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August 1, 2008

Risser Prize for environmental journalism goes to global warming reporter

A reporter covering global warming for the San Antonio Express-News has won the 2008 James V. Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism.

Anton Caputo won the $3,000 prize for his five-part series, "Climate Change Hits Home," which described how global warming is affecting the Gulf Coast and South Texas.

Two other entries were given special citations. Kim McGuire, of the Denver Post, was recognized for her series, "Coal-bed Methane Water," and Hannah Nordhaus was recognized for her story in High Country News, "The Silence of the Bees." McGuire is now an environmental reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The award and citations were announced by James Bettinger, director of the John S. Knight Fellowships for Professional Journalists. The Knight Fellowships program and Stanford's Bill Lane Center for the West co-sponsor the award.

Caputo's series documented the current and looming effects of climate change in a local context—lost wetlands and vanishing beaches, decreasing cropland and wildlife habitat, and wildly unpredictable water supplies. One judge said Caputo's reporting "resulted in a razor-sharp portrayal of the critical scientific underpinnings of climate change. … The series coupled this outstanding scientific reporting with real-world impacts on real (and local) people and institutions."

Caputo will be invited to Stanford later in the calendar year to participate in a symposium focusing on the issues raised in his series.

Caputo has covered environmental issues for the Express-News since August 2004, when he joined the newspaper. Before moving to Texas, he worked for the Pensacola News Journal in Florida, the Northwest Florida Daily News and the Columbia Basin Herald in Washington. His environmental coverage has been honored by the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Investigative Reporters and Editors.

McGuire's series documented controversy over the use of water "byproducts" from coal-bed methane gas mining—a subject that links two major Western issues, energy and water. One judge described it as "powerful reporting on a previously overlooked aspect of the oil and gas boom in the Rockies."

Nordhaus' story chronicled beekeeper John Miller as he contends with the collapse of his industry. Said one judge, "The ease with which this piece puts pen to paper—and leaves lasting images in the reader's mind—belies the enormous amount of work that went into her exceptional reporting."

Judges of the contest were John Daley, a reporter at KSL-TV, Salt Lake City, and a 2007-08 Knight Fellow; Juliet Eilperin, national environmental reporter at the Washington Post; Terry Root, a senior fellow at Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment; Barbara Serrano, managing editor of the Yakima Herald-Republic in Washington; and Bud Ward, editor of the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.

The prize is given in the name of James V. Risser, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and director emeritus of the Knight Fellowships program. It was established in 2005 and is open to print, broadcast and online journalists writing about environmental issues in western regions of Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Risser is a former Washington bureau chief of the Des Moines Register, and he wrote frequently and incisively about environmental issues. He has had a particular interest in those issues as they affected the western United States.



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

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