The Knight-Risser Prize
for Western Environmental Journalism

2015 Knight-Risser Prize Symposium

The Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism recognizes the best environmental reporting on the North American West — from Canada through the United States to Mexico. The annual Knight-Risser Prize Symposium brings journalists, researchers, scholars, and policy-makers together with public audiences to explore new ways to ensure that sophisticated environmental reporting thrives in the West.


2015 Knight-Risser Prize Symposium

“Sea Change:” An Experiment in Multimedia Reporting on a Grand Scale

At the 2015 Knight-Risser Prize Symposium, journalists and scientists discussed the challenge of explaining slow-moving environmental changes in an impactful way. Exhibit A: The Seattle Times’ prize-winning series “Sea Change,” which explored ocean acidification, the lesser-known twin of global warming.


2015 Knight-Risser Prize Symposium

Stanford Prize Spotlights Western Environmental Journalism

By Leslie Willoughby, Stanford News Service
Seattle Times reporter Craig Welch and photographer Steve Ringman traversed the Pacific Ocean – from Papua New Guinea’s coral reefs to Alaska’s king crab fisheries – to see how carbon emissions are changing the ground rules for ocean life.


"Sea Change" a Story Driven by Collaboration

Reporter Craig Welch and photojournalist Steve Ringman interviewed about 150 people for their project “Sea Change,” the 2014 winner of the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism. But the key to success, they tell the Knight-Risser Prize, was much closer to home – their relationship with each other.

Welch and Ringman will join a panel discussion at the Knight-Risser Prize Symposium at Stanford University on February 25. Register now to attend.

Seattle Times' "Sea Change" Wins 2014 Knight Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism

We are pleased to announce that the Seattle Times has been chosen as the winner of the 2014 Knight-Risser Prize for “Sea Change: The Pacific’s Perilous Turn,” a multimedia series about the hazards of rising ocean acidification. Please join us in congratulating the reporter Craig Welch, the photographer Steve Ringman, and the entire Seattle Times team. The judges also gave a Special Recognition citation to the series "Aquifer at Risk," by Ian James and Jay Calderon of The Desert Sun.

The award will be presented at the annual Knight-Risser Prize Symposium to be held at Stanford University on February 25. More details and registration info are available now.

2014 Knight-Risser Prize Symposium

New Technologies Bolster Shoe-Leather Journalism

What is the state of investigative reporting in an era of limited resources and crackdowns on confidential sources? The 2014 Knight-Risser Symposium brought together a panel of journalists and scientists to consider this and other questions raised by the 2013 prize winner, "A Killing Agency," which shed light on the little-known federal animal control organization Wildlife Services.

The Sacramento Bee is Winner of 2013 Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism

We are pleased to announce that the Sacramento Bee has been chosen as the winner of the 2013 Knight-Risser Prize for "The Killing Agency," a series about a little-known U.S. Department of Agriculture agency whose strategy for controlling animals has killed millions of predators and other species across the West.

The judges also gave a Special Recognition citation to the series "Clean Water: The Next Act," a collaboration of InvestigateWest and Oregon Public Broadcasting's EarthFix.

2013 Knight-Risser Prize Symposium

Technology and Up-Close Reporting Help Environmental Stories Make a Difference

How is technology changing wildlife reporting? The 2013 Knight-Risser Symposium brought together a panel of journalists and scientists to consider this and other questions raised by the 2012 prize winner, "Perilous Passages," which chronicled the epic migration of pronghorn antelope in Wyoming.

Pronghorn Migration Story by High Country News Magazine Wins the 2012 Knight-Risser Prize

Judges have awarded the 2012 Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism to "Perilous Passages," a High Country News report by Emilene Ostlind, photographer and biologist Joe Riis, and contributors Mary Ellen Hannibal and Cally Carswell. Including graphics, maps, video, and striking nature photography, the report gives readers a first-hand view of the pronghorns' journey along a 120-mile route through Wyoming that is studded with obstacles, from roads and fences to the region's booming natural gas fields.

The award will be presented at a Knight-Risser Prize Symposium to be held in 2013. More details will be coming soon on the symposium.

The judges also gave a Special Citation to Lynda Mapes and her colleagues at The Seattle Times for "Elwha: The Grand Experiment," about the largest dam-removal project in the history of North America.

2012 Knight-Risser Prize Symposium

Panelists Weigh the Challenge for Journalists: How to Engage Readers on Complex Water Issues

PosterThe Knight-Risser Symposium on January 25 brought together a distinguished group of journalists and scholars to consider how to broaden the reach of environmental journalism in a time of growing threats to western communities.

Read a recap of the symposium with full video and audio of the proceedings.

Denver's 5280 Magazine Wins 2011 Knight-Risser Prize

"Dry Times," a comprehensive report in Denver's 5280 magazine on state water shortages, is the winner of the 2011 Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism.  The authors, Natasha Gardner and Patrick Doyle, will receive $5,000 at The Knight-Risser Prize Symposium on January 25, 2012 at Stanford University. The symposium will be dedicated to the topic of journalism and western water issues.

Prize judges also gave Special Citations of recognition to David Wolman for "Accidental Wilderness," published in High Country News, and Julia Scott, Sasha Khokha and Christopher Beaver for "Nitrate Contamination Spreading in California Communities," distributed by KQED Radio and California Watch.

Knight-Risser Prize and Symposium Are Permanently Endowed

Thanks to you, we've established a permanent endowment to reward, showcase and inspire environmental journalism in the West. Your generous contributions have matched the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's 2:1 challenge grant, and secured $300,000 to permanently endow the prize and symposium.

We want to take a moment to salute the people whose generous support was instrumental in endowing the prize.

The 2011 Knight-Risser Prize is Now Closed for Entries

The period for entering 2010 work for the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism ended at midnight, Hawaii time on March 16. We are grateful to all of the organizations and individuals who submitted their work for the inaugural year of our revamped program. We're excited at the range of great environmental reporting that we are seeing in the entries, as well as the signs of journalism innovation that is part of our new, expanded focus.

We look forward to spending time with all of the entries, and will be back later this year with news about the winners and the annual Knight-Risser Prize Symposium at Stanford University.

We would also like to take this time to thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for their generous support of the prize and symposium, and to all the friends of the prize who contributed to the Knight Foundation's 2:1 match. We are close to the finish line, and hope that we can get tax-deductible contributions in any amount to help us over the top. For more information, please see our donation page. And thanks!

2011 Knight-Risser Prize Symposium

Report on Knight-Risser Symposium: "The Crisis in Environmental Watchdog Journalism"

We've published a recap of this year's Knight-Risser Prize Symposium, "The Crisis In Environmental Watchdog Journalism," held at Stanford Nov. 17, one of the highlights being Prize winner Lewis Kamb's announcement that he'll be contributing part of his winnings to a new nonprofit cooperative, Investigate West..

If you'd like to join Lewis in supporting Investigate West, you can contribute on their site. There's also still time to participate in our endowment drive, where your contributions to the Knight Risser Prize will be matched 2:1 by the Knight Foundation!

Lewis Kamb and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Are Named Winners of 2010 Knight-Risser Prize

Lewis Kamb has been named winner of the 2010 Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism. The $5,000 prize was awarded for “Chain Saw Scouting,” a project Kamb initiated while working at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The three-part series was the Hearst Newspaper’s first national investigation, published simultaneously in five newspapers in early 2009. It revealed land-use practices by the Boy Scouts of America in direct opposition of their mandate to preserve and protect the environment. Kamb, a member of the P-I’s investigative team, was lead reporter.

Knight Foundation Pledges Matching Grant to Endow Environmental Journalism Prize

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has pledged $220,000 in a challenge match to endow the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism at Stanford University. The prize is co-sponsored by the Bill Lane Center for the American West and the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford.

2010 Knight-Risser Prize Symposium

January 2010 Symposium: “Visualizing the Environment”

By Robin Evans
John S. Knight Fellowships

For Seattle Times journalist Hal Bernton, a picture turned out to be worth more than a thousand words. It kicked off an investigation into the link between logging permit practices and a storm’s extraordinary devastation. And the graphic “visualization” the team went on to produce was worth a million.

The photo was one of a few aerial shots photographer taken by Steve Ringman. It showed the top of a mountain with nearly all its soil swept away, the extreme denuding the result of a monstrous rainstorm in 2007 – and, clear-cutting on the forest top.

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The Killing Agency
The Sacramento Bee
Perilous Passages
High Country News
Dry Times
5280 Magazine
Chain Saw Scouting
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Logging and Landslides:
What Went Wrong?
The Seattle Times
Climate Change Hits Home
San Antonio Express-News
Blighted Homeland
The Los Angeles Times
Squeezing Water from a Stone
High Country News