Last summer, Civil Beat reporter Nathan Eagle and videographer Alana Hong Eagle spent nearly two weeks traveling through the extraordinarily remote Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists to provide readers some insight into a place most people will never get to see or experience.

Now, their multimedia project, “The Last Wild Place,” has been awarded first place in the Society for Features Journalism Excellence-In-Features Award, a prestigious national media competition. Civil Beat was honored for Integrated Storytelling, edging out the Los Angeles Times’ “Dirty John” podcast project and a multimedia effort by The (Portland) Oregonian called “The Loneliest Polar Bear.”

“A gorgeous, lively, engaging, well-written, thorough and utterly fascinating look at a place most of us will never be able to go,” the contest judge wrote. “This multipart series uses every digital tool in the book – maps, video, music – to immerse readers and listeners in a remote and beautiful world.”

The Eagles’ reporting project underscores the kind of work Civil Beat strives to do — in-depth journalism that is simply not being done by other media in Hawaii and that shines a light on issues that are important for readers to learn more about.

When Nathan and Alana first pitched the idea of a weeks-long voyage to the far Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the marine monument had become a political hotspot as environmentalists as well as President Barack Obama fought to protect it while fishing and other commercial interests along with President Donald Trump were pushing for cutbacks in the size and scope of the protected areas.

Today the 583,000-square-mile area around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is the world’s second-largest wildlife refuge, home to millions of seabirds and fish, endangered plants and animals. Midway Atoll, the site of a historic World War II battle is inside the monument. And Native Hawaiians consider the region culturally sacred with stone temples, rock walls and agricultural terraces that have withstood the elements for more than 1,000 years.

In 2017, Civil Beat was granted an education permit to travel inside the monument with scientists and environmental managers. Our journalists traveled 1,300 miles by boat from Oahu to the farthest speck in the Hawaiian Archipelago.

Since we published the project in December, it’s become one of the most clicked-on stories in the eight years Civil Beat has been in existence. It’s also one of the things that people have spent a lot of time with, following along on the interactive map from island to island.

The sun sets on the open ocean in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

“The Last Wild Place” is just one of the special reports Civil Beat produced in 2017 that are being recognized for journalistic excellence.

Faith Betrayed” and its accompanying podcast, “Confronting Faith,” have been named as finalists in the national Religion Writers Association contest. Anita Hofschneider’s story on decades of sex abuse by Catholic priests on Guam has already won an Associated Press Media Editors award.

The religion writers awards are expected to be announced in September.

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