In Short

Oregon Capital Chronicle wins first place in national journalism awards

By: - May 10, 2023 12:07 pm
contaminated water

Guadalupe Martinez of Boardman is among those in northeast Oregon with contaminated well water that the state ignored for years. (Kathy Aney/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Oregon Capital Chronicle reporter Alex Baumhardt, with an assist from past interns Cole Sinanian and Jael Calloway, won a coveted first place prize in a nationwide journalism contest.

The National Headliner Awards, which is one of the oldest and largest journalism awards in the country, announced Wednesday they had received first place in the online investigative reporting category for their groundbreaking series on contaminated drinking water in northeast Oregon: 

Part 1: Powerful port pollutes water for years with little state action

Part 2: Water contamination worsened as DEQ went easy on Port of Morrow

Part 3: Troubled by inaction, Morrow County commissioner makes safe water a top issue

The investigation didn’t stop there, either. Baumhardt tracked developments – and state inaction – for months following publication of the first stories. 

Following the reporting, a local emergency declaration was issued over the contamination of water in hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of residential wells. The Oregon Health Authority finally became involved in a water testing program, and last week Gov. Tina Kotek became the first Oregon governor to visit the area and discuss the situation with dozens of locals.

Arguably, none of this would have happened had Baumhardt, Sinanian and Calloway not spent months digging through documents, visiting the area, interviewing local residents and officials and producing a groundbreaking series on a problem affecting thousands of Oregonians, many of them low-income Hispanic residents. 

Winning a top national award is a huge honor for the Capital Chronicle. We are just over a year and a half old, and we have a small online-only newsroom, with three full-time reporters. But as the award shows, we’re playing a big role in covering stories of state failures and the consequences on Oregonians.

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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years.