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Merrill College Project on Baltimore ‘Heat Islands’ With NPR Honored

By Maryland Today Staff

The Philip Merrill College of Journalism and NPR were named the 2019 recipients of the National Press Foundation’s Innovative Storytelling Award yesterday for the first project by the new Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, “Code Red: Baltimore’s Climate Divide.”

The multimedia project, months in the making, explored the effects of rising temperatures on the health and lives of the residents of “urban heat islands” in Baltimore. It premiered in September on Merrill College’s Capital News Service, NPR, Baltimore’s WMAR-TV and the Associated Press.

“‘Code Red’ put the future of journalism on display, with its data visualizations, motion graphics and sensor technology, illustrating how young journalists can use new techniques and methods to serve communities,” Dean Lucy Dalglish said.

The NPF judges cited those methods in their decision. “The student journalists involved with this project literally built new tools—hardware to collect hard data—that tracked temperatures over time to get a sense of the stultifying impact of summer in the city,” the NPF judges said. “The brilliance of their innovation may offer early tea leaves of how innovation will drive the future of newsrooms. The ‘Code Red’ project, done in collaboration with NPR, also gave readers a peek behind the scenes to see how journalism works.”

“Code Red” brought together professional reporters and students in the Merrill College with experts from across the University of Maryland. Baltimore-based Wide Angle Youth Media’s students also contributed by writing blog posts, working as photojournalists and helping build the sensors used in the project.

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