2008 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism
The Chicago Tribune's expansive investigation of child product safety, The Dallas Morning News's iconic photographs of people living at the margins of society and 20/20's compelling portrait of families looking for a better life in Camden, N.J., were among the winners of the 2008 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism. The medals are presented by the Journalism Center on Children & Families and funded by the center's primary funder, The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Other news organizations taking top honors in the 14th annual contest included the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Newsday, Houston's KHOU-TV, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, American RadioWorks, The Nation, The Oregonian and St. Petersburg Times. The Washington Post and Durham's Independent Weekly each won their second consecutive Casey Medal. More than 500 journalists entered this year's contest.
The judges for this year’s awards were: Alice Bonner, lecturer, Philip Merrill College of Journalism; Linda P. Campbell, editorial writer and columnist, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram; Julie Drizin, assistant director, J-Lab; Bob Duffy,associate editor, St. Louis Beacon; Ed Esposito, vice president, Rubber City Radio Group; Ashley Fantz,reporter/producer CNN.com; Vanessa Gallman, editorial page editor, Lexington Herald-Leader; Steve Geimann, producer/anchor, Bloomberg Radio; Brent Jones, reader editor, USA Today; Loren Ghiglione, professor, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University; Dan Lauck, former reporter, KHOU-TV; Marjie Lundstrom, senior editor and columnist, The Sacramento Bee; Beth Macy,reporter, Roanoke Times; Jonathan Martin, reporter, The Seattle Times; Craig Matsuda, senior editor, Los Angeles Times; Kevin McGeever, online city editor, St. Petersburg Times; Geri Migielicz, director of photography, San Jose Mercury News; Ruth Padawer, adjunct professor, The Journalism School, Columbia University; Lucian Perkins, freelance photographer;Deborah Potter, president and executive director, NewsLab; Rem Rieder, editor and senior vice president, AJR; Patty Rhule,project editor, Newseum; Susan Sterner, coordinator of photojournalism, Corcoran College of Art + Design; Elise Warner, senior producer, MSNBC, Rob Waters, reporter, Bloomberg News
Winner (tie): Patricia Callahan, Maurice Possley, Sam Roe, Evan Osnos, Michael Oneal and Ted Gregory, Chicago Tribune, “Hidden Hazards”
This series features very aggressive gumshoe reporting on the serious problems for children posed by unsafe products – and on the woeful inadequacy of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This is journalism at its best – a reporter following a hunch that leads down one hell of a highway. Everything is here: great writing, poignant human stories, document trails, revelations of malfeasance and public service. The fallout will be felt for years, and children will undoubtedly be a lot safer.
Winner (tie): Beth Whitehouse, Newsday, “The Match”
This project shed a great deal of light on the science and ethics behind a challenging procedure: when parents create a baby who can become a medical donor for a gravely ill sibling. The articles and the accompanying photographs take readers on a powerful voyage into a very personal corner of one family’s life, with far-reaching implications. Gaining the trust of this family was a remarkable feat – and led to remarkable journalism.
No runner-up or honorable mentions.
Under 200,000 circulation
Winner: Chris Davis, Matthew Doig and Tiffany Lankes, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “Broken Trust”
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune series on abusive teachers has the heft, sweep and results of a top-notch project. The team showed superb resourcefulness by creating its own database, and the paper displayed an admirable commitment to comprehensive watchdog reporting. The paper documents not only painful anecdotal material that would fill even the most hardened reader with indignant rage, it also provides the public with access to resources for follow-up research.
Runner-up: Eric Eyre, The Charleston Gazette, “State of Decay: West Virginia’s oral health crisis”
The series about West Virginia’s dental health crisis depicted viscerally the extremes of human suffering and endurance, and the simplicity of a solution that should be readily available. With an ingenious use of the federal Medicaid database, Eric Eyre reveals a startling fact of life for many West Virginians and offers a reflection of poverty.
Honorable mention: Scott Reeder, Small Newspaper Group, “Hidden Violations”
This series represents some of the best attributes of our craft's finest practitioners: It showed relentless, pick-ax digging for information and painted a nightmarish picture of a busted bureaucracy that allowed troubled teachers to keep their jobs. This watchdog project smacked some slovenly legislators between the eyes and into action.
Winner: Robert Farley, St. Petersburg Times, “The Atypical Dilemma”
Farley’s investigation revealed stunning numbers of toddlers and children being prescribed antipsychotic medication not recommended for their use. With powerful details of families’ everyday struggles to cope with very challenging children, he details a complex problem that finds parents relying on heavy-duty drugs, while worrying about the long-term affects. A smart editor’s note illustrates that this story only reflects Medicaid patients, and thus is likely a small sampling of a much bigger problem.
Runner-up: Pauline Arrillaga, The Associated Press, “Parents of War”
Link: Saved PDF
A provocative report on deployed service members losing custody of their children shed light on a problem that’s nearly invisible to the civilian world. Most important may be this story's impact: legislation to better protect those involved in custody disputes.
Honorable mention (tie): Susan Brink, Los Angeles Times, “It Takes a Miracle Worker”
Well reported and thoughtfully written, Brinks’ story reveals how parents seeking help for autistic children have wildly different options based on their socioeconomic background.
Honorable mention (tie): Jenifer B. McKim and Monica Rhor, The Orange County Register, “Justice by Geography”
By pouring through juvenile justice records, the reporters found unintended consequences of a law designed to catch hard-core criminals and gang members.
Under 200,000 circulation
Winner: Claudia Rowe, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “One Fatal Shot: A struggle to forgive one son, not forget the other”
An intimate portrait of a family's efforts to forgive in order to stay intact. Rowe mined the paradoxes inherent in the tale: the struggle to forgive one son while mourning the son he accidentally killed, that a home meant to be a haven from danger became its opposite, and that a family so profoundly close was quickly falling apart.
Honorable mention: Mandy Locke, The News & Observer, “Fending for Herself”
A complex and poignant profile of a girl aging out of foster care.
Winner: Doug Bates and Rick Attig, The Oregonian, “State of Denial: Oregon’s uninsured”
This ongoing series deftly injected human stories into a complicated policy debate on the costs of uninsured residents. The writers also managed to take on Big Tobacco’s PR machine around a cigarette tax increase. The work had great impact, generating public response to the featured families, grassroots organizing and governmental efforts to cover not just uninsured children, but their parents. The writing was tight and crisp.
Runner-up: Naomi Schalit, Kennebec Journal, “For I Was Hungry”
This ambitious investigative enterprise is a compelling, comprehensive read and places a seldom-discussed subject – hunger – into plain view. The seven-day campaign also spurred the creation of a school breakfast program in the state.
Honorable mention: Laurie Roberts, The Arizona Republic, “Tortured Kids Cry Out for Lifeline”
(link is just to one of the submitted columns)
Robert's columns are a great example of watchdog journalism, and they appear to be helping to bring about change in a child-welfare system too shrouded by secrecy.
Winner: Joshua Kors, The Nation, “How Specialist Town Lost His Benefits”
This is the kind of story that makes a reader want to march on Washington. Kors’s powerful reporting shows how some military doctors deny long-term benefits to wounded Iraq War veterans (and their families) by claiming the soldiers had a pre-existing “personality disorder.” Kors worked through the multiple challenges of dealing with the military, getting access to medical records and finding psychiatrists and soldiers willing to talk. First-rate accountability reporting.
Runner-up (tie): Maggie Jones, The New York Times Magazine, “How Can You Distinguish a Budding Pedophile From a Kid With Real Boundary Problems? ”
A meticulously researched, artfully written story about children who commit sex offenses, and how the behavior modifications commonly used to thwart their abusive impulses may be counterproductive. An original look at an issue that's rarely explored but broadly significant.
Runner-up (tie): Jennifer Gonnerman, Mother Jones, “School of Shock”
This well-documented story chronicles the use of shock therapy on children with a wide range of mental health issues. Treatment of children in this facility is jolting – to their bodies and our conscience – but the writing avoids sensationalism. This is a situation that deserves the media attention it’s received.
No honorable mention.
Winner: Mosi Secret, Independent Weekly, “Stolen Youth”
This is the strain of journalism that elevates the profession: crusading and authoritative, passionate and clearly told. Secret exposes gaping holes in the investigation and prosecution of a 15-year-old robbery suspect, any number of which would undermine judicial fairness. High-impact coverage of an increasingly common story of miscarried justice.
Runner-up: Huan Hsu, Seattle Weekly, “Blame It on Becca”
A riveting account of what happens when well-intentioned laws designed to prevent truancy hurt the very kids they were designed to protect. Hsu takes a complicated subject and streamlines it through the life of one student.
Honorable mention (tie): Luke Turf, Westword, “Faith, Hope…and Charity”
Readers hunger for hopeful stories – this one addresses that longing without sacrificing the sorrowful backdrop that makes a 9-year-old’s optimism in the face of adversity even more inspiring.
Honorable mention (tie): Joel Warner, Westword, “You Do the Meth”
An insightful look at the forgotten victims in the drug wars – the children.
Winner: Mona Reeder, The Dallas Morning News, “The Bottom Line”
The approach of personalizing statistics through documentary photojournalism is not an original one, but rarely is it done more effectively than in “The Bottom Line.” The images are emotional and skillfully made, and required complex negotiation with state authorities to grant exceptional access to juvenile services, detention and mental health facilities. Reeder’s images are clean, iconic compositions that work well against each other to build a sense of people too often out of sight and out of mind.
Runner-up: David Stephenson, Lexington Herald-Leader, “A New Dawn? A Kentucky mother’s struggle through drug court”
Stephenson's three-year project on Dawn Smith's struggle to break a crushing cycle of drug abuse and destructive relationships is a devastating witness to a life caught in hopelessness. Through his use of composition and keen sense of body language and moments, Stephenson’s images fully communicate Smith’s story.
Honorable mention: Kuni Takahashi, Chicago Tribune, “Our Hidden Poor”
This compelling project challenges the viewer to take a fresh look at poverty today. Takahashi’s portraits of dignity and challenge reveal his commitment to each subject.
Winner: Liz Heron, Nelson Hsu, Nancy Donaldson, Ben de la Cruz, Dion Haynes, Aruna Jain, Jahi Chikwendiu, Lonnae O’Neal Parker, Dan Keating, April Witt, James Grimaldi, David S. Fallis, Adrian Holovaty, Larry Roberts, Barbara Vobejda, Joe Stephens and Lois Raimondo, Washingtonpost.com/The Washington Post, “Fixing D.C.’s Schools”
A phenomenal work in its breadth and its attention to detail, this is a powerful portrait of a school system where good people and teachers struggle, poor teachers persist, children with marginal literacy are promoted and buildings have been allowed to decay. The interactive map is a brilliant merge of databases that creates a vivid snapshot of each school. The slide shows, audio, teacher profiles, stories all work together as a memorable documentary.
Runner-up (tie): Chicagotribune.com Staff, Chicagotribune.com, “Hidden Hazards: Kids at Risk”
Investigative reporting at its finest. A tremendous service to consumers, readers and Web visitors in documenting the failings of the system that was meant to protect us from harm.
Runner-up (tie): Karen Ducey, Claudia Rowe, Rob Sumner, Brian Chin and Curt Milton, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “One Fatal Shot”
A haunting story of a close, extended multi-ethnic family's experience with gun violence. The team showed true craft to produce work that takes the reader to a higher level of understanding.
No honorable mention.
Winner: Catherine Winter, Ellen Guettler and Mary Beth Kirchner, American RadioWorks, “Wanted: Parents”
Adopting an infant is a common story, while finding a home for teenagers living in foster homes is more difficult to tell. We follow siblings Chris and Amanda as they meet with prospective parents before ending up in a new home. A fascinating portrait of teens in the foster care system, faced with aging out, questions of whether they are adoptable and whether they want to be. A painfully real story of the ups and downs of finding love, family and permanence.
Runner-up: Emily Hanford, Alison Jones, Ben Shapiro, Deborah George and Mary Beth Kirchner, American Public Media and North Carolina Public Radio – WUNC, “Put to the Test”
This valuable, balanced story explores the ongoing impact of the No Child Left Behind Act by following two students with poor grades as they become targets for teachers and administrators seeking to comply with the law.
Honorable mention (tie): Bob Edwards, Ariana Pekary, Dan Bloom, Geoffrey Redick and Steve Lickteig, XM Satellite Radio/The Bob Edwards Show, “The Invisible: Children Without Homes”
A story touching many aspects of homelessness, including honest facts about homeless kids hustling and selling drugs to survive, and how homeless young people are disproportionately gay.
Honorable mention (tie): Howard Berkes, Marisa Penaloza, Mathoni Muturi and Andrea de Leon, NPR, “Grief Camp Helps Children Cope With War Losses”
In this breathtaking report, we hear from children who lost fathers in the war; a powerful reminder that for every war death, an equally high toll is taken on the homefront.
TV LONG FORM
Winner: Diane Sawyer, Claire Weinraub, Anna Sims-Phillips, Caroline Borge, Joseph Diaz and Robert Lange, ABC News 20/20, “Waiting on the World to Change”
An extraordinary story about three young children with little else than big dreams in Camden, N.J., this report is at times raw, unfiltered, heartbreaking, depressing and revealing. It’s easy to parachute in, make judgments, and still make a 5 p.m. deadline. This story took a great deal of time and it paid off because we were there for the critical moments. You feel hope when things seem to be turning around and crushed when those opportunities fall through. The focus is on a few characters, but tells a much bigger story.
Runner-up: Roger Weisberg and Tod Lending, Public Policy Productions, “Rosevelt's America”
Roger Weisberg has had a long career chronicling the haves and have-nots in America. This was a fresh and compelling look at the experience of refugees in the United States through the eyes of one family.
Honorable mention: Christina DeFranco, Mark Ciesinski and Gregg Monte, Danolas Productions, “Darkest Hours: The Crisis in Children's Mental Health Care”
This is a difficult but important piece about children’s mental health care, and Christina DeFranco should be lauded for putting it together on a budget that was undoubtedly dwarfed by the resources of larger filmmaking companies.
TV SHORT FORM
Winner: Jeremy Rogalski, Chris Henao, Keith Tomshe and David Raziq, KHOU-TV, “In Harm’s Way”
KHOU should be lauded for pressing a public records request and then pursuing the faces behind the numbers. Well-researched, thoroughly documented, the stories reveal racial bias and other flaws in the state’s child protection system. The station deserves credit for investing the time and effort over months to nail down the story and the series sparked new government oversight and agency action.
Runner-up: Anderson Cooper, Andy Court, Keith Sharman, Jeff Fager, Patti Hassler, Debbie De Luca Sheh, Daniel J. Glucksman and Jonathan Schienberg, CBS News 60 Minutes, “Stop Snitchin’ ”
This piece highlights an institutional and cultural norm that is at odds with our system of justice. Good efforts were made to tell all sides of the story and to humanize the issues presented with a tangible example.
Honorable mention (tie): Roberta Baskin, Sandy Bergo, Pete Hakel, Richard Martin and Kelly Lanzara, WJLA-TV, “Drilling for Dollars”
This is an important story told in an authoritative voice that evokes sympathy for Small Smiles’ victims and disgust toward its management. Those who have come forward to expose the systematic abuse are to be commended for their courage as the I-team deserves recognition for their tenacity and skill in reporting.
Honorable mention (tie): Angie Weidinger and Lex Smith, KSFX News, “Feeding Hungry Children in the Ozarks”
The story looks not only at the problem of childhood hunger, but also at the solutions. The station followed up with a town hall meeting, which was met with great community response.