Contest Entries

What Lies Beneath

Entrants: Greg Barnes, John Ramsey and John Fuquay

Affiliation: The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer

Small Newspapers (under 90,000 circ.)

Year: 2008

Place: First Place

Provide a brief synopsis of the story or stories, including any significant findings.

In July 2007, the Fayetteville, N.C., City Council learned about a neighborhood's 20-year fight over gasoline contamination in private drinking wells. The revelation led The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer to ask: What else lies beneath? The newspaper found dozens of areas with groundwater contamination, including entire neighborhoods. Although public health officials had known about the contamination for years, little had ever been done.

Judges' comments: The "What Lies Beneath" series was sharply written, outlining a countywide problem that threatens the health of countless residents. The reporters detailed how government officials have failed to take steps to fix a problem that has existed for years. The package is visually compelling, with sharp photographs, detailed and accessible explainer graphics and locater maps. The series is a great example of public service journalism.

See the contest questionnaire for links to the stories and to learn more about how this project was reported.