Freelance writer and former Fresno Bee reporter Mark Grossi has been awarded an Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship to write about environmental conditions in small towns in the San Joaquin Valley.
Grossi is among six journalists to win the award, which allows them to pursue in-depth reporting on local, national and international affairs. The foundation, in its fifth decade, funds American journalism’s oldest writing fellowships.
“I’m very, very honored” to be among a distinguished field of fellows, Grossi said.
For his project, “California Castoffs in a Toxic Land,” Grossi will examine the environmental risks for residents of rural Valley communities. Grossi was awarded $40,000 for the 12-month grant.
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“People have talked about the conditions in these small towns quietly for many, many years and now we finally have an environmental framework to fit it into and try to quantify what the risk is,” Grossi said. “I’m going to paint a very clear picture of what it is like.”
Grossi, 62, worked at The Bee from 1986 to 2015, and for 22 years concentrated exclusively on environmental issues. During his tenure at The Bee he produced several award-winning environmental projects, including “Rescuing the San Joaquin” in 1999; “Last Gasp” on air quality, with colleagues in 2002; “Hiking the John Muir Trail,” with colleagues, in 2006; and “Living in a Toxic Land” about the Valley’s rural environmental health risks in 2013.
He also maintained a blog, Earth Log, about Valley environmental issues.
Grossi’s topic for the fellowship has the potential to break ground on issues that need deeper examination, Fresno Bee Executive Editor Jim Boren said.
“Mark has long been considered the best environmental reporter in the West, and this fellowship will give extra focus to the issues in the San Joaquin Valley that he has been writing about for years,” Boren said. “We look forward to seeing the results of his research published in The Bee.”
Grossi is the second reporter to have worked at The Bee and been awarded a Patterson fellowship. Former Bee science writer Russell Clemings was a 1989 fellow and reported on the environmental side effects of modern desert agriculture.
The fellows’ projects will be published in APF Reporter, a quarterly web magazine published by the foundation. Grossi will produce four stories, the first of which should publish in the spring.
Since the Alicia Patterson Foundation was established in 1965, more than 338 reporters, editors and photographers have won fellowships. The foundation is in memory of Alicia Patterson, editor and publisher of Newsday for 23 years until her death in 1963.