The Gazette's disclosures about lax law enforcement in mountaintop-removal mining has won a third major news writing award.
The Institute for Southern Studies announced that reporter Ken Ward Jr. won a Southern Journalism Award for investigative reporting. His articles were judged the best 1998 work in any Southern newspaper with a circulation under 100,000. The award carries a $500 prize.
Judges called his "Mining the Mountains" series "a comprehensive investigation into the environmental abuse of coal mining communities in West Virginia." They said Ward "documented a startling lack of enforcement of federal laws designed to protect communities."
In his Gazette reports, Ward showed that U.S. law was violated in the issuance of dozens of mountaintop removal permits by state officials.
The series previously won the national Roy W. Howard Award for public service reporting, issued by the Scripps Howard Foundation, and the Thomas L. Stokes Award for environmental reporting, given by the National Press Foundation.
In the Southern Journalism Awards, first place for newspapers over 100,000 circulation went to the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal for disclosures that mine owners had falsified coal dust samples designed to prevent mine explosions and black lung disease. Thus both top prizes were for revelations of coal industry abuses.
Ward, 31, was born in Mineral County and graduated from West Virginia University. He joined the Gazette staff in 1991. Since 1995, he has won five national news writing awards and several regional awards.
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