WyoFile reporters took home four awards for reporting on Friday in the four-state “Top of the Rockies” journalism contest, with reporter Angus M. Thuermer Jr. winning three awards including two first place prizes for his in-depth reporting on water issues.
Reporter Andrew Graham won second place in general legal reporting for his coverage of a judge’s ruling on Wyoming’s controversial “data trespass” laws.
Sponsored by the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the contest was open to reporters in broadcast, print and digital media in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
Thuermer won first place in the enterprise reporting category on agricultural and environmental issues for his in-depth reporting on how drought issues are shaking the Colorado River Compact agreement among seven western states.
A judge commended Thuermer for an “incredible depth of reporting and explanation” in the five-story series that focused on Wyoming’s efforts to secure its share of Colorado River water as the resource grows scarcer from both climate change and overuse. “This series should be incorporated in textbooks for the rest of the country to understand the problem of water resources in the West,” the judge wrote of the stories. “It’s especially valuable in detailing how the problem grew to the problem that exists now.”
Thuermer won second place in the same category for his coverage of the saga of a proposed dam on the West Fork of Battle Creek. The proposed dam, with a price tag of $80 million, became a topic of fierce contention during the 2018 legislative session. Lawmakers ultimately stripped much of the funding from the dam project, slashing the appropriation from the initial $80 million down to $4.7 million to keep the project alive.
In a separate category for agriculture and environment reporting, Thuermer won first place for a single story addressing water contamination issues in Pavillion. Thuermer traveled to Pavillion in Nov., 2018 to report on new findings regarding widespread groundwater contamination in the area that has been heavily impacted by drilling for natural gas.
Graham won second place in the Legal: General Reporting category for two stories on a federal judge’s ruling on the Wyoming Legislature’s controversial data trespass laws. The judge ruled that portions of the laws violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and could not be enforced. Graham’s second story reported on the state’s decision not to appeal the decision.
“I’m amazed and inspired by Angus and Andrew’s work every day,” said WyoFile Chief Executive and Editor Matthew Copeland. “As a Wyomingite I’m grateful for what they do for our community, to say nothing of their enormous contributions to WyoFile. It’s gratifying to see that appreciation reflected in the opinion of our peers in the profession.”
Judging was based on overall excellence, service to the community, and contributions to the public understanding of issues and events. Criteria included depth of research, quality of presentation and the difficulty in obtaining information. WyoFile competed in the class for publications with circulations less than 10,000.
The regional, multi-platform contest for reporters and news organizations grew from a Colorado-only contest after the closure of the Rocky Mountain News in 2009. The contest included a range of categories and divisions within print and magazines, online journalism, radio and television “to ensure a robust and competitive field in the changing landscape of media,” the Colorado SPJ chapter said.