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Merrill, NPR Investigation Reveals Tolls of Rising Urban Heat

Project Found Lack of Shade, Abundant Concrete Linked to Increased Illness, Crime, Poverty

By Maryland Today Staff

Journalists conduct interview on sidewalk in Baltimore

Photo by Timothy Jacobsen; infographic photo, below, by Amina Lampkin/University of Maryland

University of Maryland journalists Sean Mussenden, Amina Lampkin and Maris Medina interview McElderry Park resident Lorraine Diggs. Below, an infographic shows a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) thermal imaging camera reading from the 500 block of North Milton Street on Aug. 1 at 11:20 a.m.

The first project by the new Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, exploring the effects of rising temperatures on the health and lives of the residents of urban heat islands in Baltimore, premiered yesterday on Baltimore’s WMAR-TV, NPR and the Associated Press.

A joint project with NPR, “Code Red: Baltimore’s Climate Divide” brought together professional reporters and students in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism with experts in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, School of Public Health and School of Public Policy as well as the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Led by center Director Kathy Best and Capital News Service Managing Director Marty Kaiser, the months-long investigation examined the price that residents of “urban heat islands” pay, whether in chronic illnesses, higher crime rates or poverty. The findings were presented in stories, photos, graphics, videos and interactives.

Infographic shows street in Baltimore with different temperatures in sun and shade: 84, 110, 86, 112.4, 117.6, 97, 117.3, 163.9 degrees

“In addition to the students who will have bylines and credits for their work, I am grateful that Kathy joined us in May and helped an unbelievably talented and dedicated faculty team produce this terrific debut student project,” said Merrill College Dean Lucy Dalglish.

AP plans to distribute the remaining three stories in the package on the regional wire today, tomorrow and Friday. NPR will have a second story on “All Things Considered” today. A web-only story on the effects of high heat on mental health will post to NPR’s site later in the week.

An abridged print version of the series will be distributed in the Baltimore neighborhoods where students conducted their reporting, and at the center’s events this fall.

The project was supported by the Scripps Howard Foundation and grants from the Park Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Online News Association’s Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, as well as from Merrill College’s Capital News Service and Wide Angle Youth Media in Baltimore.



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