Announcing the inaugural winner of the
Nina Mason Pulliam Award
for Outstanding Environmental Reporting
September 6, 2018 — Five judges convened to select "Bombs in Our Backyard" by Abrahm Lustgarten, Lena Groeger, Ryann Grochowski Jones, Sisi Wei, Ashley Gilbertson, Ranjani Chakraborty and Lucas Waldron for ProPublica, as the inaugural winner of the Nina Mason Pulliam Award for Outstanding Environmental Reporting.
Stories included in the entry are:
- "Open Burns, Ill Winds"
- "Kaboom Town" and "In Colfax, Echoes of Another Conflict"
- "The Bomb That Went Off Twice"
- "Bombs in Your Backyard" (map) and "Reporting Recipe: Bombs in Your Backyard"
- "War at Home"
Judges, who selected the entry from the seven first-place winners of the 2018 Society of Environmental Journalists Awards for Reporting on the Environment, had this to say:
The Nina Mason Pulliam Award is a new and extraordinary honor bestowed on the "best of the best" environmental journalism of the past year. Our judging panel faced the almost impossible task of choosing just one Pulliam awardee from among the winners of each category of SEJ's contest. In the end, we concluded that one stood out from the rest, and another was not far behind as honorable mention.
Our inaugural Pulliam Award winner is ProPublica's "Bombs in Your Backyard" series, produced by veteran environmental writer Abrahm Lustgarten and a talented team of reporters, editors, producers and photographers. It is a very deep but lively investigation into the U.S. Department of Defense's shoddy oversight of 40,000 contaminated sites where weapons have been manufactured or stored in ways that threaten the health of millions of unsuspecting neighbors and workers. One shocking story, for example, showed how the Pentagon still burns toxic waste in open pits more than 30 years after Congress banned that dangerous practice while giving DOD a "temporary" exemption. The multipart series includes an innovative and intuitive map-based news app that readers can use to learn about specific toxic sites, including health risks and the cost and status of ongoing cleanups. There are also tools and advice for journalists looking to localize the story. But this explosive (literally) project is not only "news you can use". It also showcases powerful investigative reporting that uncovered rampant neglect and deception by the Pentagon and its contractors, who are prospering to the tune of more than $1 billion per year with little benefit to the taxpayers who are footing the bill and bearing the risk.
The judges also recognized "Marshall Islands Project" by Kim Wall, Coleen Jose, Jan Hendrik Hinzel, Brittany Levine, Andrew Freedman and Alex Hazlett for Mashable.
- "The poison and the tomb"
- "On Standby: When you leave the Marshall Islands, you buy a one-way ticket"
- "A new home, somewhere else"
The judges' comments:
Our honorable mention Pulliam awardee is the stunning "Marshall Islands Project," published by Mashable and written by the late Kim Wall, with remarkable photographs and videography by Coleen Jose and Jan Hendrik Hinzel, respectively. Reading and watching these beautifully told stories is an emotionally powerful experience, as Wall, Jose and Hinzel take us to the other side of the world, to the coral atolls of Micronesia, and immerse us in the sprawling tragedy wrought there by climate change and U.S. atomic weapons testing. Filled with the kind of evocative, up-close detail that only the most committed journalists can find, it is an environmental story and so much more: A story of a family, and a people, struggling at great hardship to reclaim a semblance of what has been lost. It is a fitting tribute to the high craft and passion of Kim Wall, an immensely talented Swedish journalist who worked on these stories for three years until her murder in 2017. She was just 30 years old.
The Nina Mason Pulliam Award for the "best of the best" environmental reporting awards $10,000 to the winning entry. The prize also includes travel, registration and hotel expenses (up to $2500) for the winner, or representatives of the winning team, to attend SEJ's annual conference and be recognized at the awards presentation ceremony Sat., Oct. 6, during SEJ's 28th Annual Conference in Flint, Michigan, Oct. 3 - 7, 2018.
The new award was named in honor of Nina Mason Pulliam, a journalist, businesswoman and philanthropist, who with her husband, Gene, established Central Newspapers, Inc., a national newspaper corporation, in 1934. Upon her death in 1997, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust was established to support the causes most important to Pulliam: helping people in need, especially women, children and families; protecting animals and nature; and enriching community life, primarily in her home communities of metropolitan Phoenix and Indianapolis.
The Nina Mason Pulliam Award is sponsored by The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, in association with SEJ and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).
Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust Contact: Gene D'Adamo, GDAdamo@nmpct.org
SEJ Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
SPJ Contact: Alison Bethel McKenzie, email@example.com
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