Outstanding Feature Story, Small: SEJ 22nd Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment

First Place

"Mobile Homes, the Last Affordable Housing Option for Many California Residents, Are Going Up in Smoke" by Anne Marshall-Chalmers for Inside Climate News

Screenshot of first-place Feature Story, Small
Screenshot of first-place Feature Story, Small


Judges' comments: "Journalist and fellow from the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Anne Marshall-Chalmers investigates a much-overlooked aspect of the human and housing cost of wildfires in California. Her engrossing and beautifully crafted lede engages the reader from the very first line and sets the tone for a narrative that interweaves the personal and universal, as well as thoroughly researched facts about wildfires near mobile home communities. In Susan Gilbert, her main character, and in Gilbert’s friends and neighbors from Creekside Mobile Home Park, Marshall-Chalmers finds human beings whose situation and personal traumas easily speak to a situation similar to so many more communities in the U.S. The narrative voice and choices keep the reader captivated until the end and have us all asking questions that we may not have asked before."

Bio: Anne Marshall-Chalmers is a journalist who grew up in the Bay Area. For many years, though, she bounced around Tennessee and Kentucky while working as a reporter and audio producer. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Atlas Obscura, NPR, Inside Climate News, Civil Eats and other publications. She has reported on climate change, agriculture, public health, injustice and the spaces where these topics intersect. She is a graduate of the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Currently, Anne is working on health and environment-related stories for The War Horse, a nonprofit newsroom focused on veteran and military issues. She was named an Association of Health Care Journalists–California Health Journalism fellow in 2023. In her spare time, Anne enjoys writing children’s stories and aspires to one day tackle fiction.


Second Place

"Clever Whales and the Violent Fight for Fish on the Line" by Nick Rahaim for Hakai Magazine

Judges' comments: "Journalist and fisherman Nick Rahaim made several bold choices in this article: writing in first person, reporting on an industry in which he also works and publishing a lengthy feature on a somewhat niche topic. He made every one of these choices work. While this piece of journalism captures readers' attention from the lede on, it doesn't shy away from making them learn. Employing smart sourcing, well-timed personal recollections and insightful academic literature, Rahaim must be commended for the balance he strikes that allows readers to leave the story both informed as well as engaged."


Third Place

"Another Green World" by Jessica Camille Aguirre for Harper's Magazine

Judges' comments: "Jessica Camille Aguirre, a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT, takes us on a wild journey of space exploration — but in the Arizona desert. She tells the story of amateur scientist Kai Staats, whose concern for humanity's survival on a planet that could run out of a number of crucial resources led him to first join the crew of Mars Desert Research Station and later start his own project: Space Analog for the Moon and Mars (SAM for short). Aguirre's prose is rich with minute details that bring her characters and their surroundings to life, right on the page. Her 'reader think' especially works to perfection — whenever the reader wonders about something, there Aguirre is, discussing that very point in the next line or paragraph."


First Honorable Mention

"Blood Sport: The Fight To End the Indiscriminate Killing of Countless Wild Animals for Entertainment and Money in the United States" by Kim Frank for Earth Island Journal

Judges' comments: "Reporter Kim Frank takes us to West Texas to witness first-hand one of the nation's largest predator-killing contests, called Big Bobcat. She vividly describes the teams of heavily armed hunters whose mission is to shoot as many foxes, coyotes and bobcats as they can to qualify for prizes of up to $50,000. Frank explains how these blood sport competitions evolved from traditional efforts by ranchers to protect their livestock from predation. Her story includes a combination of expert opinion and anecdotal material, including a visit to a ranch where family members practice a more restrained form of predator management."


Second Honorable Mention

"Inches From Extinction: Time Is Running Out To Protect the Saltmarsh Sparrow and Its Critical Coastal Habitat From Rising Seas" by Alex Kuffner for The Providence Journal

Judges' comments: "In contrast to some vulnerable species such as elephants and polar bears, the saltmarsh sparrow attracts far less public attention, in part because its habitat is limited to a narrow swath of coastal marshland stretching from Virginia to Maine. In this compelling feature, reporter Alex Kuffner explains why this reclusive bird might be among the first species to disappear as sea levels rise in response to global warming, and why we should care. His story calls attention to the broader impacts of climate change and human encroachment on coastal wetlands."


Third Honorable Mention

"Queering the Family Farm: Despite Obstacles, LGBTQ Farmers Find Fertile Ground in Midwest" by Bennet Goldstein for Wisconsin Watch/Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk

Story links:

Judges' comments: "Reporter Bennet Goldstein took on a topic of identity and a historically disadvantaged community and side-stepped common pitfalls and generalizations. Instead, he deftly wove together personal moments, insights into politics, discussion of a key industry and research while consistently making smart narrative choices that kept the piece moving briskly. Additionally, the way in which he told the story of 16 Midwestern LGBTQ producers with compassion and without flattening them into a monolith can not be overlooked."


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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