Announcing the winner of the 2022 Nina Mason Pulliam Award
for Outstanding Environmental Reporting
October 26, 2022 — The winner of the 2022 Nina Mason Pulliam Award for Outstanding Environmental Reporting is Sharon Lerner for her two first-place winning entries: "The Department of Yes: How Pesticide Companies Corrupted the EPA and Poisoned America" (Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting, Small) and "EPA Exposed" (Outstanding Beat Reporting, Small).
Congratulations to Sharon!
|Screenshot of Pulliam winner/ Carmody Reporting, Small first-place story||Screenshot of Pulliam winner/ Beat Reporting, Small first-place story|
The Nina Mason Pulliam Award judges chose Sharon Lerner's "The Department of Yes: How Pesticide Companies Corrupted the EPA and Poisoned America" and "EPA Exposed" as the "best of the best," after reviewing all the first-place winners of SEJ's 2022 Awards for Reporting on the Environment. The judges wrote:
"As in years past, the Nina Mason Pulliam Award judges faced a challenge choosing the 'best of the best' environmental journalism from among the winners of SEJ’s 21st Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment. This year, though, one journalist's work rose above the others, excelling for the first time in two awards categories in the same year, for both investigative and beat reporting. In painstaking detail of one head-shaking incident after another, Sharon Lerner documented for The Intercept how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been captured by the chemical industries it is supposed to be regulating and how the public has been put at risk as a result.
"In 'The Department of Yes,' she documented the agency's long history of coziness with the agrochemical industry, reinforced through farm tours and a revolving career door. The deeply reported piece documents how one of the most widely used pesticides on food crops stayed on the market for more than 50 years after an agency staffer warned in vain that exposure to it could cause serious health problems. In a subsequent series, she laid out how managers in the EPA's New Chemicals Division repeatedly did industry's bidding at the public's expense. Drawing in part on information supplied by whistleblowers, she detailed how managers pressured staff scientists to minimize or remove evidence of new chemicals' health risks, even giving some 'hair-on-fire' priority for almost instant approval.
"Her reporting prompted congressional inquiries and an announcement by the EPA that it would take steps to improve scientific integrity within the New Chemicals Division. With these pieces, Lerner gave a master class in the value of putting a veteran reporter on the trail of a complicated, hard-to-get but very important story."
|Screenshot of first-place story, Carmody Reporting, Large|
The judges also gave an Honorable Mention to a team of reporters and editors from ProPublica, Texas Tribune and Mountain State Spotlight for "Sacrifice Zones: Mapping Cancer-Causing Industrial Air Pollution." Using publicly available EPA emissions data, they mapped more than 1,000 places across the US where residents faced elevated cancer risks from exposure to industrial air pollution. From that, they reported a sweeping five-part series covering issues in nine states, which prompted the EPA to promise to look into some of the hotspots identified and make other reforms in how it assesses pollution health risks. In doing the series, the team developed an interactive mapping tool that anyone can use to estimate toxic air pollution risks in their neighborhood – a journalistic gift to the public that keeps on giving. Honorable Mention goes to the following individual team members: Al Shaw, Lylla Younes, Ava Kofman, Lisa Song, Max Blau, Kiah Collier, Ken Ward Jr., Alyssa Johnson, Maya Miller, Lucas Waldron and Kathleen Flynn.
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 representative of the winning team, to attend SEJ's annual conference.
The Award is sponsored by the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, in association with the Society of Environmental Journalists.
Established in the memory of Nina Mason Pulliam, who owned and operated an American national newspaper company with her husband, Eugene C. Pulliam, the Trust is proud to support environmental reporting and journalists who shine light in dark places and keep citizens informed about the pressing environmental issues of our time.
Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust Contact: Teri Walker, Director of Communications & External Relations
SEJ Contact: SEJ@sej.org