Climate Change Coverage Garners Substantial Number of 2008 Journalism Prizes


Reporting on climate change clearly held its own in 2008 prize competitions honoring the year’s best journalism.

As has been the case for several years now, more and more entries for environmental journalism prizes dealt specifically or at least significantly with climate change.

Among the major prizes going to reporting on climate change, awarded in 2008 for work generally done in 2007:

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Independent radio journalist Daniel Grossman’s radio documentary “Meltdown: Inside Out” won an AAAS Science Journalism Award.

John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism

Andrew C. Revkin of The New York Times was named – along with Jane Mayer of The New Yorker – as winner of the $25,000 John Chancellor Award, administered by the Columbia University Journalism School. Revkin won the award for “consistently resourceful and original reporting” on climate change over a quarter of a century. The award pointed to Revkin as “a pioneer in multimedia journalism, blogging, podcasting , and shooting skills and imagery for stories from far-flung places.” A 50-minute video of Revkin (in tuxedo) and Mayer (author of the book The Dark Side) is online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXoGPbOJdxI.

Society of Environmental Journalists

Seven of the winners of SEJ’s annual awards were honored for work directly related to climate change. For links to these seven, described below, and all of the SEJ winners, visit the SEJ website.

  • Associated Press writer Seth Borenstein won a first-place prize for outstanding print beat reporting for his coverage of climate change. The SEJ judges wrote: “The mounting scientific consensus on climate change was clearly the environmental story of 2007. Borenstein’s beat reporting helped propel it onto front pages.” He covered new findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea level rise, extinctions, state-by-state carbon emissions, and accelerated melting of the Arctic.
  • Public Radio International’s “The World” reporters Jason Margolis, William Troop, and the staff, won a second place in outstanding beat reporting/radio for a report on the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, where a theoretical carbon trading system is having real-world impacts.
  • Freelancer Daniel Grossman won a third place for outstanding beat reporting/radio for his report “Meltdown: Inside Out,” which aired initially on WBUR in Boston, and then on about 100 more stations. Grossman recorded people and observations around the world to show how warnings about the climate are playing out.
  • Peter Bull of the Center for Investigative Reporting won first place for outstanding beat/in-depth television reporting for “Hot Politics,” which appeared on the PBS program “Frontline.” Bull’s reporting covered the failure of the previous three presidential administrations to act on global warming and how they deceived the public and manipulated the media.
  • A team from National Geographic won first place for outstanding explanatory print reporting for stories, maps, and interactive Web features in June and October 2007, collectively known as “Changing Planet: Where Energy and Climate Collide.” Winners were editors, writers, and photographers: Dennis Dimick, Tim Appenzeller, James Balog, Paul Nicklen, Bill McKibben, Joel Bourne, Robert Clark, Jamie Shreeve, Glenn Oeland, Lynn Addison, Kathy Moran, Laura Lakeway, Neil Shea, Karen Lange, Bill Marr, Elaine Bradley, Abby Tipton, Alice Jones, Mary Jennings, Emily Krieger, and Juan Velasco. The judges especially praised the writing as “clear, tight, flowing and authoritative – demonstrates an elegant power rarely reached in explanatory journalism.” See also links to “The Big Thaw,” “Vanishing Sea Ice,” “Biofuels,” and “Confronting Carbon.”
  • Beth Daley of The Boston Globe won second place for outstanding explanatory print reporting for “The 45th Parallel: Warming Where We Live.” Judges pointed to Daley’s reporting as “a brilliant work of localization” of a complex issue. Stories addressed Keene, N.H.’s struggle to conserve energy, rising temperatures in Narragansett Bay, declining blueberry harvests, and more. Her piece was also among the finalists for a Pulitzer Prize.
  • Kerry Sanders of NBC News won second place for outstanding television story for “Arctic Ice Melt for the North Pole.” This story is not available online.
Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment

The Grantham Prize, established in 2005 to honor the work of journalists for exemplary reporting on the environment, is administered by the Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting, at the University of Rhode Island. The prize is named for the family that funded it through the Grantham Foundation for Protection of the Environment (which also generously supports The Yale Forum). With a first-place prize award of $75,000, the Grantham Prize is believed to be the richest annual journalism award in the world.

The winner and two of the special merit honorees in 2008 covered aspects of climate change.

  • Staffers of The New York Times bureaus in Beijing and Shanghai won the 2008 $75,000 Grantham Prize. “Choking on Growth: China’s Environmental Crisis.” The series included extensive reporting on ways in which the country is undermining its own goals to conserve carbon emissions. The “Choking” series, the work of five full-time reporters, two photojournalists, and a videographer for a full year, is complemented by an exceptional interactive website.
  • Ed Struzik, senior writer for the Edmonton Journal, won an award of special merit for his series, “The Big Thaw – Arctic in Peril,” which was jointly published in the Toronto Star. Struzik, whose work was underwritten by foundation funding, took nine trips to the Arctic over a year studying how climate change is affecting not only the natural systems but the aboriginal people, the economy, security, and Canada’s sovereignty.
  • Editors and reporters for National Public Radio news won a Grantham Prize award of special merit for the year-long, 170-story series, “Climate Connections: How People Change Climate, How Climate Changes People.” Reports from every continent and the North and South poles addressed how people have contributed to climate change and, conversely, how a warmer climate is hurting people on all continents. Produced in cooperation with the National Geographic Society, the series included maps from National Geographic and practical ways to lower carbon emissions.
National Association of Science Writers Science in Society Awards

National Public Radio’s year-long “Climate Connections” series received a special mention from the judges.

James V. Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism

Anton Caputo, a reporter for the San Antonio Express News, won for a five-part series “Climate Change Hits Home,” which described how global warming is affecting the Gulf Coast and South Texas. Caputo’s stories covered sea level, predictions about droughts and floods, farmers’ problems, birds, and wetlands. The prize is given in the name of James V. Risser, a two-time Des Moines Register Pulitzer Prize winner and director emeritus of the Knight Fellowships program at Stanford University.

Society of Professional Journalists Northern California Chapter

KQED-FM won an explanatory broadcast journalism award for its series “Climate Change and California’s Water,” explaining the interaction of weather with all living things in the state.

SPJ Washington DC Chapter

Associated Press reporter Brett Zongker won second place in the daily newspaper investigative category for coverage in May 2007 on how the Smithsonian Institution was accused of toning down its exhibit on climate change to avoid angering the Bush Administration and members of the U.S. Congress. No link is available to the full story.

Christine Woodside

Christine Woodside is a freelance writer living in Deep River, Connecticut. She is a regular contributor to The Yale Forum. (E-mail: christine@yaleclimatemediaforum.org, Twitter: @chriswoodside)
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