Skip to main content.

News Channel 3 awarded regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Salton Sea series

Fellowship Story Showcase

News Channel 3 awarded regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Salton Sea series

Picture of Angela Chen
KESQ
KESQ
KESQ
Friday, May 13, 2022

KESQ News Channel 3 has been awarded a regional Edward R. Murrow Award in the category of News Series. The honor recognizes excellence in coverage for 'Troubled Waters: The Salton Sea Project.'

Recognition of our commitment to in-depth coverage

The Murrow Awards are presented by Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), "the world's largest professional organization devoted exclusively to broadcast and digital journalism."
RTDNA describes the honor as "the embodiment of the values, principles and standards set forth by Edward R. Murrow, a journalism pioneer who set the standards for the highest quality of broadcast journalism."

Regional Murrow winners are automatically considered for a National Murrow award.

The Salton Sea crisis

In our blistering California desert, you'll find the Salton Sea. This unique body of water just south of the Coachella Valley is the state's largest lake – and largest environmental disaster. In its heyday, the lake was a fabulous playground for stars like Frank Sinatra and The Beach Boys. But today, the Salton Sea resembles an apocalyptic wasteland, with toxic waters and airborne playa spreading to nearby impoverished towns. 

The Salton Sea crisis has been a problem for decades because of its intense complexities. The lake is a massively entangled, historically-intricate, 42-agency-involved behemoth of a problem, and no one throughout the years could seem to agree on a long-term solution to saving it.

In KESQ’s four-part series, we delve into the unusual history of the lake, investigate the current health and environmental crises, and confront government officials about their decades-long broken promises.

We spent months researching, interviewing, and digging through more than a thousand pages of state audits, agency review reports, water rights contracts, and more from the past 20 years. We tracked down government agencies and politicians who had been involved for years. Our "Troubled Waters" series is the most in-depth coverage of the lake to this date, capturing the problems of the past and confronting the present -- with a look ahead at an increasingly bleak future if nothing is done.

We went to languishing communities around the Salton Sea and shared their stories. Many residents there do not speak English, which historically, has been a major factor in the failure to get government officials to listen to residents' testimonies on the crisis afflicting the area. Our series aimed to give voice to those who have been disenfranchised and dismissed for so long. Part of the difficulty in telling this story was understanding the role of more than 20 different agencies and organizations and leaders who often told conflicting stories. We spoke to more than 50 people to figure out the money trail and just who was responsible at each level.

Following the series and renewed vigor, we interviewed government officials at the local and state level, who said that they have never seen as much momentum and money devoted to the Salton Sea as they have at this point. KESQ News Channel 3 has committed to holding officials – as well as ourselves – accountable when it comes to the death and resurrection of the Salton Sea.

Ongoing coverage

Since the series was aired and published, our commitment to the coverage has and will continue.

The future of the Salton Sea now includes the exploration of valuable lithium extraction.

The "white gold rush" at the Salton Sea is on as the world market for lithium increases each year. Lithium is called "white gold" for its silvery color, and the Salton Sea is an untapped treasure chest of lithium for all the underground brine flowing through our rocks generated by the 11 geothermal plants situated around the lake.

WATCH: Troubled Waters: The ‘White Gold Rush’ at Salton Sea is slow going but holds major lithium pay dirt

The 'Troubled Waters: Salton Sea Project' series is made possible with financial support from USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism and the Society of Environmental Journalists.

[This article was originally published by KESQ.]

Did you like this story? Your support means a lot! Your tax-deductible donation will advance our mission of supporting journalism as a catalyst for change.