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WHYY-FM wins duPont Award for reports on fracking

WHYY-FM has won a prestigious Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcast and digital journalism.

WHYY-FM has won a prestigious Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcast and digital journalism.

WHYY shares the award with Harrisburg station WITF-FM and National Public Radio for a jointly produced series of radio and web reports on issues related to natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

The awards were announced at the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York on Wednesday morning. The announcement praised the WITF/WHYY/NPR project, "StateImpact Pennsylvania," as "an important model for reporting on local issues."

In broadcast and multimedia web reports between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, Susan Phillips of WHYY and Scott Detrow of WITF, covered the public policy consequences of natural gas extraction as well as its impact on the lives of people directly affected by the drilling.

"Their work revealed previously unreported aspects of a new gas drilling law, including a provision that would require health professionals to sign confidentiality agreements in order to get access to chemical exposure information and developments in the state's efforts to establish a natural gas impact fee," according to the announcement.

Phillips, 45, who has been at WHYY since 2004, a year after receiving her master's degree from Columbia Journalism School, said that she and Detrow had tried to bring clarity to "an issue that is highly polarized."

"I think both sides of the debate tend, if not to simplify, to ignore certain facts that don't fit into their narrative," she said in a phone interview. "We feel like our job was to tell these stories based on the facts that were available to us and also through the voices of those who were most impacted by these policies being carved by these policies being carved our in Harrisburg."

StateImpact Pennsylvania was one of 14 DuPont-Columbia winners announced Wednesday. Four prizes went for international reporting, including stories by CBS News, Current TV, Frontline on PBS, and NPR. Frontline also won for a report on inner city violence. For the first time, the list of winners included documentary films in theatrical release: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and Bully.

A newspaper, USA Today, won for multimedia reporting, and the audio archive StoryCorps won its first duPont Award for a project with NPR and the PBS show POV on remembrances of 9/11.

Five awards went to local television and radio stations: KCET in Southern California, KLAS-TV in Las Vegas WVUE-TV in New Orleans, WXYZ-TV in Detroit and the WITF/WHYY/NPR partnership.

The awards, symbolized by a silver baton, will be presented at a ceremony on Jan. 22 at Columbia.