The Bulletin

Mercury reporter wins prestigious environmental reporting award

By: - August 5, 2021 11:36 am

Dominion Energy’s Whitehouse solar farm in Louisa County generates 20 megawatts on a 250 acre site. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is imposing more stringent stormwater regulations for solar development. (Dominion Energy)

The Mercury’s Sarah Vogelsong took first-place honors in a prestigious contest that recognizes outstanding environmental journalism.

Vogelsong won first-place in the “Outstanding Explanatory Reporting, Small” category in the Society of Environmental Journalists’ Awards for Reporting on the Environment contest. The winning entry was “Virginia’s Clean Energy Transition,” a five-part series on the landmark Virginia Clean Economy Act and the course it charts for a carbon-free electric grid by 2050.

Sarah Vogelsong covers energy and environment for the Virginia Mercury.

The judges said the package of articles was “an extremely well done, comprehensive series covering the major issues in transitioning Virginia’s power grid to a carbon-free system based on renewable energy.”

The SEJ contest is the world’s largest and most comprehensive environmental journalism competition, with 433 entries from reporters all over the world being grounded by the pandemic. Entries are judged by independent panels of journalists and professors.

“How do you balance the need for farmland with the need for open space for solar power generation? How do you establish offshore wind farms without interfering with the livelihood of fishermen? Vogelsong was diligent in having voices from all sectors. The writing style is engaging, making complex subjects easy to follow. The five-part series represents a prodigious amount of work by a dedicated, talented, solo reporter whose work benefits both the Virginia Mercury’s readers and the legislators leading them to a cleaner, healthier tomorrow,” the judges wrote.

Vogelsong grew up in McLean and spent over a decade in journalism and academic publishing before joining the Mercury fulltime in 2019. Previously, she covered environmental issues in Central Virginia for Chesapeake Bay Journal, which came after reporting for the Progress-Index in Petersburg and the Caroline Progress in Caroline County, as well as writing for multiple regional publications.

In 2017, she was honored as one of Gatehouse’s Feature Writers of the Year, and she has been the recipient of numerous awards from the Virginia Press Association. She is a graduate of the College of William & Mary.

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Robert Zullo
Robert Zullo

Robert spent 13 years as a reporter and editor at weekly and daily newspapers and was previously editor of the Virginia Mercury. He was a staff writer and managing editor at Worrall Community Newspapers in Union, N.J., before spending five years in south Louisiana covering hurricanes, oil spills and Good Friday crawfish boils as a reporter and city editor for the The Courier and the Daily Comet newspapers in Houma and Thibodaux. He covered Richmond city hall for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 2012 to 2013 and worked as a general assignment and city hall reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 2013 to 2016. He returned to Richmond in 2016 to cover energy, environment and transportation for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Contact him at [email protected]