09 December 2010

NY Times "Toxic Waters" reporter wins AAAS award

Many congratulations to Charles Duhigg, journalist at the New York Times and this year's recipient of a Science Journalism Award from the Kavli Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for his recent reporting series that began in August 2009. As listed in his bio, this is just the latest of several awards for the series:
"In 2009, Mr. Duhigg was the author of 'Toxic Waters,' a series exploring the worsening pollution in American waters and regulators' response. That series received The Scripps Howard National Journalism Award, the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ Medal, the National Academies’ reporting award, the investigative reporting award from the Society of Environmental Journalists, the 2009 Science in Society Journalism Award, as well as recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Deadline Awards, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, the Loeb Awards, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the John B. Oakes Awards at Columbia University."
It was noted in the AAAS press release on the awards that,
"...as part of his reporting, Duhigg reviewed hundreds of scientific papers and spoke with dozens of researchers. He filed more than 500 Freedom of Information Act requests, built his own database, and ran thousands of queries to search for patterns in the data."
That is the very basis of scientific inquiry, collecting information and testing hypotheses. Mr. Duhigg was recognized in the "large newspaper" category and, it seems, for just the first three entries in his reporting series that spanned more than eight months. As the award citation states:
"The judges applauded Duhigg for his impressive combination of science reporting and investigative journalism. He looked at possible health risks of chemicals commonly found in the nation’s drinking water and the failure of regulators to update and enforce existing laws pertaining to such chemicals. 'Charles Duhigg has set a new standard for science journalism and investigative reporting, distilling hundreds of research papers and regulatory reports into a damning indictment of water quality in the United States,' said Robert Lee Hotz, a science writer for The Wall Street Journal and one of the contest judges."
To be recognized by a journalist at a rival newspaper is, I am sure, quite an addition to the honor.

Mr. Duhigg's stories covered diverse aspects of water supply, infrastructure, treatment, quality and use, from power production to industrial waste to agricultural runoff, and from groundwater to drinking water to municipal sewage. Geographically, the stories focused mostly on the area of New York City and along the lower Hudson River, but are also applicable in general across the country. The article series was published primarily in the latter half of 2009, but was picked up again in March 2010 for several articles following new rulings on U.S. EPA jurisdiction and new regulations coming into force. With the New York Times archives now available for free, I can even list and link the articles for you:
The series page contains links to more related videos and numerous additional sources.  It's a treasure trove of information that Mr. Duhigg and his colleagues have compiled, and at a time when it couldn't be more necessary for readers and citizens to take notice and speak out.

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