The 2017 Dolly Connelly Award for Excellence in Environmental Journalism goes to Annette Cary of the Tri-City Herald, for spot news reporting, analysis and historical perspective on the Hanford radioactive-tunnel collapse. The coverage was an education in time and place.
“The reader learns about everything from radiation ‘shine’ to the role of the PUREX plant in the context of the Cold War,” wrote judge Peter Jackson, formerly editorial page editor of the Herald in Everett. “The history and details of the tunnels — the creosoted timbers and concrete, which were forecast to deteriorate and collapse — unfurl in prose digestible to non-Hanford wonks, the work of a seasoned writer steeped in the politics and culture of Hanford.”
David McCumber, editor of The Montana Standard in Butte, commented: “Cary’s work to me was the sort of spot news coverage we all would be proud of if it were our paper doing the reporting. It’s replete with applicable historical fact as well as crisp spot reporting from the scene, or as close to the scene as anyone could get.”
The second place award goes to Michael Wright of the Bozeman Chronicle for its celebration of the centennial of the National Park Service. The coverage was of such quality that inbred hostility to anniversary pieces was suspended.
“Not generally a huge fan of anniversary journalism, but it does give us the ‘hook’ to spend resources providing readers with the perspective we owe them much more often than we deliver it,” McCumber wrote.
“Of note was the looking forward feature on challenges such as climate change,” wrote Jackson. “Unflinching and honest, especially on the challenges with grizzlies and species reintroduction.”
The key quality element, in both entries, was “the historical experience,” said Joel Connelly, columnist/blogger with SeattlePI.com. “With Hanford, and its 45 years of making plutonium for nuclear weapons, long-delayed problems have grown in scope. Still, Hanford now has a unit of the National Park System, the World War II-vintage B reactor, the first to manufacture plutonium.”
Cary will receive $500 for her first-place award. Wright will receive $250.
The Dolly Connelly Award was endowed by Joel Connelly and the late Seattle Post-Intelligencer publisher J.D. Alexander. It honors Connelly’s mother, a longtime Time-Life correspondent and freelance writer whose work frequently appeared in both Seattle papers and Sunset magazine. She covered environmental issues in Alaska and British Columbia, as well as three historic struggles in the Northwest. One was creation of the North Cascades National Park. A second was the struggle over whether to put a giant aluminum smelter on Guemes Island, bordering the San Juan Islands. The third was the proposed half-mile-wide open pit copper mine on Miners Ridge in the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area.
The late Sen. Henry Jackson, Peter’s father, was instrumental backstage in stopping the open pit. Dolly Connelly, after a hike to Miners Ridge, found objectivity difficult. A “Spit in Your Open Pit” bumper sticker decorated the family station wagon.