Toxic air emissions series wins sixth national journalism award

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“Big Oil, Bad Air”, an investigation of toxic air emissions in Texas shale fields by the Center for Public Integrity, InsideClimate News and the Weather Channel, has won the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism.

The project spanned 20 months and helped lead to the installation of a new air monitor in one of the heaviest drilling areas in the state. In addition, Pennsylvania Congressman Matthew Cartwright launched an investigation late last year into how his state regulates the discarding of unwanted, often toxic material.

The authors “did a great job of making clear that the questions residents and homeowners have about their own health is just not a priority for the state, which just keeps saying 'Go, go, go' to more oil development,” said contest judge Craig Welch, an environmental writer for National Geographic and co-winner of the 2014 Knight-Risser Prize. “The West needs more deep-dive environmental journalism like this.”

CBC news reporter Duncan McCue, another contest judge, added that “the impacts of rapidly expanded fracking is very much a story for our times.”

The Risser prize is the latest of half a dozen first-place awards for “Big Oil, Bad Air” in national journalism contests. Reporters, editors and producers on the project included:

For The Center for Public Integrity: Managing Editor for Environment and Labor Jim Morris; reporters Ben Wieder, Jamie Smith Hopkins, Rosalind Adams and David Heath; Multimedia Editor Eleanor Bell; Data Editor Alex Cohen; News Applications Developer Chris Zubak-Skees; and former reporter Alan Suderman.

For InsideClimate News: Lisa Song, David Hasemyer, Paul Horn, Zahra Hirji, Susan White, Sabrina Shankman, Marcus Stern, Hannah Robbins and David Martin Davies. 

For The Weather Channel: Gregory Gilderman, Neil Katz, Faisal Azam, Eric Jankstrom, Shawn Efran and Katie Wiggin.

The Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism recognizes excellence in reporting on environmental issues and stories in the North American West — from Canada through the United States to Mexico. It will be awarded at a symposium in early 2016. The event brings together journalists, researchers, policymakers, advocates, students and the public to explore the environmental issues raised by the winning entry. The prize is co-sponsored by the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships and the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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