News wins award for investigating deadly home explosions linked to Atmos gas lines [The Dallas Morning News]

A team of journalists from The Dallas Morning News has won one of the most prestigious national awards for business reporting for an investigation into Atmos Energy and a series of deadly natural- gas explosions in North Texas homes.

The series, titled “Time Bomb: How Atmos Energy’s Natural Gas Keeps Blowing Up Texas Homes,” received a Gerald Loeb Award for distinguished business and financial journalism in the local category.

Cary Aspinwall accepted the award Thursday in New York City on behalf of her co-authors Holly K. Hacker and Allan James Vestal.

“‘Time Bomb’ is the kind of public service journalism communities depend on — deeply researched, illuminating and extremely important, given that lives are at stake,” said Mike Wilson, editor of The News. “We were honored to do the work and we’re pleased that it has been recognized.”

“Time Bomb” competed with three other finalists for the award: investigative pieces from the Los Angeles Times, the Tampa Bay Times and a partnership between ProPublica and The New York Times.

The News investigation was published after 12-year-old Linda “Michellita” Rogers died in a natural-gas explosion at her home in February 2018. That prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to sign into law a bill by state Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) requiring natural gas pipeline operators to remove dangerous, leak-prone cast-iron pipes by the end of 2021.

In the two-part investigation, reporters explored how Atmos had neglected its aging infrastructure, shifted the blame for explosions and confidentially settled lawsuits when it couldn’t do so.

Gerald Loeb, a founding partner of the brokerage firm E.F. Hutton & Co., established his namesake awards in 1957, and the University of California, Los Angeles, began administering them in 1973. The recognition is intended to “encourage and support reporting on business and finance that would inform and protect the private investor and the general public,” according to its website.

Thursday’s award banquet took place at the Capitale in New York, where journalists from around the world gathered to recognize the contributions of business journalists.


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