A Pivotal Time for Local Science Journalism
The Victor K. McElheny Award honors outstanding local and regional journalism covering issues in science, public health, technology, or the environment.
Science is at our doorstep daily, and Americans tend to trust local news over other media outlets to tell them the truth. As local news outlets close and science desks disappear even faster, it is more important than ever to uplift the rigor and tenacity of local science journalists bringing facts to the forefront. Previous winners of the McElheny Award illustrate this point, with investigations of local issues ranging from environmental damage caused by poultry farms to debates over timber logging to air pollution impacts ignored by local agencies.
In other words, we need science journalists in every community. In today’s rapidly evolving world, communities need journalists who are asking the right questions, communicating science clearly to a public that may not have specialty expertise, and incorporating the lived experiences of those impacted by the science. Local and regional journalists have a central role in promoting science literacy and critical thinking skills. This isn’t just about sharing the news; this is about preserving a fundamental building block of public consciousness and shared understanding.
On a Mission to Assure Journalism Excellence by Honoring It
The McElheny award is no small prize, just as publishing excellent local science journalism is no small feat. Each year, the award honors a single entry — be it a series or standalone piece — with a $10,000 prize.
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 monetary award and a ceremony hosted by KSJ. 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.
Submissions for the 2024 McElheny Award will be accepted from December 1, 2023 to January 31, 2024 at 11:59pm Pacific Time.
Examples of Excellence: Past Winners
2023: “Big Poultry” — Gavin Off , Ames Alexander, and Adam Wagner (The Charlotte Observer and The Raleigh News & Observer)
2022: “Black Snow” — Lulu Ramadan, Ash Ngu, Maya Miller, Nadia Sussman, and Hannah Morse ( Palm Beach Post and ProPublica)
2021: “Timber Wars” — Ed Jahn, Aaron Scott, David Steves, Peter Frick-Wright, Robbie Carver, and Laura Gibson (Oregon Public Broadcasting)
2020: “Ahead of the Fire” — Dennis Wagner, Pamela Ren Larson, Thomas Hawthorne, and Michael Squires (The Arizona Republic, with the USA Today Network)
2019: “Into the Gulf Stream” — Tony Bartelme, Chad Dunbar, and Emory Parker (The Charleston Post and Courier)
Support the Mission
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.