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KAZU News Wins National Murrow Award For 2020 Wildfire Coverage

KAZU News has won a National Edward R. Murrow Award for Continuing Coverage of the four wildfires that engulfed the Monterey Bay area in 2020.

The Edward R. Murrow Award is given by the Radio Television Digital News Association to honor outstanding achievements in journalism. The 2021 awards ceremony will be held in October in New York City.

The summer of 2020 was an unprecedented time for the Monterey Bay area on California’s Central Coast. Not one but four major wildfires broke out, all amid a pandemic. Orange skies blanketed the region, prompting health warnings, and white ash rained down from the sky like snow. The fires forced thousands of our community members out of their homes, destroyed more than 1,500 structures and burned a quarter of a million acres.

The entire KAZU team worked hard to keep listeners and readers informed. Thanks to assistance from the California Newsroom, freelancers helped with our continuing coverage, which included on-air feature stories, a regularly updated blog and breaking news announcements by KAZU Morning Edition and All Things Considered hosts. Our story reporting focused on how these wildfires affected people throughout our community. We spoke with farmworkers who were struggling to breathe as they harvested crops under smoky skies. We covered how the wildfires damaged water infrastructure and devastated the area’s most beloved and important natural ecosystems. And we highlighted the emotional toll of the deep personal loss experienced by those whose homes were destroyed. Here are the stories that we entered.

KAZU News Director Erika Mahoney broke the news of the first wildfire in Horses, Alpacas And Emus Evacuated As River Fire Burns Near Salinas. She also covered how local farm workers were Harvesting Under Smoky Skies. This story later aired nationally.

KAZU’s Doug McKnight reported on Looting In Evacuated Areas In Santa Cruz County Leads to Arrests.

Former KAZU reporter Michelle Loxton covered What Wildfire Response Looks Like On The Central Coast During COVID-19. And when most of the fires were contained, she reported on the Long-Term Impacts Of Wildfire On The Central Coast’s Environmental Jewels.

NPR’s 2019-2020 Kroc Fellow Hannah Hagemann brought us the story: Firefighters Continue Attack On CZU Lightning Complex Even After Flames Recede. She also looked into post-wildfire effects in Santa Cruz County Drinking Water Takes A Hit After Wildfire.

Freelance reporter Caitlin Thompson brought us this story: For Carmel Valley Fire Survivors, A Complicated And Emotional Road Lies Ahead.

This achievement is KAZU’s third National Murrow Award. In 2018, the story Reality Of Possible Separation Sets In For American Children Of Undocumented Parents by Erika Mahoney, now KAZU news director, won for Excellence in Writing. In 2019, the story Rescued Sea Otters Return To The Monterey Bay by Krista Almanzan, the former news director of KAZU, won for Excellence in Sound.

KAZU News has previously won 29 Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards. KAZU competes in the Small Market Radio category.