Morrison Wins ASCE’s Excellence in Journalism Award

March 31, 2015
Jessica Morrison, the 2015 ASCE Excellence in Journalism Award winner, is flanked by ASCE Executive Director Thomas W. Smith III, ENV SP, CAE, F.ASCE, left, and ASCE President Robert D. Stevens, P.E., F.ASCE (right), at the 2015 OPAL Awards.  Photo: David Hathcox for ASCE

Jessica Morrison, the 2015 ASCE Excellence in Journalism Award winner, is flanked by ASCE Executive Director Thomas W. Smith III, ENV SP, CAE, F.ASCE, left, and ASCE President Robert D. Stevens, P.E., F.ASCE (right), at the 2015 OPAL Awards. Photo: David Hathcox for ASCE

Jessica Morrison, a freelance journalist in Washington, D.C., was honored with ASCE’s 2015 Excellence in Journalism Award for the article “How Engineers Use Ground Freezing to Build Bigger, Safer and Deeper,” which appeared in NOVA Next on October 30, 2013. The ASCE Excellence in Journalism Award is given annually to a reporter or reporters whose news coverage enhances public understanding of civil engineering, and was presented during the Society’s annual OPAL Gala, Thursday, March 26.

Morrison’s report for the website, affiliated with the PBS science documentary series, provides readers with a rare glimpse into artificial ground-freezing technology, illustrating how civil engineers in Japan used this technique to prevent radioactive soil from spreading and contaminating nearby waterways following the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

“Journalists – the kind who do the day-to-day reporting, on paper or on the web, not for glamour, and certainly not for much money – don’t get these sorts of honors very often,” said Morrison. “But those of us who cover science and technology and engineering, the ones who call you up and ask if you can help us understand something like ground freezing, get a thrill just from sharing that knowledge with readers who didn’t even know they wanted to know about soil physics.”

Discussing a technique developed in the 1800s, the story delves into how civil engineers around the country have successfully used ground-freezing operations in other major infrastructure projects, including Boston’s Big Dig and New York City’s East Side Access public-works project, which will bring Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan in 2018.

“Ms. Morrison’s article was a thorough and thought-provoking overview of how engineers use ground [-] freezing technology to benefit major infrastructure projects,” said Robert D. Stevens, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, president of ASCE. “By highlighting engineers and the cutting-edge technologies they develop to improve infrastructure and protect public safety and health, she has helped advance the engineering profession and reinforced engineers’ roles as stewards of both the public good and the environment.”

Morrison writes and edits pieces related to science and technology, contributing to Nature, National Geographic, NOVA, the Chicago Tribune, and other highly respected print and broadcast media organizations.

Past award-winners include such journalists as Gordon Dixon of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (2013), John Murphy-Teixidor of CNNMoney (2011), documentary producer Henry Schipper (2010), and Larry Van Dyne of the Washingtonian (2006).

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