The Victor K. McElheny Award recognizes 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. Entries for the McElheny Award are accepted between December 1 and January 31 each year. Entries for the 2022 McElheny Award are no longer being accepted.
To encourage wide participation, we define “local or regional” broadly. Only outlets with a large staff and emphasis on a national audience are excluded. We will accept science stories from newspapers, small magazines and digital sites, broadcasters, podcasters, even bloggers — as long as the platform’s primary mission is to serve a local or regional audience. Stories produced by a local or regional outlet in collaboration with a national outlet are eligible provided the local or regional media outlet can demonstrate a significant contribution to the work, and the story had a local or regional focus.
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.”
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)
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.