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Three Seattle Times journalists won first-place awards Monday in the national Scripps Howard contest.

Reporter Craig Welch and photographer Steve Ringman won the Edward J. Meeman Award for Environmental Reporting for their series of stories examining the impact of ocean acidification around the Pacific Ocean. The series, called “Sea Change,’’ explained how the lesser-known twin of climate change could affect everything from the food we eat to the Northwest’s economy to the future viability of sea life.

Seattle Times metro columnist Danny Westneat won first place in the commentary category for a selection of his twice-weekly columns, which take thoughtful and often provocative looks at life in the Seattle region.

Times photographer Erika Schultz also was named a finalist in the photojournalism category.

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In selecting “Sea Change” for the environmental award, the judges said: “The Seattle Times’ investigation on the impact of (ocean acidification) uncovered threats to the future of the planet in ways that are not obvious because many of them are taking place deep within the ocean.

“Using videos, graphics, beautiful layouts, clear writing and compelling reporting, the series made plain what will happen on a broader scale if mankind does not act to avert the worst,’’ the judges said. “The combination of a variety of media showed that global warming will have an impact on everything from a child’s fish stick dinner to the beauty of the ocean we love. This is an important series that will have an impact on all who view or read it, whether they are ordinary citizens or policy makers.”

The judges in the Commentary category said, “With a calm bravery, Danny Westneat tells America’s story through a Seattle lens. Whether he is writing about Boeing’s corporate welfare or the beating death of a 54-year-old day laborer, Westneat’s columns examine with honesty and understatement how economic realities undermine the American dream. He is not about potshots; he invites discourse without inviting vitriol.”

Schultz was named a finalist for a selection of her photojournalism, including a picture of the annual Saint Abune Aregawi celebration outside Emmanuel Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church on Seattle’s Beacon Hill and photographs that illustrated the ethnic diversity of Tukwila.

Kathy Best, editor of The Times, said the newsroom was thrilled by the national recognition.

“But what makes this particularly gratifying,’’ Best noted, “is the fact that all of the winning work exhibited our newsroom’s ability to accurately and powerfully reflect issues of importance to the Pacific Northwest.’’

The Scripps Howard national awards contest began in 1953. Each winner receives a $10,000 prize. The competition is open to news organizations based in the U.S. and recognizes outstanding print, broadcast and online journalism in 15 categories. Two additional categories honor college journalism and mass-communication educators for excellence in administration and teaching.

The winners this year will receive a total of $180,000 and trophies. The prizes will be awarded in May in Cincinnati, home to the foundation and its corporate founder, the E.W. Scripps Co.

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