Announcing the winners of the 2021 Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards

The global news media consortium Covering Climate Now has announced the winners of the first annual Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards. The 12 winners, including print reporters and photojournalists, digital, television and radio journalists, as well as podcasters and commentators, were selected from nearly 600 entries submitted from 38 countries.

This exemplary work, along with interviews with the winners, the judges, and leaders in climate change is featured in a fast-paced and compelling video special that provides a snapshot of the global climate emergency. The streaming program, which can be watched here anytime, is hosted by NBC News’ Al Roker and Savannah Sellers.

Covering Climate Now, whose hundreds of partner outlets reach a combined audience of 2 billion people, launched these awards in collaboration with Columbia Journalism Review. The awards celebrate work that sets a standard of excellence for journalists everywhere to emulate as newsrooms increase their coverage of the climate story. Winners were chosen by a jury of distinguished judges including leading journalists from newsrooms around the world.

Mark Hertsgaard, the executive director of Covering Climate Now and environment correspondent for The Nation, said, “Powerful storytelling, science-based reporting, and cultural sensitivity are at the heart of this collection of extraordinary journalism. Entries were submitted from every continent except Antarctica, demonstrating that the media’s climate silence has unmistakably ended as journalists rise to the challenge of telling the defining story of our time.”

Kyle Pope, the editor and publisher of Columbia Journalism Review, said, “Our goal in starting Covering Climate Now was to cultivate more and better journalism on climate change. These winners are leading the way, showing us all how to cover a story that is increasingly shaping the future.”

These inaugural Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards also honor Rahma Diaa, a freelance reporter based in Egypt, with the Emerging Journalist award, established to recognize the path-breaking contributions that young journalists are making to climate coverage. Ms. Diaa has reported on a wide range of intersectional climate stories that affect her community, such as the health impacts of increased use of coal in Egypt, water scarcity in Iraq, and women working on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

The streaming special is co-hosted by Al Roker, NBC News TODAY show weather and feature anchor and co-host of the 3rd Hour of TODAY, and Savannah Sellers, correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, co-anchor of NBC News NOW and co-host of NBC News’ Stay Tuned program. It premiered on NBC News NOW on Friday, October 8 at 11 PM ET. The program is also streaming on the websites of Covering Climate Now,  Columbia Journalism ReviewThe NationThe Guardian, and Now This.

Organized by journalists, for journalists, Covering Climate Now is a non-profit, non-partisan consortium of more than 400 news outlets working to improve coverage of the climate story. Its partner outlets represent 57 countries and include some of the biggest names in news — The Guardian, NBC News, CBS News, Bloomberg, Agence-France Presse, Reuters, Nature, Scientific American, Al Jazeera, VICE World News, NowThis, The Times of India, and El Pais — as well as local and independent news organizations from around the world.

The Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards are made possible by the generous support of the Michaux Family Foundation, Wayne Crookes, Bob and Sandra Taylor, and a founding grant from the Schumann Media Center.

COVERING CLIMATE NOW JOURNALISM AWARD WINNERS

Audio/Radio

Alaska Natives on the Front Line — Coffee & Quaq
By Alice Qannik Glenn and Jenna Kunze

This podcast provided a rare, insider’s look at the impact of climate change on the Indigenous community of Utqiagvik, Alaska. Through intimate conversations with residents, the journalists drew listeners into a culture unfamiliar to many, revealing the precariousness of tundra existence as the planet warms and the resilience and resourcefulness needed to adapt and survive.

Drilled Season 3: The Mad Men — Critical Frequency
By Amy Westervelt

This series dug into the deep historical roots of the fossil fuel industry’s long record of using disinformation to deny climate change. With excellent use of audio clips, this revealing series investigates how Big Oil’s public relations machine—which dates back more than a century to John D. Rockefeller—provided a road map that oil corporations, as well as the tobacco industry, followed to mislead the public for decades.


Video/TV

The Road to Change: America’s Climate Crisis — CNN
By Bill Weir, Jim Murphy, Jessica Small, Julian QuinonesEvelio Contreras, and Davide Cannaviccio 

This program took viewers on an epic road trip across America, introducing people whose lives have been dramatically and often irrevocably transformed by the climate crisis. From wealthy homeowners in Miami spending fortunes to future-proof their homes against rising sea levels, to Iowa’s beleaguered farmers battling unpredictable weather, Weir treated all the people he met, whatever their views, with respect and compassion while dispelling myths and avoiding cliches about the impacts of climate change.


Special Coverage, Series, or Issue

The Great Climate Migration: A Warming Planet and a Shifting Population — ProPublica
By Abrahm LustgartenAl ShawMeridith KohutLucas Waldron, and Sergey Ponomarev 

Breathtaking in its ambition and scope, this series pulled together familiar threads about the impact of climate change on migration with a renewed sense of urgency, on a truly global canvas. Painstaking data journalism combined with absorbing storytelling explained what we are seeing today, and what the world might look like tomorrow, with visuals that were impossible to ignore.


Photography

Bangladesh’s Hidden Climate Costs — The New Humanitarian
By Zakir Hossain Chowdhury 

This series of photographs combined stunning portraits of people confronting rising sea levels with photographs capturing desperate efforts to hold back water, and aerial images that powerfully documented a community’s climate vulnerability. It provided a compelling visual narrative of the Sisyphean task people faced in the aftermath of a cyclone that washed out protective embankments and triggered recurring high tides.

Heart of Fire — AFP
By Josh Edelson 

Edelson’s photo series documented many angles of a devastating story in northern California. From the start of a raging fire, when orange skies blanketed San Francisco, to the moments when fire was actively overtaking homes and livelihoods, to the human toll of complete destruction—striking images captured the overwhelming size of the inferno and its emotional impact on both firefighters and the displaced.


Commentary

The Media Isn’t Ready to Cover Climate Apartheid — The Nation
By Michelle Garcia 

Observing the media’s tendency in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic to focus on the experiences of mostly white and relatively affluent communities while ignoring the inequalities faced by poorer groups and communities of colors, Garcia questioned the media’s preparedness to use a more inclusive lens as it covers the climate crisis.  This commentary was seen as a needed corrective and a call to action for journalists to do better.


Multimedia

The Sound of Icebergs Melting: My Journey into the Antarctic — The Guardian
By Jonathan Watts 

Using evocative multimedia elements to transport readers to the Antarctic, this piece took readers on a sensory journey to the frontline of the climate emergency.  Watt’s storytelling reveals both ominous evidence of glacial melt as well as hopeful signs that concerted action can make a difference.


Breaking News

Jake Spring’s Breaking News Coverage on Brazil’s Environment — Reuters
By Jake Spring 

This package of stories about deforestation in Brazil revealed how the government of President Jair Bolsonaro used the pretext of COVID-19 safety measures to undermine inspection policies intended to protect the rainforest.  Spring’s tenacious coverage is evidence of a reporter who deeply understands his beat, and stays on its cutting edge.


Investigative Journalism

Who Killed the Supergrid? Trump Appointees Short-Circuited Grid Modernization to Help the Coal Industry — InvestigateWest and The Atlantic
By Peter Fairley 

This meticulous story revealed the Trump administration’s deliberate effort to bury a federally funded study that provided evidence that a connected super grid would accelerate the growth of wind and solar energy. The story made the abstraction of the nation’s  power grid interesting, and Fairley’s explosive disclosures also led to regulatory change.


Feature

How Climate Change Is Ushering in a New Pandemic Era — Rolling Stone
By Jeff Goodell 

This story cleverly used pandemic diseases as a strong hook for a fascinating, detailed story that explained how climate change is driving habitat destruction and species migration, leading to a new wave of pandemics. Goodell employed cinematic techniques, zooming in close for a visceral description of a mosquito bite, before pulling back for interviews with key scientists and then wider still for an historical overview of diseases such as dengue fever and Zika virus.


Emerging Journalist

Rahma Diaa — Work published in: One World, ARIJ, Climate Tracker, Aleyada, Scientific American Arabic

Diaa has produced a body of fine journalism in a region where climate reporting is especially challenging, particularly for women. Diaa has reported a wide range of intersectional climate change stories that impact her community, such as the health impacts of the increased use of coal in Egypt, water scarcity in Iraq, and women at work on the front lines of climate change.

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