The New York Times Wins 2018 John B. Oakes Award for Environmental Reporting | Columbia Journalism School
Photo: Nick Oxford, The New York Times

The New York Times Wins 2018 John B. Oakes Award for Environmental Reporting

Columbia Journalism School announced today that The New York Times has won the 2018 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism for its deeply reported investigative series “Trump Rules.” Reporters Eric Lipton, Coral Davenport, Danielle Ivory, Barry Meier and Hiroko Tabuchi covered the E.P.A.’s toxic chemical regulation program, took deep looks inside the agency headquarters detailing how former Administrator Scott Pruitt ran the E.P.A., and pieced together how certain industry players with close ties to the Trump administration and Mr. Pruitt stood to benefit. Pruitt resigned on July 5, 2018.

Finalists for the 2018 Oakes Award are The Post and Courier for their investigative series “Scum” and Quartz for their project “The Race to Zero Emissions.”

“Scum” is a three-month investigation into toxic algae blooms, a major and growing environmental problem in South Carolina and across the country that includes a roster of ongoing algae blooms, created by reporter Tony Bartelme. Bartelme’s reporting revealed shocking findings - including that more than 500 blooms had taken place in 2017 alone and had caused widespread destruction.

“The Race to Zero Emissions” is a reporting project covering 12 countries that focused on cutting through the noise to figure out if carbon capture is capable of meeting the ambitious targets outlined by the Paris Accord. The series investigates how the revival of left-for-dead carbon-capture technology could aid in the battle against global warming.

The 2018 Oakes Award ceremony will be held at Columbia Journalism School on Thursday, September 20. The winner will receive a $5,000 honorarium and the finalists will each receive $1,500 prizes.

Given annually for news reporting that makes an exceptional contribution to the public’s understanding of environmental issues, the Oakes Award was founded by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. in 1993 by family, friends and colleagues of John B. Oakes (1913-2001). Oakes was an environmental journalism pioneer and an editorial writer for The New York Times.

Photo: Ryan Dorgan/The New York Times

WINNER - The New York Times

Trump Rules: A Historic Drive to Rollback Environmental Protections

Journalists: Eric Lipton, Coral Davenport, Danielle Ivory, Barry Meier and Hiroko Tabuchi

Judges’ Citation: This vital journalism reflects a redoubled commitment by The New York Times and its reporters to hold federal agencies accountable at an environmentally perilous time. Eric Lipton, Coral Davenport, Hiroko Tabuchi, Danielle Ivory and Barry Meier showed extraordinary skill and perseverance in documenting a historic shift in environmental policy and industry’s hand in that transformation. They fought for release of tens of thousands of records, combed the regulatory fine print and assembled a database that revealed a precipitous drop in enforcement in the first year of the Trump administration. The team went the extra miles to document the consequences with eyewitness reports from Wyoming’s gas fields, Montana’s coal mines and the Midwest’s smokestack communities. They also annotated and shared many of the important source documents that they had wrested free, making “Trump Rules” all together an exceptional contribution to the public’s understanding of environmental issues.

Photo: Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post

FINALIST - The Post and Courier

Scum: Toxic Algae is a Growing Menace

Journalist: Tony Bartelme

Judges’ Citation: Warmer summers and increased runoff have created a murky, mucky cesspool of the country's lakes and waterfronts. Investigative reporter Tony Bartelme dove into the scum to provide readers of The Post and Courier an informative and colorful series of stories documenting this nation-wide plague. He did what the best investigative reporters do: where the government failed its citizens, Bartelme filled in the gap. Using local, municipal and state advisories and warnings, he pieced together a nationwide map and database documenting the outbreaks. “Scum” is a prime example of the ambitious and important public service reporting local journalists and newspapers can provide their readership. The judges applaud The Post and Courier's commitment and doggedness on this underreported and widespread phenomenon.

Illustration: Tsjisse Talsma/Quartz


The Race to Zero Emissions

Journalist: Akshat Rathi

Judges’ Citation: Much of the reporting on climate change and its devastating impact are justifiably bleak and alarming. This series, led by journalist Akshat Rathi, offers something quite different: a solutions-oriented approach to the issue of carbon emissions. This ambitious and innovative project takes a clear-eyed approach to the fast-advancing technology of carbon capture, presenting it not as an easy out but as an essential element of a comprehensive plan to meet emissions targets. With clear explanatory writing and outstanding informational graphics, the series has become the definitive piece that other journalists consistently cite. The judges commend the initiative and resources reflected in this important journalism.




About Columbia Journalism School
For more than a century, the school has been preparing journalists in programs that stress academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer, the school opened its doors in 1912 and offers Masters of Science, Masters of Arts, a joint Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Journalism, and Doctor of Philosophy in Communications.  It houses The Columbia Journalism Review, The Brown Institute for Media Innovation, and The Tow Center for Digital Journalism, The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights and The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. The school also administers many of the leading journalism awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes, the John Chancellor Award, the John B. Oakes Award, the Dart Awards, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award and the Mike Berger Award.



Caroline Wernecke

Assistant Director, Professional Prizes


[email protected]


Chantal De Soto

Communications Manager


[email protected]



2018 Oakes Award Ceremony