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Loyola University’s student newspaper, The Maroon, wins national Edward R. Murrow Award for podcast examining environmental injustice in Southeast Louisiana

By Loyola University on Fri, 11/03/2023 - 14:45

The world’s largest organization dedicated to broadcast and digital journalism will honor The Maroon with a prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for its environmental podcast, “Engulfed,” next week in New York City.

The Radio Television Digital News Association singled out the first episode of the podcast, “St. John’s Fight: From Battling Cancer to Covid,” when it announced the winners of the Student National Murrow awards last month. The Maroon won the award for Excellence in Podcasts.

The episode examines one community’s fight against petrochemical companies polluting Black neighborhoods that line the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, a corridor commonly known as Cancer Alley.

Loyola students Rae Walberg, Domonique Tolliver and Brendan Heffernan researched, reported and produced the four-episode podcast, which premiered in September 2022. The idea for the podcast came to Walberg after reporting on a local organization’s efforts to combat industrial pollutants in St. James Parish, Louisiana, and the devastating health hazards that ensued.

Walberg then learned that a proposed plastics plant had plans to build in St. James Parish, near a school serving a majority Black population and on a sacred burial ground for people who were once enslaved.

“I did my research and learned that this is a trend – for petrochemical companies to build plants in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods,” said Walberg, who since has graduated and is now a television news producer in Buffalo, New York. “I decided that the stories couldn’t stop there.”

Michael Giusti, adviser to The Maroon, said what started as a passion project detailing life in the shadow of a petrochemical plant turned into one that has the power to help an entire community.

“I’m beyond proud,” he said, noting that this is the first time in his 18-year tenure as the newspaper’s adviser that the publication has won an Edward R. Murrow award. “This is an amazing accomplishment.”