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Journalism School to Issue Premier Environmental Writing Prize

The Graduate School of Journalism will assume the administration of the prestigious John B. Oakes Award for Environmental Journalism. The $5,000 prize is awarded annually to the author of an article or single-topic series that is judged to have made an exceptional contribution to public understanding of environmental issues.

The award honors the career of John B. Oakes, the long-serving New York Times editor who remade the paper's editorial pages to include op-eds. Oakes conceived the modern op-ed page and turned those pages into a forum for debating previously neglected subjects, including the environment.

"John Oakes has the reputation of being one of the finest journalists of his generation," said Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia's journalism school. "This prize is highly regarded in the environmental reporting community."

Established in 1993 by John B. Oakes's family and friends, the award was previously housed at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environment and conservation advocacy organization for which Oakes served as a founding trustee.

Patricia Sullivan, who administered the award for the NRDC, said, "We could not have found a better, more appropriate home for this program than Columbia, which continues to set the gold standard in American journalism year after year."

The award is judged by an independent panel of leading journalists and environmental specialists. Joan Konner, dean emerita of the journalism school and the producer of many prizewinning documentaries, oversaw last year's selection process.

In the past 11 years, the award has recognized works ranging from a News & Observer investigation of political favoritism in North Carolina's hog industry (which later won the Pulitzer Prize) to a Seattle Times story revealing that industrial wastes contaminated with heavy metals were used on farms as fertilizer.

According to Arlene Morgan, associate dean of prizes and programs for Columbia's journalism school, in addition to managing the award, the school will feature the work of the winner and finalists in an annual forum open to students and faculty. "The Oakes Award offers us the opportunity to recognize the current generation of environmental journalists and to use their stories to encourage our graduate students to take on this challenging set of issues."

Noting that the school has started a new Master of Arts program in specialized areas, which could include complex topics such as environmental science, Morgan added that the "Oakes award fits well with our educational mission to groom young journalists in this field."

For more information, including eligibility and entry requirements, visit the journalism school's Web site, http://www.jrn.columbia.edu.

Published: Aug 24, 2005
Last modified: Aug 23, 2005

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