2019 Small Newspaper - Gold

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 fighting air pollution. Evans investigates how this Norwegian community became Europe’s 2019 Green Capital award winner, and which aspects of their model could be applied to Salt Lake City. In her other pieces, Evans tackled the difficult politics surrounding air pollution in Utah, and the impact local policies can have on public behavior. Laura Helmuth, health, science and environment editor for The Washington Post, said Evans “built trust with the reader by explaining throughout the series who she was, why she was in Oslo, and how that city’s experience related to Salt Lake City — it was personal and open without being self-indulgent. Her analysis of what air-quality measures worked and didn’t, and why, was thoughtful and nuanced, and always clearly tied to what her local readers need to know.” Evans said her goal was to write on a subject familiar to her readers “in a way that was new and interesting.” She said the award affirmed her choice “to pursue reporting stories that are not necessarily in demand from readers.”