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Katy Bolger Wins the October Sidney Award for Article on Environmental Catastrophes on a Navajo Reservation in Northeast Arizona

Elissa Strauss
[email protected]

~New Monthly Journalism Award Recognizes Social Justice Journalism~

The Hillman Foundation announced today that Katy Bolger has won the October Sidney Award for an extraordinary piece about the environmental catastrophes produced by coal and uranium mining on a Navajo reservation in Northeast Arizona. Bolger's piece is part of the series, "The Forgotten Navajo: People In Need," which was published in the Pavement Pieces website of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Bolger's findings include:

  • Four tons of uranium were extracted from the reservation over several decades, resulting in poisoned wells and elevated levels of radiation in Navajo homes, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only started posting warnings about the poisoned water three years ago.
  • The EPA now says, "Potential health effects include lung cancer from inhalation of radioactive particles, as well as bone cancer and impaired kidney function from exposure to radionuclides in drinking water."
  • No corporate entity has ever been prosecuted for uranium contamination on Navajo soil, and yet as far back as the 1930s there was an awareness of the health risks associated with uranium.
  • A new coal-fired power plant may be built on the reservation because some tribal leaders believe the economic benefits outweigh the environmental dangers.
  • Of the approximately 40,000 homes on the reservation, 18,000 are without electricity, because they are not served by the existing power plants on the reservation. These homes are heated with wood stoves.

Sidney Award judge Charles Kaiser said, "Although Katy Bolger is still a journalism student, she produced a fine example of investigative reporting for her school's website. The piece is both thorough and balanced -- describing the antagonism of many tribal leaders to outside environmentalists, despite the many catastrophes the tribe has suffered from unregulated exploitation of the reservation's natural resources."

Katy Bolger is a student at the graduate school of journalism at New York University where she has reported on the 2008 campaign, the inauguration, poverty and AIDS. Her work has appeared in the New York Daily News, and at, and   She is a humanities teacher at City As School H.S. in New York City.

The Sidney Award is given once a month to an outstanding piece of socially-conscious journalism by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which also awards the annual Hillman Prizes every spring. Winners of the Sidney receive $500, a certificate designed by New Yorker cartoonist Edward Sorel, and a bottle of union made wine. Nominations can be submitted here.


Certificate designed by Edward Sorel

The Sidney is awarded monthly to a piece published in an American magazine, newspaper, on a news site, or a blog. Television and radio broadcasts by an American news outlet are also eligible, as are published photography series.

Deadlines are the last day of each month. The piece must have been published in the month preceding the deadline. In the case of magazines, please nominate according to the issue date on the publication, not when it first appeared.

Nominations are accepted for one's own work, or for someone else's.

The Foundation will announce a winner on the second Wednesday of each month. Recipients will be awarded $500, a bottle of union-made wine, and a certificate designed especially for the Sidney by New Yorker cartoonist, Edward Sorel.

If you wish to nominate yourself or a piece by anyone else, please click here for our nomination form.If you have any further questions about the nomination process, please send your inquiry to [email protected]