Inside Climate News Staff Writers Liza Gross and Aydali Campa Recognized for Accountability Journalism

Gross has been awarded an Izzy Award for her investigation of oilfield wastewater, and Campa has won the Shaufler Prize for her reporting on a Superfund site in Atlanta.

Reporters Liza Gross (left) and Aydali Campa (right) have been recognized for their journalism at Inside Climate News.
Reporters Liza Gross (left) and Aydali Campa (right) have been recognized for their journalism at Inside Climate News.

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Inside Climate News staff reporters Liza Gross and Aydali Campa have been recognized for series they wrote in 2022 holding environmental regulators accountable for potential adverse public health effects related to water and soil contamination.

The Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College announced Thursday that Gross had won a 2023 Izzy Award for her series “Something in the Water,” in which she showed that there was scant evidence supporting a public assurance by California’s Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board that there was no identifiable health risk from using oilfield wastewater to irrigate crops.

Despite its public assurance, Gross wrote in the series, the water board’s own panel of experts concluded that the board’s environmental consultant “could not answer fundamental safety questions about irrigating crops” with so-called “produced water.”

Gross, based in Northern California and author of The Science Writers’ investigative Reporting Handbook, also revealed that the board’s consultant had regularly worked for Chevron, the largest provider of produced water in oil-rich Kern County, California, and helped it defend its interests in high-stakes lawsuits around the country and globe.

Gross, whose work at Inside Climate News is supported by Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, shared the 2023 Izzy awards with The Lever and Mississippi Free Press for exposing corruption and giving voice to marginalized communities, and Carlos Ballesteros at Injustice Watch, for uncovering police misconduct and immigration injustice.

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The award is named after the late I.F. “Izzy” Stone, a crusading journalist who launched I.F. Stone’s Weekly in 1953 and covered McCarthyism, the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement and government corruption.

Earlier in March, Campa was awarded the Shaufler Prize by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University for her series, “The Superfund Next Door,” in which she described deep mistrust in two historically Black Atlanta neighborhoods toward efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up high levels of lead, a powerful neurotoxin, that remained in the soil from old smelting plants.

The residents, Campa found, feared that the agency’s remediation work was part of an effort to gentrify the neighborhoods. Campa showed how the EPA worked to alleviate residents’ fears through partnerships with community institutions like the Cosmopolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Vine City community, near Martin Luther King Jr.’s home on Atlanta’s west side.

Campa, an alumnae of the Cronkite School’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, wrote the series last year as a Roy W. Howard fellow at Inside Climate News. She is now ICN’s Midwest environmental justice correspondent, based in Chicago.

The Shaufler Prize recognizes journalism that advances understanding of, and issues related to, underserved people, such as communities of color, immigrants and LGBTQ+ communities.