The Winner of the 2020 Nina Mason Pulliam Award Is "Polluter's Paradise"

Announcing the winner of the 2020 Nina Mason Pulliam Award

for Outstanding Environmental Reporting


September 30, 2020 — The winner of the 2020 Nina Mason Pulliam Award for Outstanding Environmental Reporting is "Polluter’s Paradise."

Congratulations to Tristan Baurick, Joan Meiners, Gordon Russell and Sara Sneath of The Times-Picayune and The Advocate; and Lylla Younes, Al Shaw and Claire Perlman of ProPublica.


"Welcome to 'Cancer Alley'" graphic
The Eastman Chemical Company in St. Gabriel. (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune and The Advocate)


The Nina Mason Pulliam Award judges chose "Polluter's Paradise" as the "best of the best," after reviewing all the first-place winners of SEJ's 2020 Awards for Reporting on the Environment. The judges wrote:

"At a moment of crisis for local newspapers, and as non-profit reporting organizations continue to play an important role in environmental coverage, the series brought their strengths together. Deep, evocative on-the-ground reporting, sharp analysis and terrific visual presentation of data create a powerful picture of the oil and petrochemical industries' impact on Louisiana's people and environment.

"The series exposes the state's lax regulation and explores the political and economic roots of that failure to protect public health. One powerful detail: 'Louisiana's benzene standard is more than twice as lenient as the Texas standard, which is over 30 times looser than that of Massachusetts.' "Polluter’s Paradise" also makes clear the racially disparate impact of toxic pollution, introduces readers to Louisianans standing up for their health in the face of industry pushback and looks at the new polluting facilities companies are hoping to build."

"There was no shortage of amazing entries in this year's contest, so it comes as a great honor to have our series chosen for the Pulliam Award," said Tristan Baurick of The Advocate. "We're grateful to the people of St. Gabriel and the other communities in Louisiana's petrochemical corridor for opening their doors to us and trusting us to tell their stories. ProPublica was a great partner on this project, and their contributions elevated every story."

Lylla Younes, ProPublica, added: "This project would not have been possible without the help of Cynthia Gould at ABT Solutions, who provided hours of guidance on how to properly process and analyze data from the EPA's RSEI model. We would also like to thank Michael Petroni, an environmental and natural resources policy PhD candidate at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry. Michael's expertise in RSEI data enabled us to project future emissions from planned industrial projects in Louisiana's industrial corridor. Finally, we thank our collaborators at the Times-Picayune and the Advocate in New Orleans, for working with us so closely and providing critical on-the-ground reportage for this series."


The judges also granted an Honorable Mention to The Seattle Times' reporters Hal Bernton and Daniel Beekman for Seattle Beat Reporting. Judges had this to say about the stories: "With incisive reporting and clear, elegant writing, Bernton shows readers in vivid detail how a changing climate is transforming Bering Sea fish populations, melting Alaskan hills, triggering seabird die-offs and bringing hardship to Indigenous communities. Closer to home, Bernton and Beekman explore the roots of that crisis in a piece on the natural gas industry’s efforts to stop electrification efforts that would reduce consumption of their product."


>> Back to the Pulliam winners main page.



Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust logo

The Nina Mason Pulliam Award for the "best of the best" environmental reporting awards $10,000 to the winning entry. The prize also includes travel, registration and hotel expenses (up to $2500) for the winner, or representative of the winning team, to attend SEJ's annual conference.

The award was named in honor of Nina Mason Pulliam, a journalist, businesswoman and philanthropist, who with her husband, Gene, established Central Newspapers, Inc., a national newspaper corporation, in 1934. Upon her death in 1997, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust was established to support the causes most important to Pulliam: helping people in need, especially women, children and families; protecting animals and nature; and enriching community life, primarily in her home communities of metropolitan Phoenix and Indianapolis.

The Nina Mason Pulliam Award is sponsored by The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, in association with SEJ.

Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust Contact: Teri Walker, Director of Communications & External Relations
SEJ Contact: Chris Bruggers, Deputy Director


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