Center and Reveal win education reporting award for exposing toxic hazards at schools

Data-driven project showed how nearly 8,000 U.S. schools sit close to busy roads, threatening students' health



Students line up outside El Marino Language School as vehicles zoom by on Interstate 405 in Culver City, California.

Photo courtesy of Stephon Litwinczuk

The Center for Public Integrity has won top honors from the Education Writers Association for a data-driven investigation of toxic risks to students who attend school close to busy roads.

Jamie Smith Hopkins, a senior reporter and deputy editor of the Center’s environment and workers’ rights team, and data editor Chris Zubak-Skees were honored by the association for an analysis showing that nearly 8,000 public schools in the United States sit close to roads, exposing children to traffic exhaust that can stunt lung growth, trigger asthma attacks and impair learning. The package of stories, part of the Center’s “Carbon Wars” project, was done in collaboration with Reveal, an investigative radio program produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Judges in the EWA contest said the package, which won in the data journalism category, was “ambitious and fresh,” featuring “a strong mix of experts and characters.” Cited in addition to Hopkins and Zubak-Skees were Reveal reporters/producers Amy Walters, Fernanda Camarena and Ike Sriskandarajah, and Reveal senior data reporter Eric Sagara. The awards were announced Wednesday at the EWA’s national seminar for journalists in Los Angeles.

“The joint project illustrated a danger to kids that had never even occurred to most people,” said Center CEO John Dunbar. “The data work which made the mapping possible really brought it home. This was truly a multimedia, multiplatform project.”

The searchable interactive below shows where schools are sited in relation to freeways or busy roads:

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