Winners: SEJ 16th Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment

The Society of Environmental Journalists is proud to present the winners of the 2016-2017 Awards for Reporting on the Environment. SEJ’s journalism contest is the world’s largest and most comprehensive awards for journalism on environmental topics.

Southern Environmental Law Center Calls for Submissions for Phil Reed Environmental Writing Awards

The Southern Environmental Law Center is now accepting submissions for the 2018 Phillip D. Reed Environmental Writing Awards. Nominations are welcome from anyone, including readers, authors, and publishers.

Presented each year during the Virginia Festival of the Book, the Reed Awards recognize outstanding writing on the southern environment in two categories: Book, for works of nonfiction (not self-published) and Journalism, for newspaper, magazine, and online writing published by a recognized institution (e.g. a news organization, university or nonprofit group).

  • All submissions must have been published between October 1, 2016, and September 30, 2017.
  • Submissions must relate to the natural environment in at least one of the following states: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee or Virginia.
  • Submissions are due October 1, 2017, at  SouthernEnvironment.org/submit.
  • Journalism entries must be at least 3,000 words.

There are three options for submitting entries: electronic copy, hard copy, or a website link where the submission is available for sale. Hard copy submissions will not be returned.

The Reed Award celebrates writers who achieve both literary excellence and extraordinary insight into the South’s natural heritage. Past winners exemplify the quality and diversity of contemporary environmental writing. They include:

    • Eminent biologist and Alabama native E.O. Wilson, the “father of biodiversity” and a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner;
    • Veteran environmental journalists Charles Seabrook, a longtime contributor to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and Ben Raines, an accomplished filmmaker as well as an award-winning reporter on the Gulf Coast;
    • Writer, poet, and NPR commentator Janisse Ray, author of the celebrated Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, a New York Times Notable Book and the winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award;
    • University of the South forest biologist David Haskell, a Guggenheim Fellow, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and winner of the National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature; and
    •  Author Deborah Cramer, visiting scholar at MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative, whose books on the sea have won awards from the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Academy of Sciences.

As in past years, the winners will be selected by a distinguished panel of judges that includes leading environmental writers, journalists, and advocates. The awards honor the late Phillip D. Reed, a distinguished attorney, a committed environmental activist, and a founding trustee of SELC.

Please contact Chris Reiter, Reed Award Coordinator, at creiter@selcva.org, or 434-977-4090 for any additional questions.

Lead in Drinking Water Remains Widespread Problem

Read the full backgrounder from the Society of Environmental Journalists.

While the water crisis in Flint, Mich., lingers on, it is becoming clear that the problem of toxic lead in people’s drinking water is widespread across the United States, as are stories about it for journalists to pursue.

There are Flint disasters happening, or waiting to happen, across much of the United States, especially in the aging water systems of the Eastern states. Many news outlets have already found serious lead problems, whether in schools or systemwide. Locations are widespread: BuffaloNewarkProvidenceAtlanta and Chicago, to name only a few.

Connecting Superfund to Environmental Justice Stories

Read the full tip sheet from the Society of Environmental Journalists.

A recent study showing that the worst hazardous waste sites tend to be near low-income housing should come as no surprise. But it does open the door to the many environmental justice stories waiting to be told.

Concerns about the greater impact of pollution on poor people and ethnic minorities are not new. Nor are they going away. But now, environmental reporters have more tools than ever for finding and telling these stories.

The study that just made headlines was done jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It found that about 70 percent of the nation’s most contaminated sites are near low-income housing. The agencies looked at sites on the National Priorities List of the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup program.

The findings are only newsier because they highlight one of the few areas where incoming Trump EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt seems to care about protecting people’s environmental health (although not everybody saw it that way). Pruitt in April visited East Chicago, Ind., a Superfund site where lead contamination prompted evacuation of more than 270 families.

Twitter as a data source: An overview of tools for journalists

Read the full post at Data Driven Journalism.

Journalists may wish to use data from social media platforms in order to provide greater insight and context to a news story. For example, journalists may wish to examine the contagion of hashtags and whether they are capable of achieving political or social change. Moreover, newsrooms may also wish to tap into social media posts during unfolding crisis events. For example, to find out who tweeted about a crisis event first, and to empirically examine the impact of social media.

Furthermore, Twitter users and accounts such as WikiLeaks may operate outside the constraints of traditional journalism, and therefore it becomes important to have tools and mechanisms in place in order to examine these kinds of influential users. For example, it was found that those who were backing Marine Le Pen on Twitter could have been users who had an affinity to Donald Trump.

There remains a number of different methods for analysing social media data. Take text analytics, for example, which can include using sentiment analysis to place bulk social media posts into categories of a particular feeling, such as positive, negative, or neutral. Or machine learning, which can automatically assign social media posts to a number of different topics.

Rita Allen Fellowship for Science Communication

WGBH and the Rita Allen Foundation have partnered to create the Rita Allen Fellowship for Science Communication. This is a unique, one-year opportunity for an innovative professional to study the field of science media, experiment with media formats, and work to expand science literacy among the public.

They are seeking candidates who are early-to mid-career science media producers, journalists, or working scientists with a commitment to science communication. The fellow will have an office at WGBH Boston, one of the pre-eminent science media producers in the US and home to the flagship public media science series NOVA.

Applications for the fellowship are due June 30, 2017, and selection of the fellow will be announced at the beginning of September 2017. The fellowship will begin by January 31, 2018 and last a year, and is a fulltime, paid position.

More information, including how to apply, can be found
 at http://www.wgbh.org/ritaallenfellowship, or by contacting us at raf2017@wgbh.org.

Storm Lake Times Pulitzer winner: ‘They give you 15 grand. That’s worth it.’

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The Pulitzer Prizes are committed to rewarding works of original and important journalism. Monday they credited this line, from the Storm Lake Times of Iowa: “It scares the bejeebers out of taxpayers, especially in defendant counties,” wrote Art Cullen in one of the pieces that secured the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Cullen is editor of his 3,000-circulation newspaper, and as such, he can write “bejeebers” whenever he pleases: “The style guides is whatever we come up with. We have no style or class,” Cullen told the Erik Wemple Blog.

Whatever term you choose, Cullen and his small newspaper have scared something out of the powers that be in a few counties of northern Iowa. Since the founding of the Storm Lake Times in 1990, says Cullen, he and his brother John have been obsessed with how Iowa has changed its mode of agriculture. Gone are the cattle and grazing pastures, he says — they’ve been herded into feed lots. Meantime, the landscape has been gobbled up by expanses of corn and soybeans. With the changeover has come nitrate pollution. One of the first stories that the newspaper did, he recalls, reported how its coverage area had become “the hottest spot in Iowa for nitrate pollution.”