2012 Online


On the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington, the largest dam-removal project in North America is underway. At a cost of $325 million, two dams that have blocked salmon runs on the Elwha River for more than a century are being removed in a grand experiment in ecological restoration that is posing challenges for engineers and scientists alike. State, federal and tribal scientists are gathering baseline data on what the river basin is like today and what it could become as 800 acres drowned by the dam reservoirs are seeded with hundreds of thousands of native plants. The complicated restoration process could take as much as a century. In an ambitious series on the project, reporter Lynda V. Mapes, photographer Steve Ringman, and video editor Genevieve Alvarez of The Seattle Times shaped thousands of words and photos as well as hours of raw video footage into a multiple-platform presentation that the judges praised for exploiting the online medium. “This is what online journalism should be,” said David Baron, health and science editor for Public Radio International’s The World. “All of the elements — text, photos, video, graphics — work together seamlessly. The site is rich and vibrant, bringing to life a fascinating story about a special place.” Mapes said: “For each of us, it was so rewarding to have an opportunity to go into depth on such a complex and important story, and learn not only the what, but the why and how behind the restoration of an entire ecosystem, from mountains to the sea.” Kathy Sawyer, a freelance science writer who formerly was with The Washington Post, said the series “takes the reader into the water with the fish and renders the scientists’ ‘muddy boots’ research with telling detail, while also offering humanizing details on dam workers, tribal members, and others.”