May 4, 2020

The winners and finalists of the Pulitzer Prizes show the impact of major breaking news, including mass shootings, wildfires and landslides; the work that leads to change, including #metoo, the opioid epidemic and racial equality; and the topics that drive policy and politics, including immigration and corruption.

This year, coverage of climate change fell into each of those buckets. It looks like the first time in at least the last 10 years (which is as far back as we checked), that climate change itself has been a topic of the work of winners and finalists.

Staff of The Washington Post won the explanatory reporting Pulitzer for “or a groundbreaking series that showed with scientific clarity the dire effects of extreme temperatures on the planet.”

“Today in this country we are single-mindedly focused on a public-health crisis. But another worldwide public-health crisis is upon us,” said Martin Baron, executive editor of The Post, in a piece for the Post. “As with the coronavirus, we are well served if we pay attention to the science. In producing this series, our staff not only paid attention to the science, but also built on it with deeper and more granular analysis. And then, with the full resources of our news organization, we put a human face to the numbers, showing the severe impact that extreme warming is already having on communities around the world.”

At the Los Angeles Times, Rosanna Xia, Swetha Kannan and Terry Castleman were finalists in that category for their coverage of sea level rise in California.

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Nestor Ramos was a feature finalist for The Boston Globe for “At the edge of a warming world,” which showed the impact of climate change on Cape Cod.

And Jill Burcum of The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune got a finalist spot in editorial writing for “Not this mine, not this location,” which detailed the proposed mine’s cost to the environment.

Climate change has made appearances in Pulitzer-winning work before, through natural disasters, droughts and disasters.

Several projects in the last several years have brought newsrooms together to cover climate change at the local and national, including with National Geographic, InsideClimate News and The New York Times.

Kristen Hare covers the transformation of local news for Poynter.org and writes a weekly newsletter on the transformation of local news. You can subscribe here. Kristen can be reached at khare@poynter.org or on Twitter at @kristenhare.

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