The Dark Side of the Strawberry, our examination of the dangerous pesticides used in growing one of America’s favorite fruits, has won an Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Reporting Award from the Online News Association.
ONA, one of the leading news industry organizations, announced its 2015 Online Journalism Awards at its annual conference Saturday in Los Angeles, praising the work for being thorough and written in an engaging manner.
The Dark Side of the Strawberry revealed that California regulators had increased cancer risk in more than 100 communities by gutting the regulation of one prominent chemical.
The Center for Investigative Reporting told the story and engaged the community in a number of ways:
- A story and follow-ups exposing how a pesticide loophole increased cancer risk around a high school, how the state’s top regulator deceived a concerned community and how even organic strawberries are grown with dangerous pesticides.
- A Web app that allowed California residents to learn what chemicals are being used near their homes, schools and businesses and the potential health risks.
- A stop-motion animation narrated by Roman Mars of “99% Invisible.”
- A theatrical production from playwright Octavio Solis inspired by the investigation.
- Surveys to learn what residents of strawberry-growing communities knew about pesticide risk and how they consumed information, done in partnership with the University of Southern California.
- A partnership with Stanford University’s d.school media experiments and FEED Collaborative to facilitate creative solutions to the problems uncovered by the story.
The topic also will be covered in the November episode of CIR’s public radio show and podcast, “Reveal.”
In the wake of the reporting, California has restricted the use of one of the chemicals highlighted in the story, and Ventura County has demanded stricter air monitoring. The state is considering creating buffer zones to limit pesticide use around schools and requiring growers to notify neighbors when they use fumigants.
Finalists in the ONA medium-size category were Undue Force from The Baltimore Sun and Up in Flames from the San Antonio Express-News.
CIR/Reveal also was a finalist for ONA’s award for general excellence in online journalism in the medium-size category. Two radio pieces produced in collaboration with Reveal were award finalists as well: Criminalizing Kids, an investigation by The Center for Public Integrity, for the Knight Award for Public Service and Assault on Justice, a partnership with WAMU 88.5 News and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, for student projects, pro-am.