2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
Brandon Loomis, Rick Egan & David Noyce Winner: Brandon Loomis, Rick Egan & David Noyce “Our Dying Forests” The Salt Lake Tribune James Astill Winner: James Astill “Seeing the Wood” The Economist Alanna Mitchell Winner: Alanna Mitchell “Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis” McClelland & Stewart (Canada) and The University of Chicago Press (U.S.A.) Blake Morrison and Brad Heath Winner: Blake Morrison & Brad Heath “The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America’s Schools” USA Today David Barboza, Keith Bradsher, Howard French, Joseph Kahn, Mark Landler, Chang W. Lee, Jimmy Wang, and Jim Yardley Winner: David Barboza, Keith Bradsher, Howard French, Joseph Kahn, Mark Landler, Chang W. Lee, Jimmy Wang, and Jim Yardley “Choking on Growth” The New York Times Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling Winner: Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling “Altered Oceans” The Los Angeles Times Jan Barry, Thomas E. Franklin, Mary Jo Layton, Tim Nostrand, Alex Nussbaum, Tom Troncone, Debra Lynn Vial, Lindy Washburn, Barbara Williams Winner: Jan Barry, Thomas E. Franklin, Mary Jo Layton, Tim Nostrand, Alex Nussbaum, Tom Troncone, Debra Lynn Vial, Lindy Washburn, Barbara Williams “Toxic Legacy” The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
Paul Greenberg Awards of Special Merit: Paul Greenberg “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food” Penguin Press Jeff Goodell Awards of Special Merit: Jeff Goodell “How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth’s Climate” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Dan Egan Awards of Special Merit: Dan Egan Environmental Beat Reporting Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Tad Fettig, Karena Albers, & Veronique Bernard Awards of Special Merit: Tad Fettig, Karena Albers, & Veronique Bernard “e2: transport” kontentreal Dinah Voyles Pulver Awards of Special Merit: Dinah Voyles Pulver “Our Natural Treasures – Are We Losing Our Way?” Daytona Beach News Journal Eugene Linden Awards of Special Merit: Eugene Linden “The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations” Simon & Schuster Douglas Fischer Awards of Special Merit: Douglas Fischer “A Body’s Burden: Our Chemical Legacy” Oakland Tribune
UNC News 21 Team Awards of Special Merit: Caitlyn Greene, Catherine Orr, Catherine Spangler, Delphine Andrews, Hadley Gustafson, Hely Olivares, Jeffrey Mittelstadt, Kristen Long, Mimi Schiffman, Sarah Riazati, Whitney Baker, and Laura Ruel Coal: A Love Story News21 Fellows, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Journalism and Mass Communication Associated Press Awards of Special Merit: Richard T. Pienciak, Ron Harris, Justin Pritchard, Jeff Donn, Mitch Weiss, Michael Kunzelman, Seth Borenstein, Rich Matthews, Jason Bronis, Tamara Lush, Mike Baker, Holbrook Mohr, Dave Clark, Fielding Cage, Merrill Sherman, Peter Prengaman, and Cain Burdeau Oil Spill Reporting Associated Press Cleo Paskal Awards of Special Merit: Cleo Paskal “Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map” Key Porter Books (Canada) and Palgrave Macmillan (U.S.A.) Andrew Nikiforuk Awards of Special Merit: Andrew Nikiforuk “Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent” Greystone Books Alison Richards and David Malakoff Awards of Special Merit: Alison Richards and David Malakoff “Climate Connections: How people change climate, how climate changes people” National Public Radio East Oregonian Publishing Company Awards of Special Merit: Patrick Webb, The Daily Astorian; Phil Wright, Hal McCune and Samantha Bates, The East Oregonian; Kate Ramsayer, Cassandra Profita and Kara Hansen, The Daily Astorian; Elaine Shein, Tam Moore, Cookson Beecher, Bob Krauter, Mitch Lies, Patricia McCoy and Scott Yates, The Capital Press; Elizabeth Long and Cate Gable, The Chinook Observer, Scott Mallory, The Blue Mountain Eagle; Dave Hassler and Andrew Wilkins, The Wallowa Chieftain “Our Climate is Changing… Ready or Not” East Oregonian Publishing Company Elizabeth Kolbert Awards of Special Merit: Elizabeth Kolbert “The Climate of Man” The New Yorker
Gary Marcuse, Betsy Carson, & Shi Lihong Awards of Special Merit: Gary Marcuse, Betsy Carson, & Shi Lihong Waking the Green Tiger: A Green Movement Rises in China Face to Face Media Hedrick Smith, Rick Young, Marc Shaffer, Peter Pearce,
    Penny Trams, Catherine Rentz, Fritz Kramer Awards of Special Merit: Hedrick Smith, Rick Young, Marc Shaffer, Peter Pearce, Penny Trams, Catherine Rentz, Fritz Kramer “Poisoned Waters” Hedrick Smith Productions for PBS Frontline Susanne Rust & Meg Kissinger Awards of Special Merit: Susanne Rust & Meg Kissinger “Chemical Fallout” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Ed Struzik Awards of Special Merit: Ed Struzik “The Big Thaw – Arctic in Peril” The Edmonton Journal and the Toronto Star Dimming the Sun Awards of Special Merit: A DOX production for NOVA/WGBH and the BBC “Dimming the Sun: What Does This Climate Conundrum Mean for the Future of Earth?” NOVA/WGBH and the BBC WBAL Channel 11 Awards of Special Merit: John Sherman and Beau Kershaw “Dirty Secret” WBAL-TV, Baltimore, MD

2009 Grantham Prize Winner

Blake Morrison & Brad Heath

“The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America’s Schools”
USA TODAY

Good investigative journalism uncovers a wrongdoing, researches it, and reports on it.  Ideally, questions are answered, wrongs are righted, and the public takes note. Blake Morrison and Brad Heath exhibited those qualities and more in their piece for USA Today: “The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America’s Schools.”

The reporting team worked with academic researchers to pool government data on industrial polluters near 127,800 schools. What they found was incredible — in thousands of schools, the models indicated that the air outside could be at least twice as toxic as the air in nearby neighborhoods. In some cases, the difference reached 10 times higher.

Morrison and Heath also discovered cases where regulators knew there were problems, but never informed parents or school officials.  The research was also integrated into an online, interactive database, allowing people to look up schools and get information on the air quality nearby. The methodologies for the notoriously difficult assessment of toxic exposure were carefully described in the companion Web site for the series, and a list of frequently asked questions was added to help readers understand how to interpret and act upon the findings.

Government officials, including Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, lauded the work. Boxer called it “a shocking story of neglect…” adding, “If USA TODAY can do this, certainly the EPA can do this.” The series also prompted EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to initiate a new program to determine whether industrial pollution impacts air quality outside of the nation’s schools.

View the archived web cast of the 2009 Grantham Prize Seminar

The Smokestack Effect Presentation (pdf)

 

Grantham Prize Jury Comments on The Smokestack Effect

USA TODAY took science-based journalism to a new level when it merged government data on industrial polluters with the locations of 127,800 public, private and parochial schools.  Teaming with academic researchers, reporters Blake Morrison and Brad Heath applied the government’s own long-neglected statistical model to this huge database and ranked the schools according to their modeled risk for air pollution. The newspaper then validated the findings by dispatching 30 reporters to directly monitor the air at 95 schools in 30 states. Their discovery of elevated hazards outside 64 of the schools drew quick responses and local efforts to protect school children across the nation. An interactive web site allowed readers to check the results at their own schools.

Morrison and Heath humanized the issue with examples of children suffering from pollution-related disease, and were careful to point out the value and limitations of this sort of analysis. The impact of the series was demonstrated by the response of Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the new administration, who promised quick federal action to follow up the newspaper investigation with air testing at more schools.

The scale and ambition of this series, as well as its quick effect in raising awareness of the potential dangers to schoolchildren make “The Smokestack Effect” a worthy winner of the 2009 Grantham Prize.

About the Smokestack Effect Team:

Blake Morrison

Blake Morrison

Blake Morrison

Deputy Enterprise Editor, Investigative Reporter

Blake Morrison has worked at USA TODAY, the nation’s largest newspaper, since October 1999.  After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he began covering aviation security and broke stories on problems with the air marshal program, airport checkpoints and cargo security. He now reports and helps direct investigations and projects. Before joining USA TODAY, Morrison worked at the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press. There he worked as an investigative reporter and was part of the team that covered a cheating scandal involving the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team. Morrison teaches reporting and writing courses at the University of Maryland. He has guest lectured at Louisiana State University and the University of Wisconsin and he co-wrote the memoir How to Cook Your Daughter.

Brad Heath

Brad Heath

Brad Heath

National Reporter

Brad Heath specializes in data-driven enterprise stories at USA TODAY and has covered subjects ranging from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to aviation safety.  Before joining USA TODAY, he was an enterprise writer for The Detroit News and was the investigative reporter for the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, NY.