Award Winners

2019

Small Newspaper

Gold

“Does Norway hold the key to clean air?” Oct. 21, 2018

“Winter is coming and so is bad air” Nov. 18, 2018

“The politics of clean air” Dec. 26, 2018

DESERET NEWS

In three related stories on Salt Lake City’s growing air pollution problem, Erica Evans investigated many of the ways the city has failed to implement change. Evans took a creative approach to a difficult topic, focusing on potential solutions and drawing inspiration from comparable cities. Her first story begins in Oslo, Norway, where Evans draws a direct parallel between the Norwegian city and Salt Lake City — both are heavily polluted regions that experience weather patterns in which polluted air is trapped close to the ground during winter. In Oslo, though, the city is successfully...Read more

Silver

“Unlocking Science in Idaho” Nov. 25, 2018

DESERET NEWS

Three pieces by Amy Joi O’Donoghue, published on the same day, provided a comprehensive look at the history, future and current impact on Utah residents of the nearby Idaho National Laboratory. O’Donoghue investigated the lab’s current research, describing important projects and their significance for the local area. In a second piece, she focused on the future of the lab’s partnership with NuScale’s Carbon Free Power Project. The project, which could provide clean nuclear energy to Utah residents by 2026, has stirred up local controversy among legislators and energy companies. The last of...Read more

2018

Small Newspaper

Gold

“The loneliest polar bear” (series) Oct. 16-20, 2017

The Oregonian (Portland)

In his nearly 15,000-word narrative series on Nora the polar bear, Kale Williams described the harsh survival odds the cub faced when it was born in captivity at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (most hand-raised polar bear cubs die within 30 days), the challenges veterinarians and curators faced in keeping her alive, how they treated her metabolic bone disease and how she thrived when transferred to the Oregon Zoo in Portland and, eventually, to Utah’s Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City where she joined a companion named Hope. But beyond the story of a young, charismatic animal, Williams grappled...Read more

Silver

"Scum" Sept. 17, 2017

The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)

Tony Bartelme’s special report on the growing menace of harmful waterborne algae blooms ranged well beyond the local Charleston area. The blooms, which can spawn toxins as deadly as cyanide, have smothered manatees in Florida, wiped out sea otters in California, killed dogs in Minnesota and made water from South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell taste like dirt. At the time of his reporting, he found there already had been more than 460 blooms in 48 states in 2017. The algae-created toxins may do more than poison fish and dogs. Research suggests there may be higher rates of liver disease and cancer...Read more

2017

Small Newspaper

Gold

“Long quest to understand these bodies without identities”

Mail and Guardian − Johannesburg, South Africa

“Bone specialists try to prise secrets from veld bodies”

Mail and Guardian − Johannesburg, South Africa

“Unnamed, unclaimed -- while families wait for their return”

Mail and Guardian − Johannesburg, South Africa

In a moving series on forensic science and the quest to identify hundreds of unidentified dead who pass each year through the mortuaries of a single province in South Africa, Sarah Wild told the stories of both the professionals trying to improve the identification process and the families seeking to know what happened to their loved ones. Each year, between 1,300 and 1,600 people in Gauteng province are added to South Africa’s already long list of unidentified dead. Forensic anthropologist Ericka L’Abbe of the University of Pretoria, holding the skull of one person who died from blows to...Read more

Silver

“Rising seas, rising stakes”

The Providence Journal

“Losing ground”

The Providence Journal

“On the brink”

The Providence Journal

Judges praised Alex Kuffner for his comprehensive look at the risks facing Rhode Island communities from either a once-in-a-century hurricane or a sea level rise of seven feet by the end of the century, as projected in a worst-case scenario by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Kuffner noted that six percent of residential structures within Rhode Island’s 21 coastal communities are currently vulnerable to some level of flooding in the event of a 100-year storm. That number would double if seven feet of sea level rise is factored in. One study...Read more

2016

Small Newspaper

Gold

“Busted! Breast Cancer, Money and the Media” (11-part series) – 5 Nov. 2015 - 21 Jan. 2016

Point Reyes Light (California)

 

In his series for the Point Reyes Light, Peter Byrne took a close look at claims of a breast cancer epidemic among white women in upscale Marin County and found that widespread cancer screening, producing many false positives, is the likely cause of a feared “cancer cluster” in the county. He reported that many non-cancerous findings are erroneously entered in the state’s cancer registry as cancerous. “There is not more breast cancer in Marin than elsewhere, experts say; rather, it is detected more frequently—and often erroneously,” Byrne wrote. “Over the...Read more

Silver

“Graying of HIV: After 35 years of the AIDS virus, a generation makes new medical history” - 5 June 2016

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

 

More than half of the 1.25 million Americans infected by the human immune deficiency virus (HIV) are age 50 or older, Barbara Peters Smith reported in her award-winning piece. In just four years, that share should reach 70 percent. “As the longevity boom collides with a resurgence of HIV diagnoses nationwide, scientists are just now learning how this persistent, incurable virus ─ along with the powerful drugs that keep it at bay ─ takes a toll on the body that makes natural aging look like a gift,” she wrote. People with HIV experience age-related changes in their DNA more...Read more

2015

Small Newspaper

Gold

"Battle of the Ash Borer" - 27 July 2014

Lansing State Journal

 

The emerald ash borer, an insect that has laid waste to more than 100 million ash trees from New Jersey to Colorado, has wiped out virtually every ash tree in southeast Michigan. In much of the rest of the state's Lower Peninsula, there are few trees left to save. In a detailed look at the local impact of the pest, Matthew Miller described efforts by researchers to identify the borer and slow the devastation, including the use of tiny stingless wasps that prey on the borer's eggs and larvae. They also are exploring ways to cross North American ash trees with resistant...Read more

Silver

"Arien für die Wissenschaft" (Arias for Science) - 24 Dec. 2014

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland)

 

Helga Rietz wrote an engaging story on efforts by Matthias Echternach — who is both a trained singer and a medical doctor — to study the physiology of the singing voice. Using high-speed cameras, endoscopes, custom-made masks to measure pressure and airflow in the throat, and magnetic resonance imaging, Echternach is looking for the physical attributes of a dramatic operatic voice, including that of soprano Renate Behle, one of his test subjects. There are as many questions as answers, Rietz notes, including the mystery of exactly how a singer controls the tiny...Read more

2014

Small Newspaper

"Devastated: The World's Largest Organism is in Utah — and It's Dying" - 21 Nov. 2013

Salt Lake City Weekly

 

Matthew LaPlante and Paul Christiansen described efforts to understand what is killing the aspen groves of Utah, clones of genetically identical trees that exist as single interconnected organisms with unified root systems that can cover 100 acres or more. A clone dubbed "Pando," first identified in the 1970s as likely the world's largest organism, has an almost complete lack of juvenile and adolescent tree stems, a sign that the ancient organism (perhaps 80,000 years old by some estimates) may be dying. Despite an onslaught of boring insects, bark beetles, canker infections...Read more

2013

Small Newspaper

"Warning: Quake in 60 Seconds" - 1 May 2013

East Bay Express

 

An early warning system could save thousands of lives when the next major earthquake hits the West Coast. Ghorayshi reported on the work of a group at the University of California at Berkeley that has been developing such a warning system, and she pointed out the wide gap between the United States and Japan in the deployment of such systems. Lee Hotz of The Wall Street Journal said Ghorayshi's piece was "sound on science and sage on the politics of earthquake early warning systems." Ghorayshi "made a great case for why California needs to follow Japan's lead in...Read more

2011

Small Newspaper

"On Thinning Ice: A look at Wind River Range’s shrinking glaciers" (series) - 23-25 Jan. 2011

Casper Star-Tribune

 

Christine Peterson, Kerry Huller and Wes Watson of Wyoming’s Casper Star-Tribune won for a series on the shrinking glaciers in the Wind River Range and the possible impacts locally. “Kudos to the Casper Star-Tribune for devoting energy and ink to explaining the science right in its readers’ back yards,” said judge Nancy Shute, a freelance science writer and contributor to NPR.

Peterson and her colleagues looked at the work of local Wyoming scientists who have been studying the glacier ecosystem of the Wind River Range, including how microbes have been...Read more

2010

Small Newspaper

"One Tough Sucker" - 7 June 2010

High Country News

 

Hillary Rosner, a freelance reporter, won for her piece in High Country News about the razorback sucker, an endangered fish in the Colorado River that once was abundant and now is dependent on continuing human intervention for its survival. “It’s a particular honor to win for this story because it touches on so many topics I love reporting on—biodiversity, resource management, human ingenuity,” Rosner said. “I remember being out there in the field thinking, ‘I have the best job in the world.’”

In her tale of the razorback sucker, Rosner noted that despite an...Read more

2009

Small Newspaper

"Lethal Legacy" - 21-23 June 2009

Great Falls Tribune

 

Amie Thompson of Montana’s Great Falls Tribune told how a family in Turner, Montana, is coping with a deadly genetic disease so rare that only a handful of families worldwide are known to be affected by it. The disease, pallidopontonigral degeneration, or PPND, strikes in mid-life with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.Thompson told the story of how a dedicated researcher uncovered the rare disease, but she said, “what made the story come to life for me was listening to how the disease has affected each family member.” Several...Read more

2008

Small Newspaper

"In Search of Life" - 4 July 2007 and 11 July 2007

East Bay Express

 

Kara Platoni won in the small-newspaper category for stories in the East Bay Express about efforts of local scientists in the San Francisco-Oakland area to determine whether there is life elsewhere in the cosmos. “So many wonderful scientists gave me amazing sit-down interviews,” Platoni said. “Each one felt like I was getting a graduate-level lecture for a class of one.” Platoni introduced her readers to the work of local scientists searching for answers to perhaps the biggest scientific question of all: Are we alone in the universe? Platoni explored the field...Read more