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March 10, 2008

Risser Prize Symposium to examine effect of Cold War fallout on Western environment

A panel of award-winning journalists will gather at Stanford this month for a symposium addressing the Cold War's impact on the Western environment.

Titled "Environmental Fallout of the Cold War," the event, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 13, in the Arrillaga Alumni Center. A reception will follow.

The symposium will be presented in conjunction with the 2007 James V. Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism. Los Angeles Times reporter Judy Pasternak, a panelist, won the Risser Prize for her series "Blighted Homeland," which revealed how the U.S. government took uranium from Navajo land to build its nuclear arsenal during the Cold War and then abandoned the Navajo people when they began to die.

Pasternak will be joined by Karen Dorn Steele of the Spokane Spokesman-Review, who has won numerous awards for her coverage of nuclear issues in the West. Stanford history Professor Richard White will be the moderator.

The prize is named for Risser, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and director emeritus of the John S. Knight Fellowships for Professional Journalists at Stanford. It is sponsored by the Knight Fellowships program and Stanford's Bill Lane Center for the Study of the North American West.

Pasternak's four-part series, published in November 2006, was the result of two years of reporting about how the mining of uranium had left behind wastes that sickened generations of Navajos on Navajo Nation land in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. One of the judges characterized the series as "great writing, great history and investigative work; overall, a great story that hasn't been told."

Pasternak has worked for the Los Angeles Times for 23 years. In recent years, her work has been honored by the Overseas Press Club, the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism and the Goldsmith Award for Investigative Reporting.

Dorn Steele, a Knight Fellow at Stanford in the 1980s, has won numerous national awards, including a William Stokes Award for reporting on secret radiation releases from the Hanford nuclear reservation and a Best of the West award for breaking the story of a congressionally mandated but long-delayed National Cancer Institute study on nuclear fallout from Cold War bomb tests.

White is the Margaret Byrne Professor of American History at Stanford. He is regarded as one of the nation's leading scholars in three related fields: the American West, American Indian history and environmental history. White came to Stanford in 1998 and is the author of five books, including The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republic in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815, which was a finalist for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize.

The Risser Prize was established in 2005 and is open to print, broadcast and online journalists writing about environmental issues in western Canada, Mexico and the United States. The prize was established in recognition of Risser's journalism career and his leadership of the John S. Knight Fellowships for Professional Journalists from 1985 until his retirement in 2000.



Jim Bettinger, director, Knight Fellowships Program: (650) 725-1189,

Tammy Frisby, executive director, Bill Lane Center for the Study of the North American West: (650) 387-8465,

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