Outstanding Beat Reporting, Small: SEJ 22nd Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment

First Place

"Maryland's Environmental Challenges" by Scott Dance for The Baltimore Sun

Screenshot of first-place story #1, Beat Reporting, Small
Screenshot of first-place story, Beat Reporting, Small


Story links:

  1. "Repetitive Flooding in Maryland"
  2. "Salmon Farm Proposal on Pristine Maryland River"
  3. "Baltimore Water Contamination Hits Neighborhoods Already in Crisis"
  4. "Historically Black Turner Station Confronts Legacy of Flooding"

Judges' comments: "Scott Dance's stories exemplify regional beat reporting, and we commend his sharp eye for how climate change and environmental neglect have exacerbated inequities between Black and white communities. Through a mix of hard news and explanatory reporting, coupled with data analysis and on-the-ground narratives, Dance shined light on a remarkable range of issues weighing on the greater Baltimore area."

Bio: Scott Dance spent a decade at The Baltimore Sun, his hometown newspaper. He reported on environmental issues for the bulk of his time there, tracking the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its flora and fauna, as well as urban ecological issues and Baltimore's legacy of environmental racism. He also covered the historic New Horizons flyby of Pluto, the arrival of Superstorm Sandy and topics ranging from astronomy to geology to health. Dance was a 2021 Abrams Nieman Fellow in Local Investigative Journalism at Harvard University. In September 2022, he joined The Washington Post's climate desk in a role covering extreme weather news and the intersections between weather, climate, society and the environment.


Second Place

"Aaron Cantú's Beat Reporting" by Aaron Cantú for Capital & Main

Story links:

  1. "California Oil Safety Rule Contains 'Zombie Well' Loophole, Advocates Say"
  2. "California Is Falling Behind Its Climate Goals. Big Oil Wants To Help."
  3. "California Air Regulators Try To Salvage Faulty System That Permitted 'Extreme' Pollution"
  4. "Sporadic Monitoring of Emissions in California Oil Country Adds to Air Pollution Concerns"
  5. "California's Net-Zero Roadmap Is Being Shaped by Regulators-Turned-Lobbyists"

Judges' comments: "Aaron Cantú zeroed in on failing regulation in California, as well as on the oil and gas industry's outsized lobbying of the state legislature. His incisive range of reporting connected science with politics — all while giving voice to the residents most affected by nearby refineries. Cantú's empathy runs deep in his hard-hitting body of work, especially in the way he centers Spanish-speaking communities."


Third Place

"Rights of Nature Beat Reporting" by Katie Surma for Inside Climate News

Story links:

  1. "Ecuador's High Court Rules That Wild Animals Have Legal Rights"
  2. "Fifty Years After the UN's Stockholm Environment Conference, Leaders Struggle To Realize Its Vision of 'a Healthy Planet'"
  3. "A Thousand Miles in the Amazon, to Change the Way the World Works"
  4. "Celebrating Victories in Europe and South America, the Rights of Nature Movement Plots Strategy in a Time of 'Crises'"
  5. "Nearly 200 Countries Approve a Biodiversity Accord Enshrining Human Rights and the 'Rights of Nature'"

Judges' comments: "Katie Surma's provocative entry, focusing on 'rights of nature,' delivers a globe-spanning survey of new laws, U.N. declarations and ongoing policy discussions centered on concepts that ecosystems, endangered species and Indigenous communities have inherent rights to critical habitat protections. From nuanced coverage of conference presentations marking the 50th anniversary of the U.N.'s Stockholm Declaration to her first-person reporting on a 1,000-mile Amazon River trip by a Brazilian judge, lawyers and activists, surveying village concerns, Surma challenges readers to broaden their view of environmental activism through emblematic examples."


First Honorable Mention

"Jerry Redfern's Beat Reporting" by Jerry Redfern for Capital & Main

Story links:

  1. "New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham Resurrects Controversial Hydrogen Hub Act"
  2. "Why Won't the EPA Fine New Mexico's Greenhouse Gas Leakers?"
  3. "New Mexico's Pandemic Oil and Gas Plan Aided a Putin Pal and Trump Donor"
  4. "As EPA Fails To Fine Oil and Gas Polluters, New Mexico Officials Demand Answers"
  5. "Despite Rules, New Mexico Oil and Gas Producers Keep Polluting"

Judges' comments: "Jerry Redfern impressed us, both with the detail and clarity of his writing about science and his fearless commitment to exposing how polluters are rarely made to face consequences from fouling the environment while they rake in profits. He's not afraid to face the chimeras floated by fossil fuel producers, like hydrogen power and 'natural' gas, and explain why they may worsen, rather than help reduce, climate change. And we appreciated that his editors allowed him to quote real and powerful words spoken by the people he talked with. When one source decries having to explain environmental justice to the EPA, we understand why 'it’s fucking pathetic.'"


Second Honorable Mention

"Climate + Disease" by Zoya Teirstein for Grist

Story links:

  1. "There's an Invisible Ecosystem in the Air — and Climate Change Is Disrupting It"
  2. "The Disease After Tomorrow"
  3. "How California's Salton Sea Went From Vacation Destination to Toxic Nightmare"
  4. "Strange Diseases Are Spreading in Blackfeet Country. Can Dogs Track Down The Culprits?"
  5. "As Climate Change Disrupts Ecosystems, a New Outbreak of Bird Flu Spreads to Mammals"

Judges' comments: "Grist journalist Zoya Teirstein's package of multimedia-enhanced stories linking wide-ranging disease outbreaks with climate change is timely and important. Top-notch reporting throughout, enlivened by video of working dogs, sniffing out potentially disease-laden mink and otter droppings; invasive species threatening reservation land in Montana; the shocking decline of the Salton Sea, once a favored getaway for Hollywood stars, now home to Latino farm workers and tribal members suffering from dust-born ailments. Vivid, innovative storytelling!"


Third Honorable Mention

"Pennsylvania Climate Solutions" by Rachel McDevitt for WITF/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Story links:

  1. "Driving an EV in Pennsylvania: Range Anxiety, Charging and Maintenance"
  2. "In Pa., Climate Change Can Increase Flooding Risk in Places That Rarely Worried About It. This Community Is Seeking Solutions."
  3. "Climate Change Prompts Pa. Farmers To Adapt Crops and Businesses"

Judges' comments: "Rachel McDevitt's solutions-oriented approach demonstrates the power of listening to your audience — and finding stories with them, not for them. Her piece on driving an electric vehicle in Pennsylvania was shaped by questions she had collected from listeners and readers. Another story gathered lessons on flood resilience from one small town trying to find a way forward. McDevitt's knack for storytelling also makes climate change issues more accessible — and more engaging — for those who might otherwise look away."


The Society of Environmental Journalists' annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment honor the best environmental journalism in 10 categories, bringing recognition to the stories that are among the most important on the planet. Prizes are $500 for first-place winners and $250 for second-place winners in all categories. Plus, the Nina Mason Pulliam Award for the "best of the best" environmental reporting will award $10,000 to one entry selected from the first-place winners of SEJ's Awards for Reporting on the Environment. The Pulliam Award also includes travel, registration and hotel expenses (up to $2,500) for the winner, or representatives of the winning team, to attend SEJ's annual conference.

The SEJ contest is the world's largest and most comprehensive environmental journalism competition. This year, a record-breaking 589 entries in 10 categories were judged by independent volunteer panels of journalists and professors.

On November 16, 2023, at SEJ's 2024 Journalists' Guide to Energy & Environment event in Washington, D.C., we'll announce live the winner of the Nina Mason Pulliam Award and its $10,000 cash prize.

SEJ's 2023 Esteemed Judges and Screeners
SEJ's 2023 Awards Committee

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