The Knight-Risser Prize
for Western Environmental Journalism
2009winners
Left to Right: Hal Bernton, Justin Mayo, Steve Ringman

2009 Winner of the Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism

“Logging and Landslides: What Went Wrong?”
Hal Bernton, Justin Mayo and Steve Ringman
The Seattle Times

Digital mapping tools help the Times’ team dig deeper and add visual clarity to an investigation exposing the link between logging permit practices in Washington and a storm’s extraordinary devastation. A picture alerted them to the connection. Data maps, such as slope steepness and high-risk zones, helped them graphically represent it. The reporters discovered that many of the steepest, highest-landslide-risk areas of the Upper Chehalis River Basin had been allowed to be clear-cut. When the storm hit, this vulnerable slopes gushed mud, debris and timber that buried farms and homes, clogged water systems and drowned herds of cattle.

Special Recognition:
“Hidden Wells, Dirty Water”
Leah Beth Ward, Yakima Herald-Republic

The series showed that as many as 30,000 residents of the Lower Yakima Valley, most of them Latino farm workers, had been drinking well water contaminated by nitrates - a situation that developed after years of benign neglect by government agencies responsible for public health. One judge said the reporting "alerted communities across the state to the nitrate pollution that appeared in their water supplies through gaps in government oversight and has given a moving portrait of the citizens who are suffering the consequences."

Special Recognition:
“A Toxic Tale (part of the Dirty Oil series)”
Erik Denison, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation National Radio

Denison's story culminated two years of reporting on how companies mining Alberta's tar sands for oil have been creating lakes of toxic black sludge, causing the deaths of thousands of ducks and raising fears of higher cancer rates. One judge said Denison's reporting "showed great persistence in documenting the myriad troubling consequences of one of the globe's most spectacular and potentially dangerous environmental nightmares. His reporting helped put the tar sands/toxics story on the international map."

 

 

“Digital mapping tools help the Times’ team dig deeper and add visual clarity to an investigation exposing the link between logging permit practices in Washington and a storm’s extraordinary devastation.”

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WINNERS OF THE KNIGHT-RISSER PRIZE
2016
Pumped Dry
The Desert Sun and USA Today
2015
Big Oil, Bad Air
CPI, InsideClimate News, The Weather Channel
2014
Sea Change
The Seattle Times
2013
The Killing Agency
The Sacramento Bee
2012
Perilous Passages
High Country News
2011
Dry Times
5280 Magazine
2010
Chain Saw Scouting
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
2009
Logging and Landslides:
What Went Wrong?
The Seattle Times
2008
Climate Change Hits Home
San Antonio Express-News
2007
Blighted Homeland
The Los Angeles Times
2006
Squeezing Water from a Stone
High Country News