On April 10, China’s Environmental Press Awards recognised the efforts of more than 20 environmental journalists. Their articles have exposed inconvenient environmental truths throughout the past year: from offshore oil leaks to accidents at chemical plants; from food-safety problems to the destruction of forests.
This is the third year that chinadialogue and The Guardian newspaper have awarded these prizes. The awards have become China’s most important for environmental reporting. This year the Chinese media company Sina was also a partner, with support from the Society of Entrepreneurs & Ecology. chinadialogue has and will continue to publish a number of the winning articles.
Here is a full list of the winners of the 2012 China Environmental Press Awards:
Journalist of the year (Prize: 20,000 yuan)
Feng Jie, Southern Weekend
Articles: Series on the Bohai oil spill; “Testing the air for the Motherland”; “Water crisis in China’s northern cities: transfer or desalinate”
The Bohai oil leak was one of the most serious cases of pollution that China suffered in 2011. Feng Jie broke the story and followed up with a series of four articles, revealing the cause of the disaster as a subsea build-up of pressure due to improper well management, two months before the official report was published. The articles won widespread respect, even from those she criticised. This meant that ultimately she was able to interview key State Oceanic Administration officials, even before their first press conference.
The award committee felt that this influential series of reports would alone have been enough to win her the journalist of the year prize. But another two of her articles also made it on to the shortlist of 24 pieces, making Feng Jie the only journalists to have three articles on that list.
Best citizen journalist (Prize: 10,000 yuan)
It is rare to find a 65-year-old reporter in China. Moreover, rather than writing for a newspaper, Liu has a much more humble outlet for his reporting: his microblog. A year ago he came to public attention when he exposed the destruction of forests in Hainan province, southern China.
The awards committee found that he and his microblog had as much impact as a newspaper could hope for.
Biggest impact (Prize: 10,000 yuan)
Gong Jing, Century Weekly
Article: “China’s tainted rice trail”
This article attracted attention from across China, with responses from all levels of government. Cadmium-contaminated rice became a major issue at the government’s annual “two sessions”. The health minister Chen Zhu told the media that cultivating rice on polluted land would be banned. This article raised the amount of attention paid to soil pollution in political and academic circles and the public sphere.
The awards committee felt that in such reporting, the hardest challenge is to present clear evidence linking pollution to its impacts on public health. The author was very successful in making this link.
Best scoop (Prize: 10,000 yuan)
Feng Wei, Yunnan Information Daily
Article: “A poisoning exposed”
Chromium pollution in Yunnan province was one of China’s most serious environmental incidents in 2011. But it was not covered up, like so many other cases. Eventually the local government apologised, the contamination was dealt with quickly and the polluters were arrested. The central government circulated the details of this case and there was a strong response nationwide, all thanks to the Yunnan Information Daily’s scoop.
The awards committee felt that local media need to be particularly courageous to report on local issues in China. The newspaper’s exemplary behaviour made a huge contribution to protecting China’s environment.
Best in-depth report (Prize: 10,000 yuan)
Zhao Shilong, He Guangwei, Guo Liping, Zhou Huan and Long Jing, Time Weekly
Articles: Series on the Yangtze River drought
This year the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River suffered a terrible drought, with large lakes almost dry. Drinking water was affected for over four million people. Reporting on such a wide-ranging event isn’t easy. But Time Weekly produced wide-ranging reports, with journalists visiting the provinces of Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi and Jiangsu to investigate the drought at Hong Lake, Dongting Lake, Poyang Lake and Lake Tai. The articles considered in depth humans’ interference with natural water systems.
The awards committee felt that in-depth series of articles such as this demonstrate the media’s social responsibility and professionalism.
Best science report (Prize: 10,000 yuan)
Yang Xiaohong and Fang Qianhua, Southern Metropolis Daily
Article: “The animals of Everest: wildlife in the Everest Nature Reserve”
Two journalists accompanied a scientific expedition for more than a month in Tibet, from the southern slopes of the Himalayas to the north. They saw the fire-tailed sunbird, known as the world’s most beautiful bird; the elusive wolves of the high plateau; red gorals; the majestic Cinereous Vulture; and the charming and precious red panda.
The awards committee felt that the two reporters had expanded the scope of environmental reporting. Almost every new species discovered on the Tibetan Plateau has rewritten the natural history books; these two reporters wrote a new chapter for nature reporting in the Chinese media.
Highly commended (Prize: 2,000 yuan)
Cui Zheng, Century Weekly
Article: “Hormone ambush in the environment”
The use of solid science in environmental reporting is a strength of Century Weekly and a feature of this article.
Zhang Ke, China Business News
Article: “Banned elsewhere, the rodeo comes to the Bird’s Nest”
After the publication of this article, the rodeo did not come to town.
Lu Zongshu and intern reporters Zhang Qing, Zhu Yan and Shen Nianzu, Southern Weekend
Article: “Vegetables on the quiet”
For years, many Chinese people have wondered why high-ranking officials aren’t worried about food safety. This article explained it: they aren’t eating the same food.
Yang Chuanmei, Southern Metropolitan Daily
Article: “Worries on the Xiaonanhai Dam”
This article raised early doubts about the controversial dam project.
Xie Liangbing and Tian Peng, The Economic Observer
Article: Yangtze fish in crisis
An excellent piece predicting the extinction of fish and fishing livelihoods on the Yangtze River.
Yuan Yue, Sanlian Life Weekly
Article: “The world’s early death: record of the Durban climate talks”
Using scientific, economic and political angles to understand the history of climate change, this article made the dry subject of the UN-led climate talks in Durban, South Africa, more accessible.
Wang Yan, China Weekly [English edition]
Article: “Fight over the Yarlung Zangpo”
The Chinese media rarely covers conflicts on international rivers. This explains to readers the urgent need for cross-border cooperation and early-warning systems.
Ma Jinhui, Hunan Morning Herald
Article: “No mercy for Goddess of Mercy Mountain”
The reporter spent eight nights on a mountain reporting on excessive hunting of migratory birds. This became one of the 10 biggest environmental stories in Hunan province.
Wu Zhu, citizen journalist
Not only posting on his microblog, Wu also followed the Snow Beer expedition on its route to the Kekexili reserve, combining action and reporting.
Zhang Xiang, citizen journalist
Zhang photographed Beijing’s water pollution day after day and used his microblog to make his voice heard.
Homepage image by Guo Xiaohe