Inside Story

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Inside Story is a regular question-and-answer feature of SEJournal Online in which we hear from award-winning journalists about the behind-the-scenes practices, ideas and breakthroughs that led to their best work, and their advice to other journalists about how to excel. For questions and comments, or to suggest future Inside Story features, email SEJournal Online Inside Story Q&A co-editors Emilia Askari or Parimal Rohit at sejournaleditor@sej.org.

Be sure to check out past winners of the Society of Environmental Journalists’ Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment. Here's the list of winners from 2020 (which includes videos spotlighting their work), as well as from 2019.

April 7, 2021

  • An investigation into lead poisoning treatment policies prompted some very unexpected conclusions for one long-time investigative journalist, whose deeply reported and surprising projects won plaudits from judges for the Society of Environmental Journalists’ annual awards. Find out how Charles Schmidt turned an aside from a source into a penetrating look at a critical public health and environmental challenge.

March 10, 2021

  • Perpetual water scarcity issues in the Colorado River basin provide a bounty of stories for public radio journalist Luke Runyon, who shares insights into his beat coverage practices, in the latest Inside Story Q&A. The greatest challenges, surprises and lessons in reporting these critical stories, lauded in SEJ’s awards program, through the medium of sound.

February 10, 2021

  • Reporter Kyle Bagenstose has impressed Society of Environmental Journalists’ awards judges three times in the last four years with his investigative and small-market beat reporting on local and regional issues in Pennsylvania. In our latest Inside Story Q&A, Bagenstose discusses his award-winning work as a beat reporter and his first-place investigative prize for a series on the cleanup of toxic firefighting chemicals from streams and aquifers around military bases.

January 13, 2021

  • A Philadelphia Inquirer investigation into environmental harm suffered by the city’s children, minorities and poor dived into the “decaying infrastructure” of the city schools. The result? Findings of dangerous levels of lead, mold and asbestos, followed by an influx of funding to fix the problems and awards from journalism colleagues. For Inside Story, a Q&A with a reporter for the "Toxic City: Sick Schools" exposé.

November 25, 2020

  • When the New York Times Magazine published “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change” as its full issue in August 2018, the reaction to Nathaniel Rich’s piece was immediate and polemic. Today, as some analysts speak of Joe Biden’s efforts to position himself as “the climate President,” SEJournal asks Rich to explain his contribution to the public conversation on policy, action and climate.

October 21, 2020

  • A battery of polluting industry spewing toxic pollution and a small town of residents south of Baton Rouge unbowed by their circumstance make for the ingredients of a powerful team investigative project, newly named to the top prize in the Society of Environmental Journalists’ 2020 reporting awards. Inside Story offers a look behind “Polluter’s Paradise” in a Q&A with reporter Tristan Baurick.

September 9, 2020

  • It took teams of journalists to produce an award-winning series of reports digging into environment and climate health effects of massive oil and natural gas production in the Southwestern United States. Our latest Inside Story talks with Jamie Smith Hopkins of the Center for Public Integrity about the benefits of reporting a big story jointly and the project’s sometimes surprising findings.

July 1, 2020

  • When two towns — one an affluent suburb and the other a poor rural community — faced similar air pollution crises, lopsided government action made clear there was an underlying race and class divide. Reporter Sharon Lerner shares the story behind her award-winning reporting that tells the “Tale of Two Toxic Cities,” in our latest Inside Story Q&A.

June 3, 2020

  • To cover the wide range of challenges affecting his Mountain State, a small market beat reporter won plaudits first by becoming a close student of the issues and then boiling them down to the basics for his audience. Inside Story’s Q&A explores the resulting award-winning journalism on topics like water law and public lands, groundwater pollution and protected species.

April 22, 2020

  • How do you gain perspective on a widespread public health disaster? Award-winning reporter Apoorva Mandavilli shares valuable lessons on using a small lens to cover a big story — no, not COVID-19, but the deadly 1984 gas leak in Bhopal, India. And as she explains in this Inside Story Q&A, this decades-old story never really went away in the first place.

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