The Victor K. McElheny Award

The Victor K. McElheny Award honors outstanding local and regional journalism covering issues in science, public health, technology, or the environment. Each year, the award honors a single entry — be it a series or standalone piece — with a $5,000 prize. Submissions are accepted between December 1 and January 31. Click here to see the submission guidelines. The submission window for the 2020 Victor K. McElheny Award is now closed.

Contest Mission

Victor K. McElheny

We may think of science as something remote from where we live — our hometowns and home states. Yet it is just there that science touches our daily lives, in areas as diverse as climate change, technological upheaval, and access to health care. This is why science literacy has never been more important — and local and regional journalists have a central role in promoting it.

A critical part of assuring journalism excellence is to honor it. The Victor K. McElheny Award — for outstanding coverage of science, public-health, technology, or environmental issues at the local or regional level — does just that. Sponsored by the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the award honors the exceptional work done by journalists illuminating issues in their own communities. While some science journalism contests have “small market” categories, the McElheny Award is aimed exclusively at local and regional outlets and celebrates such work with a single award of $5,000 and a ceremony hosted by KSJ.

The judges are encouraged to honor investigative, community-service, and compelling narrative journalism — journalism that breaks new ground and makes a difference. In the words of Victor McElheny: “The prize can help illustrate a continuing contribution to the maximum level of public understanding of what technology and science are achieving, and what these achievements imply for humanity.”

Past winners


Winner: “Ahead of the Fire” — Dennis Wagner, Pamela Ren Larson, Thomas Hawthorne, and Michael Squires (The Arizona Republic, with the USA Today Network)

Finalists: “Turned Away” — John Diedrich, Kevin Crowe (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel); “Arizona’s Next Water Crisis” — Ian James, Rob O’Dell, and Mark Henle (The Arizona Republic); “At the Edge of a Warming World” — Nestor Ramos, Caitlin Healy, Shelby Lum, John Tlumacki, and Irfan Uraizee (The Boston Globe).


Winner: “Into the Gulf Stream” — Tony Bartelme, Chad Dunbar, and Emory Parker (The Charleston Post and Courier)

Finalists: “Hostile Waters” — Lynda V. Mapes, Steve Ringman, Emily Eng, Lauren Frohne, and Ramon Dompor (The Seattle Times); “The Last Grove” — Lisa Gartner (The Tampa Bay Times)


The McElheny Award is made possible with a generous gift from Victor K. McElheny and Ruth McElheny, along with a grant from the Rita Allen Foundation. To help support our mission to showcase impactful local and regional science journalism, consider contributing to the McElheny Award Fund.