laws in a national and global economy. Reporter Robert Lewis digs into shipping records showing how government agencies and companies have been trucking hazardous dirt containing chemicals like DDT just across the border to Arizona, and dumping it in facilities nearby Native American reservations. As Lewis reports, there is little federal oversight over these practices and dump sites; and as a result, California is able to essentially export its environmental impact to other states."


Third Honorable Mention

"Thousands in Northeast Oregon Left With Unsafe Drinking Water After Years of State Inaction" by Alex Baumhardt, with University of Oregon student interns Jael Calloway and Cole Sinanian for Oregon Capital Chronicle

Story links:

  1. "Powerful Port Pollutes Water for Years With Little State Action" (SPECIAL REPORT: Drinking water of thousands increasingly impaired by excessive nitrogen dumps)
  2. "Water Contamination Worsened As DEQ Went Easy on Port of Morrow" (SPECIAL REPORT: State officials rarely intervened and never stopped the port as it dumped hundreds of tons of excess nitrogen over a critical groundwater area)
  3. "Troubled by Inaction, Morrow County Commissioner Makes Safe Water a Top Issue" (SPECIAL REPORT: Now, Umatilla County joins in effort to test where residents draw well water from the same contaminated aquifer)
  4. "Morrow County Waits Months for State Money To Help With Contaminated Drinking Water: In the Meantime, the County and Businesses Have Spent Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars on the Problem"
  5. "Residents in Morrow County Demand Urgent Aid From State for Contaminated Water"

Judges' comments: "The state’s environmental agency knew groundwater was contaminated by agricultural waste and runoff for 30 years, but never took what they knew to 12,000 immigrant-residents who rely on the contaminated water supply. A five-month effort of poring through testing reports and documents produced results: federal and state grants to test wells and provide safe water, and increased fines to polluters."


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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