2005 Casey Medals for Meritorious JournalismThe Journalism Center Recognizes Journalists in 11th Annual Contest
The Wall Street Journal's rich portrait of elderly parents struggling to care for their developmentally disabled adult children; the San Francisco Chronicle's moving photographs of an Iraqi boy's lengthy treatment at a California hospital for critical wounds suffered in the Iraq war; the Chicago Tribune's portfolio of incisive editorials about various child, family and education issues; and a disturbing report on NPR about foster children in New Jersey were among the winning stories in the 2005 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism contest.
Other media organizations winning top honors in the 11th annual contest were Legal Affairs magazine; The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk; the Anchorage Daily News; The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N.Y.; the Missoulian, Missoula, Mont.; the Omaha World-Herald; the East Bay Express, Emeryville, Calif.; and WTHR-TV in Indianapolis.
Winners will receive a Casey Medal and a $1,000 award at a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 23, 2005. Entries for the 2006 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism are due by March 1, 2006.
PROJECT/SERIES 200,000+ circulation
Winner: Clare Ansberry, The Wall Street Journal, "Frayed Lifeline"
Ansberry examines long-term home care for developmentally disabled adults through an intimate profile of an 84-year-old man and his 49-year-old autistic son; a thorough look at disparities in state and local spending on the families; and an in-depth piece about how deinstitutionalizing disabled patients has impacted paid caregivers. The stories inspire and alarm with their original, probing look at a largely hidden population. They bring to mind the phrase "tender mercies."
Runner-up: Peter G. Gosselin, Los Angeles Times, "The New Deal."
Gosselin uses painstaking reporting and elegant writing to explain how most families lead more volatile economic lives than reflected by conventional measures.
Honorable mention: Stephanie Banchero, Chicago Tribune, "No Child Left Behind."
By focusing on how the federal No Child Left Behind law affects one child, Banchero lifts the story from the routine to the exceptional and humanizes the complex, controversial topic.
PROJECT/SERIES 75,000-200,000 circulation
Winner: Karyn Spencer, Jeremy Olson and Mike Reilly, Omaha World-Herald, "Our Dead Children"
The reporters take an old subject and create a riveting account of one child's deadly journey through a child welfare system that repeatedly failed her. After the newspaper went to court to obtain records, the reporters compiled a series filled with remarkable detail and evocative writing.
Runner-up: Michael Marizco, Arizona Daily Star, "Smuggling Children."
Marizco writes about a mother who paid to have her two young sons smuggled across the U.S.-Mexican border. Amazing storytelling and access to a shadow world set this series apart.
Honorable mention: Jean Rimbach and Leslie Brody, The Record, Hackensack, N.J., "Preschools Squander Tax Dollars."
The reporters effectively use a time-honored "follow the money" formula to find out how New Jersey was spending -- and misspending -- tax dollars on preschool programs.
PROJECT/SERIES Under 75,000 circulation
Winner: Michael Moore, Missoulian, Missoula, Mont., "Lost Boys of the Flathead"
After two 11-year-old boys drank themselves to death on the Flathead Indian Reservation outside Ronan, Mont., Moore spent four months reporting and writing the complex story behind the tragedy. The weeklong series is a powerful, deeply nuanced examination of the lives of Flathead Indian children and the destruction alcohol leaves in its wake -- narrative storytelling at its best.
Runner-up: Carolyn Feibel, Herald News, West Paterson, N.J., "Disability City, USA."
Through resourceful reporting, Feibel took a statistical nugget about high disability rates among working-age people and turned it into a masterful piece of lively policy analysis.
No honorable mention.
SINGLE STORY 200,000+ circulation
Winner: Susan E. White, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, "Broad Shoulders"
A sweeping look at a high school student's life as he helps raise his two sisters while his mother works two jobs; White shows that a child's grace and determination can help assure a family's survival. She brings some clarity to the collision between housing policies and homelessness in a way that only good writers can.
Runner-up: Cara Solomon, The Seattle Times, "Growing Out of Foster Care."
Solomon uses in-depth, unsentimental reporting to create a moving, authoritative portrait of a teenager aging out of foster care.
Honorable mention: (Tie) Vanessa O'Connell, The Wall Street Journal, "Uneasy Compromise"; and Jennifer (Mena) Delson, Los Angeles Times, "A Great Familial Divide."
O'Connell examines why there are no simplistic answers to the teen-drinking problem, and Mena adroitly shows how cultural and immigration dilemmas exacerbate stresses for a mother and daughter living on opposite sides of the border.
SINGLE STORY 75,000-200,000 circulation
Winner: Maureen Nolan and Paul Riede, The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N.Y., "School Slams Door on Dropouts"
Nolan and Riede use a variety of techniques to illustrate how school officials understated a serious dropout problem through sloppy and devious record-keeping. What was perhaps most impressive was the reporters' ability to get confidential records, which allowed them to put a face on kids who drop out.
Runner-up: Kathleen Chapman and William M. Hartnett, The Palm Beach Post, "Revolving Door for Fired Workers."
Through dogged reporting, the authors reveal how officials at juvenile justice centers in Florida tried to fill hiring gaps by rehiring former employees already fired for incompetence or, worse, violent behavior.
Honorable mention: Candy J. Cooper, The Record, Hackensack, N.J., "Cutting."
By earning the trust of high-school girls who had engaged in "cutting," Cooper writes a compelling narrative about this form of self-mutilation.
SINGLE STORY Under 75,000 circulation
Winner: Lisa Demer, Anchorage Daily News, "Kids in Exile"
Demer had heard rumors about Alaskan children being sent to psychiatric hospitals outside the state and after investigating further, she found that the numbers of those sent away -- and the cost of their care -- had risen dramatically over a short period of time. She weaves solid documentary reporting with compelling personal accounts to create a story with statewide importance.
Honorable mention: (Tie) Melissa Griffy, The Repository, Canton, Ohio, "Home-life Complaints Kept Secret"; and Tim Eaton, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, "Police Sex Casework Faulted."
Griffy shows how secrecy prevented a full review of serious problems with Ohio's group homes for the developmentally disabled, and Eaton uses computer-assisted reporting and candid interviews to question the effectiveness of one county's prosecution of sexual offenders who prey on children.
Winner: Cornelia Grumman, Chicago Tribune, "Rocking the Cradle…Over" and other editorials on children and education issues.
Grumman's thoughtful, deeply reported editorials on education, children and families stand out for their originality, strong voice and intelligence. Her entries show consistently cogent writing. The issues that she tackled -- from the demise of a program for teen mothers to an analysis of how "lax parenting" has indirectly resulted in property tax increases -- show that Grumman has investigative skills as well as a sharp point of view.
Runner-up: Alberta Phillips, Austin American-Statesman, "Economics is Reason Enough to Restore CHIP Funding" and other editorials on the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Phillips' well-researched series exposes and strongly denounces the false logic and poor economic policy -- not to mention inhumanity -- behind tax cuts that have devastated health coverage for Texas' poorest children.
Honorable mention: Anne C. Lewis, Phi Delta Kappan, "Schools That Engage Children" and other editorials on education.
Lewis' work is remarkable for its consistently thoughtful, engaging and informed analyses of education policy.
Winner: Nadya Labi, Legal Affairs, "Want Your Kid to Disappear?"
Labi gained extraordinary access to the secretive, often seamy, and entirely chilling world of "transporters" who forcibly abduct troublesome children to "tough-love" schools for behavior modification. By accompanying one transporter from start to finish, then weaving the results of her excellent reporting into a narrative on the larger phenomenon, Labi earns first-place honors for originality and captivating storytelling.
Runner-up: Peter Perl, The Washington Post Magazine, "Raising Austin." Perl eloquently chronicles one family's loving but difficult struggle to cope with a child who has mental health and behavioral problems.
Honorable mention: Kendra Hurley, City Limits, New York, "Teen Adoption's Hard Sell."
Hurley movingly captures the plight of teenage foster children whose hopes for adoption are repeatedly stoked, then dashed by an unfeeling bureaucracy.
Winner: Lauren Gard, East Bay Express, Emeryville, Calif., "Good Kids, Bad Blood"
This story -- a detailed account of the travails of a 172-pound 10-year-old girl struggling with adult-onset diabetes -- personalizes the pressing issue of childhood obesity. One doctor quoted calls the epidemic of adult-onset diabetes in children "one of the big stories of the millennium," and Gard found a way, by delving deeply and with understanding into a child's life, family situation, diet and daily routine, to capture that sense of importance.
Runner-up: Katy Reckdahl, Gambit Weekly, New Orleans, "Thrown Out."
Reckdahl's dogged reporting turned up this disturbing story about the evictions of public housing residents based on confidential juvenile records.
Honorable mention: Helen Thorpe, Westword, Denver, "Head of the Class."
In this account of an illegal immigrant who wants to attend college, Thorpe tells a fresh, revealing and insightful story.
Winner: Deanne Fitzmaurice, San Francisco Chronicle, "Operation Lion Heart"
These photographs humanize an Iraqi family victimized by war. They carry you through pain, courage, fear, compassion, redemption and love -- all without uttering a word. That's what art is all about. At a time when journalists are under attack, in part because of our perceived cool detachment, we need more stories that dare to grab the reader by the collar and demand attention. That's what these pictures do.
Runner-up: Matt Rainey, The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J., "Last Chance High."
A work of depth and dedication, Rainey's photographs put a human face on students in a school for troubled kids. In this age of bottom-line journalism, Rainey took the time to depict these students' poignant stories.
Honorable mention: Dan DeLong, John Dickson and Kurt Schlosser, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "A Time to Live."
DeLong could have taken us on a journey through hospitals and medical labs; instead we were treated to a wonderful story about a kid with lots of fortitude and heart.
TELEVISION: SHORT FORM
Winner: Angie Moreschi, Bill Ditton and Gerry Lanosga, WTHR-TV, Indianapolis, "Cries for Help"
While the topic of this investigation is not new -- the evidence of incompetence in a state's child protection services agency -- the level of reporting, storytelling, professionalism and determination in pursuing the story single it out. It did what great public service journalism is supposed to do -- shine a light on a failed system and force high-level officials to pay attention and make changes, including filing criminal charges. The reporting team took on the state agency and never let go.
Runner-up: Deborah Sherman, Nicole Vap and John Fosholt, KUSA-TV, Denver, "Suffering for a Smile."
Through diligent use of FOIA and solid reporting, KUSA opened the door on dental practices that appeared positively medieval: youngsters tied to papoose boards during treatment until they vomited or urinated, multiple caps and root canals performed in a single office visit and finger marks on the throat of a toddler. The children's injuries were used to further the story about a problem that needed to be fixed.
No honorable mention.
TELEVISION: LONG FORM
No winner or runner-up.
Honorable mention: Roger Weisberg and Murray Nossel, PBS, "Why Can't We Be a Family Again?" The producers created a sensitive portrayal of a family in crisis because of a mother's drug addiction.
Winner: Nancy Solomon and Andrea de Leon, NPR, "N.J. Child Welfare System"
This story covers all aspects of an immensely complicated and important issue in a very short time. We hear from foster children and foster parents, and about their valiant efforts to overcome bureaucratic inertia. Yet the story doesn't demonize well-intentioned but over-burdened caseworkers, instead placing the responsibility on state decision-makers. What sets this story apart is the way in which it clearly articulates a problem, traces the causes and offers potential solutions.
Runner-up: Martha Foley, David Sommerstein, Brian Mann and Todd Moe; North Country Public Radio, St. Lawrence University, Canton, N.Y., "Close to Homeless."
An in-depth look at the lives of low-income individuals and families, this story -- featuring superb writing -- paints a vivid picture of adults, teenagers and children facing the threat of homelessness.
Honorable mention: Melissa Giraud, Neenah Ellis and Julia McEvoy, WBEZ-FM, Chicago Public Radio, "Lizandra is College Bound." This inspired report chronicles the life and challenges of a disadvantaged Latino girl who wants to go to college and illustrates the complex social and economic problems facing a large portion of the population.
No winner or runner-up.
Honorable mention: Christina Pino-Marina, washingtonpost.com, "Recovering at Ceeatta’s House." This thoughtful series on women recovering from domestic violence makes good, extensive use of multimedia to highlight a common problem that’s often sensationalized but rarely well investigated.
The judges for this year's awards were: Toren Beasley, director of photography, Newhouse News Service; Susan Brenna, freelance writer, New York City; Diane Camper, assistant editorial page editor, The (Baltimore) Sun; Polly Carver-Kimm, news director, Des Moines Radio Group; Jonathan Dube, board member, Online News Association; Gena Fitzgerald, senior producer, "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams"; Andy Friedman, vice president of wire services and web content, Clear Channel Radio; Sean Gibbons, producer, CNN; Carolina González, freelance writer, New York City; Carol Guensburg, senior associate, Journalism Fellowships in Child and Family Policy, Philip Merrill College of Journalism; Steve Gunn, metro editor, The Charlotte Observer; LynNell Hancock, associate professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; Chris Harvey, online bureau director/lecturer, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland; John C. Huff Jr., editor and consultant, Charleston, S.C.; Edward Humes, author and journalist, Los Angeles; Mary Kane, freelance business writer, Arlington, Va.; Sue Kopen Katcef, lecturer, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland; Pauline Lubens, staff photojournalist, San Jose Mercury News; Carolyn Mungo, managing editor, FOX 26, Houston; June Peoples, executive producer, "The Infinite Mind," Lichtenstein Creative Media; Gayle Reaves, editor, Fort Worth Weekly; Mary Sanchez, editorial columnist, The Kansas City Star; Mike Smith, senior editor/training and development, The New York Times; Gracie Bonds Staples, feature writer/columnist, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Scott Sunde, assistant metro editor, Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Cathy Trost, former director, Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families; Danna L. Walker, journalism lecturer, George Washington University and assignment editor, CBS News; Steve Weinberg, author and part-time professor, University of Missouri Journalism School; Patricia Wen, staff writer, The Boston Globe; Fred Zipp, managing editor, Austin American-Statesman.
Judges evaluated entries for originality of subject matter, depth of research and documentation, significance of the social issue to children and families, storytelling and creativity in presentation, reporting challenges and impact. Judges awarded prizes in 12 of the 14 categories; no winner was named in online journalism or long-form television. The contest drew 284 entries published or aired between Jan. 1, and Dec. 31, 2004. The next contest deadline is March 1, 2006.