Honoring Distinguished Reporting on the Environment
ProPublica, with partners TIME, Univision Noticias and Truly CA KQED, has won the 2022 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism for their series “Postcard From Thermal: Surviving the Climate Gap in Eastern Coachella Valley.”
The reporters used multimedia tools, video and text to present an urgent, compelling case study on what is known as the “climate gap”: the disproportionate toll that climate change is taking on the lives of people of color and the poor. Nowhere is that gap more dramatic than in the perfectly named town of Thermal, California, which is simultaneously a playground for the rich and a nearly uninhabitable home for farmworkers who must contend with dust storms, arsenic-laced water and some of the hottest temperatures on the continent. This project told the big picture through one immigrant family’s plight. It provoked specific reform, with that family and others in Thermal being moved into far better housing.
The two Finalists for the 2022 Oakes Award are: The Intercept for “Tracking the Invisible Killer: Trump EPA Invited Companies to Revise Pollution Records of a Potent Carcinogen” and The Washington Post for “FEMA's Disasters."
More about the 2022 Oakes Finalists:
- The Intercept’s Sharon Lerner has produced a sprawling investigation into ethylene oxide, a colorless, odorless, all-but-invisible gas that can kill. In an exhaustive story and video, Lerner takes readers from Lake County, Illinois, to Port Neches, Texas, where she documented deliberate wrongdoing by multiple perpetrators: chemical companies that make the agent used in sterilizing plants. Even more shockingly, she exposed the EPA, which was supposed to protect the public but didn’t.
- In a tour-de-force of investigative reporting from The Washington Post, reporters Hannah Dreier and Andrew Ba Tran revealed that as requests for individual assistance rose over the past decade, FEMA’s rate of approval plummeted from 63% to just 13% — and that discriminatory regulations denied applications from Black-majority communities at twice the rate of others. The reporters showed in powerful detail how FEMA’s failings devastated lives.
The 2022 Oakes Award winners and finalists will be honored on Weds., Sept. 21 at Columbia Journalism School. The ProPublica team will receive a $5,000 prize, and each finalist will receive a $1,500 prize.
Given annually for news reporting that makes an exceptional contribution to the public’s understanding of environmental issues, the Oakes Award was founded 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.
2022 John B. Oakes Prize Winner and Finalist Citations