Saturday, September 08, 2007

Tallahassee Democrat series on springs, Roanoke Times project on mountaintop removal win awards

The Society of Environmental Journalists announced the winners of its Awards for Reporting on the Environment this week, and two extensive series on rural environmental problems won the top prizes in the Small Market category.

The Tallahassee Democrat's team of Bruce Ritchie, Glenn Beil, Jennifer Portman and John Roberge won first place for their series "Saving Our Springs." The three-part series details the problems of the area's Wakulla Springs (above in a photo by Glenn Beil of The Democrat), whose clear blue waters had been "dulled by a tangle of supercharged aquarium weed and algae, tamed only by an annual dose of weed killer that allows about 150,000 people a year to enjoy the park's popular river boats and swimming hole." In describing the piece, the judges said,"The goal of top quality environmental journalism is to present a clear, balanced case to educate the community and inspire action to correct a harmful problem. The Democrat pulled out all the quality journalistic stops and its community won."

For The Roanoke Times, Tim Thornton took second place for his series "Moving the Mountains: An Exploration of Mountaintop Removal Mining." The series offers a comprehensive look at the debate surrounding mountaintop removal, and its online version includes photo galleries, graphics and video that tell the story from a variety of angles. Thornton offers descriptive portrayals of life before and after mountaintop removal, and he explores the various ways former mining sites have been reclaimed. He displays solid research and reporting, especially in his work with the residents of the affected communities.

"This is what environmental reporting is all about," the SEJ judges write. "Mr. Thornton takes a complex topic of importance to the region, clearly explains it with balance and enhances the package with graphics and the testimony of experts and ordinary residents of the affected area." For a complete list of the winners, go here.

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