COLLEGE PARK (1/15/19) — NPR, the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism and Capital News Service on Wednesday shared honorable mention in the 2019 Philip Meyer Journalism Award competition for their collaboration on the effects of climate change.
The Philip Meyer Awards are presented by the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, a joint program of the organization Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Missouri School of Journalism. The contest recognizes the best journalism done using social research methods, and helps identify the techniques and resources used to complete each story. Entries are placed in the IRE Resource Center, allowing members to learn from each other.
“Code Red: Baltimore’s Climate Divide,” the Howard Center’s inaugural project, and NPR’s “Heat and Health in American Cities” explored the disproportionate impact a warming climate has on residents of primarily poor, urban neighborhoods.
The Meyer Award judges specifically cited the student involvement in their decision.
“[It] was an impressive collaboration between professional journalists at National Public Radio and students at the University of Maryland. It found a link between poverty and the hottest areas in cities,” the judges said. “The project built on work done by journalists in California and New York and melded census and weather data, satellite imagery and sensors placed in homes to show the strong relationship between heat and income.
“The team also showed that extreme heat can lead to ‘deadly health consequences’ in Baltimore by examining high rates of emergency calls and hospital admission rates. The judges were particularly impressed with the student contributions to this project.”
“Code Red” was previously named the 2019 recipient of the National Press Foundation’s Innovative Storytelling Award, a major professional honor won by The Washington Post the three prior years.
The multimedia project brought together professional reporters and Merrill College students with experts from across the University of Maryland. Baltimore-based Wide Angle Youth Media’s students also contributed by writing blog posts, working as photojournalists and helping build the sensors used in the project.
Howard Center faculty taught students and members of the community to build low-cost sensors to gather temperature and humidity data from inside Baltimore homes, inspired by a project done in New York.
Through an additional $50,000 grant from the Online News Association, Merrill College will share its “Code Red” sensor technology as well as its data and reporting methodology at no cost with news organizations or community groups throughout the country that want to explore the impact the climate crisis is having in their backyards.
“We’re thrilled with this award and particularly grateful that the judges recognized the power of collaboration between professional and student journalists to produce meaningful journalism that contributes new data to inform a critical public policy debate,” Howard Center Director Kathy Best said.
The findings of the months-long investigation were presented in stories, photos, graphics, videos and interactives. “Code Red” premiered in September on CNS, NPR, Baltimore’s WMAR-TV and the Associated Press.
NPR produced stories based on the partnership that aired on “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition.” AP distributed the project nationwide; stories appeared on more than 700 national and regional news websites, including The Washington Post and ABC News.
The Baltimore Sun also published the full project.
“Code Red” was supported by the Scripps Howard Foundation and grants from the Park Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Online News Association’s Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education.
The Meyer awards honor Philip Meyer, professor emeritus and former Knight Chair of Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Meyer is the author of “Precision Journalism,” the seminal 1972 book that focused growing numbers of journalists on the idea of using social science methods to do better journalism. He pioneered in using survey research as a reporter for Knight Ridder newspapers to explore the causes of race riots in the 1960s.
The awards will be presented in March at the 2020 NICAR Conference in New Orleans.