Sam Quinones wins National Book Critics Circle Nonfiction Award for “Dreamland: The True Story of America’s Opiate Epidemic”

Sam-awardNEW YORK – Sam Quinones, a California-based journalist with deep reporting experience in Mexico, was awarded the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award for Nonfiction during a March 17 ceremony at the New School in New York.

Quinones’s book, “Dreamland: The True Story of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” was described by NBCC judges as “masterful and sobering. ‘Dreamland’ is like a classic tragedy in which what we fervently wanted, an absence of pain, turned out in many cases more damaging than anyone could have imagined.”

The judges said, “Dreamland is a devastating dive into what may be America’s most extensive drug crisis. Quinones masterfully weaves together individual tales from all quarters of the epidemic. It all came together in what Quinones calls a catastrophic synergy in which over prescription formed a generation of addicts.”

In accepting the award, Quinones said his research “took me all over this country” before he finally set his story in “a Rust Belt town that had been beaten down…the town of Portsmouth, Ohio.”

Portsmouth has been devastated by addiction, as have hundreds of small rural towns and suburbs across America. But it is in Portsmouth that Quinones said he found hope.

“They are finding the wherewithal to build community,” he said. In other cities and towns across America, however, Quinones said he found “a story of isolation over community.”

Quinones, a contributing journalist with InquireFirst, credited his experience as a crime reporter in Stockton, Ca., with shaping him as a writer.

“That’s where I learned how to tell crime stories, how to cover murder, cover gangs, cover drug trafficking, and write my ass off for four years of the most withering crime rates anyone has ever experienced,” he said.

Quinones also spent 10 years reporting in Mexico, an experience he describes as “life changing.” Mexico was “where I could focus on characters, where I could focus on a changing country.”

Quinones, who lives in Los Angeles, is the author of two earlier books: “Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream” and “True Tales from Another Mexico.”

Executive Editor Susan White awarded 2015 Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism

Award2015_12PALO ALTO, Ca. — InquireFirst Executive Editor Susan White and Center for Public Integrity Editor Jim Morris traveled to Stanford University in February to accept the 2015 Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism.

The 20-month project they jointly edited, “Big Oil, Bad Air: Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas,” explored the tension between cheap energy and air quality in one of the most active oil and gas fields in the United States. White was executive editor of InsideClimate News, a nonprofit that focuses on climate and energy news, at the time.

White and Morris discussed the impact of their work at a February 17 Knight-Risser Symposium. Their team of reporters, which included Lisa Song and David Hasemyer, produced more than 40 stories focused on a largely rural area of Texas where thousands of wells and production facilities release tons of toxic chemicals into the air with virtually no regulatory oversight. The Weather Channel producer Greg Gilderman was also honored for his role in the project, which resulted in a 15-minute Weather Channel documentary.

Award2015_22White used the occasion to emphasize the need for an organization like InquireFirst, which will focus on only two or three topics a year and will stick with those topics until the problems it exposes are addressed, no matter how long that takes. Both InsideClimate and CPI have moved on to other projects, she said, although the air-quality problems in Texas have by no means been solved.

People like the rural Texans interviewed for “Big Oil, Bad Air,” “need unbiased, factual information if they are to have a voice in the public debates that are increasingly dominated by powerful business and political interests,” White said. “And I happen to believe that people like us…have a moral obligation to make sure they get it.”

Read the article about the Knight-Risser panel discussion on environmental journalism
View a photo gallery of the Knight-Risser Prize ceremony

Awards Ceremony

InquireFirst Executive Editor Susan White and Center for Public Integrity Editor Jim Morris talked about the 20-month project, "Big Oil, Bad Air," during the awards ceremony for the 2015 Knight-Risser Prize at Stanford University.