Columbia Journalism School
  • Oakes2015snowroutetop
  • Bigoilpatchytop
  • Lakesoakestop
  • Oakes2015toodrytop
  • 2015 Oakes Award Winner: Tensions are soaring over the use and rights to limited water supply, like the oversubscribed Tuolumne River in California. Photo: Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group
  • 2015 Oakes Finalists: InsideClimate News, The Center for Public Integrity and Greg Gilderman of The Weather Channel for their work “Big Oil, Bad Air.”
  • 2015 Oakes Finalist: A boat pushes its way through a toxic algae outbreak on Lake Erie in 2011; the bloom spanned nearly 2,000 square miles and was the largest in the lake's history. Photo: Peter Essick
  • 2015 Oakes Award Winner: Fred Beltran Jr. works to refill a water tank at the home of Olivia Vargas in East Porterville, Calif. Photo: Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group
  • Oakes2015snowroutetop
  • 2015 Oakes Award Winner: Tensions are soaring over the use and rights to limited water supply, like the oversubscribed Tuolumne River in California. Photo: Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group

Oakes Award

San Jose Mercury News Wins 2015 Oakes Award
for Distinguished Reporting on California Drought

The San Jose Mercury News won the 2015 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism for its coverage of the California drought. Reporters Lisa M. Krieger and Paul Rogers will be honored for an exceptional series of 98 stories on the record-breaking California drought ranging from rich narratives, interactive maps, and videos in 2014. Finalists for the prize are InsideClimate News, The Center for Public Integrity, and The Weather Channel, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, which carries a $5,000 prize, is given annually for news reporting that makes an exceptional contribution to the public’s understanding of environmental issues. The award is named after New York Times’ editorial writer and environmental journalism pioneer John B. Oakes (1913-2001), and was founded by his family, friends, and colleagues in 1993.

The Oakes Award Board writes in their citation: “Their outstanding ongoing coverage clearly shows how California depends on the snow melt providing a third of its water most years—and the frightening consequences of a popular alternative, draining the “bank account” of underground water that built up over millennia and could help the state get through future droughts. Using data reporting and videos, interviews and graphics, these stories make an important contribution to the public’s understanding of environmental issues. It’s a bleak picture, but not a hopeless one.”

Krieger2015oakes Rogersoakes2015

Lisa M. Krieger covers research news from Stanford University, the University of California, NASA-Ames, Lawrence Livermore Labs and other Bay Area-based scientific facilities. Krieger and Rogers won the 2014 Scripps Howard Meeman Award for Environmental Journalism.

Paul Rogers is the Natural Resources & Environment Writer at the San Jose Mercury News and also is managing editor of the science unit at KQED, San Francisco's NPR and PBS station. He was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Finalist - InsideClimate News, The Center for Public Integrity & The Weather Channel

Logos2015oakesDavid Hasemyer and Lisa Song of InsideClimate News, Jim Morris of The Center for Public Integrity and #cjs07 Greg Gilderman of The Weather Channel are 2015 Oakes finalists for their work “Big Oil, Bad Air.”

The Oakes Award Board writes in their citation: “An original and important investigative project about a lesser-known problem with fracking – toxic air emissions from thousands of oil wells dug in South Texas. This investigative series was based on more than 50 open-records requests and extensive interviewing. It has led to changes, such as the installation of air-monitoring equipment and several investigations. It combined excellent reporting, writing, photos and videos and was a truly collaborative project.”

The team will receive a $1,500 honorarium.

Hasemyer and Song (InsideClimate News) were also finalists for the Oakes Award in 2013. The Center for Public Integrity has twice won the Oakes Award (2011 and 2010) and was a previous finalist (2012).

Finalist - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Eganoakes2015Dan Egan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is a finalist for the John B. Oakes Award for his work, “A Watershed Moment: Great Lakes at a Crossroads.”

The Oakes Award Board writes in their citation: “Egan’s reporting demonstrates a thorough understanding of the science, politics, history and economics of the ongoing threats to the Great Lakes.  The accompanying multimedia threads the needle of describing dead zones, drinking water risks, and invasive species in clear, accessible language and imagery. ‘A Watershed Moment’ may be intended for a Great Lakes regional audience, but its messages are universal.”

Egan will receive a $1,500 honorarium. Egan is a Pulitzer Prize finalist who has been covering the Great Lakes for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel since 2003. Egan won the Oakes Award in 2011 and 2006 and is the 2015 winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award. He is a 2012 graduate of Columbia Journalism School M.A. Science Program.

The awards will be presented by Dean Steve Coll on September 16 at Columbia Journalism School in New York City.


Members of the John B. Oakes Award Board of Judges are: David Boardman, Dean of the School of Communication at Temple University in Philadelphia; Jody Calendar, former American Press Media Editors (APME) national director; Jim Detjen, Director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism; Peter Dykstra, Publisher of Environmental Health News and The Daily Climate; Tom Herman, Columbia Journalism School Adjunct Faculty; Marguerite Holloway, Director of Science and Environmental Journalism and assistant professor at Columbia Journalism School; Elizabeth Kolbert, staff writer for The New Yorker; Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.0rg; John G. H. Oakes, son of John B. Oakes and co-founder of OR Books; Judy Pasternak, nonfiction writer; David Ropeik, consultant and speaker; Jonathan Weiner, Maxwell M. Gefffen Professor of Medical and Scientific Journalism at Columbia Journalism School.

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