A compelling body of reporting and writing over four months about an ongoing, yet little-known, problem: child hunger in a state that is more associated with tall pines and clear water than empty bellies. Sarasohn put a human face on a shocking statistic and illustrated the real social cost of hunger. The judges praised his columns for their many “stick in your stomach” lines; such as, “If your stock goes down, it may come back up. If you lose your job, you may get another. But if you spend fourth grade wondering if it’s time for lunch yet, you never get that back.”
James Warren masterfully flexes his journalistic muscles, old-school style, in his Chicago News Cooperative columns on the effects of the recession on families. His work is heavily reported, sprinkling in quotes and first-person observation with the depressing facts of economic hardship. While his columns don’t result in tidy solutions — even the most well-meaning policymaker is not going to immediately end the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression — readers come away better informed about the real-life struggles taking place every day on the social services front.
The series explores the challenges of interstate child protection cases through the lens of one person’s difficult, but ultimately successful, quest to get his daughter back home. Bailey takes a careful, respectful approach to Johnny Smith’s family in a challenging atmosphere, yet doesn’t downplay the criticisms of Smith’s home by New York child protective officials. He charts this case every step of the way, leaving no question unasked – or unanswered. In the wake of Bailey’s series, Johnny Smith was granted custody of his daughter, and in late May, Bailey wrote in a follow-up column that the South Carolina Department of Social Services has revamped how it will handle the federal law in the future.
The authors are academics, but there’s nothing pedantic about this frank, no-nonsense appraisal of an oft-repeated fallacy about single-sex education. All four entries tackle distinct themes, but the common thread is debunking gender stereotypes that are harmful to boys as well as girls.
These editorials expose the heartbreaking challenges of an Indianapolis high school struggling with a low graduation rate and high poverty. Tully doesn’t sugarcoat the problems, but he inspires the readers by conveying the will and drive of all the people trying to help Manual High, from teachers and students to administrators and police. His unprecedented access to students and staff is revealed in the way the stories unfold like a day-to-day view of life. In response to the series, community leaders donated tens of thousands of dollars, the district cracked down on student misbehavior and volunteers reached out to vulnerable students.
The national education reform debate has placed charters under intense scrutiny, and this enterprising year-long project informs the public more than a study ever could. The powerful and compelling editorials bear witness to the successes and shortcomings of one Green Dot Charter School. In response, the Los Angeles Unified School District developed a charter school plan modeled after Green Dot.
By combining local, state and federal data with personal, compelling stories, the series reveals how close even middle-class Oregonians are to going hungry. Sarasohn laudably reported from local food pantries and school lunchrooms and dug deep into the records of policymakers in Oregon and Washington, D.C.
These columns highlight family issues in a powerful, poignant way. Shellenbarger’s columns not only show how public policy needs to reflect the concerns of children, but also provide solid advice for parents, such as her column on how the economic downturn affects children. The column on the debt burden on young adults is a must-read for parents of college-age children who are adjusting to doing their own finances. Her writing is graceful, her points sharp, her solutions sensible.
A fresh approach to how one school tries to balance the needs of its community with its efforts to comply with No Child Left Behind. Francisco took the time to examine what it means when a school doesn’t meet federal standards. By taking readers inside a struggling elementary school that is trying to overcome the odds, Francisco offers a remarkable opportunity to understand the teachers, staff and 150 immigrant and refugee children who struggle with poverty and grasping the English language.
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.
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.
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
This well-argued set of editorials details how the state and federal government reneged on a promise to support foster kids striving to attend college and live independently. The wake-up campaign got results: It convinced Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Legislature to significantly increase investments in the state’s foster care system.
In-depth reporting shows how dysfunction in the state’s juvenile justice detention system sets back troubled kids; it also helps readers see how they can help.
Ahern uses old-fashioned shoe leather to immerse herself in her community and writes eloquently about public policies that sometimes worsen situations for already-disadvantaged individuals.
In a society where newspapers (and the people who write and edit them) are supposedly becoming more irrelevant, this series shows why there is still no substitute for enterprising reporting and pointed, well-written journalism. These powerfully argued editorials pierced the reality of inexcusable conditions inside the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.
This series on misleading dropout data peddled by Indianapolis Public Schools represents a sterling example of accountability journalism. Well written and beautifully packaged, with real voices and graphics that add to the powerful impact of the editorials themselves.
A harrowing saga of crime and punishment, meticulously reported and compellingly written.
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.
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.
Lewis' work is remarkable for its consistently thoughtful, engaging and informed analyses of education policy.
Ramos spent a year reporting and writing editorials that probe Louisiana’s problem-ridden juvenile justice system. He illustrates, by example and also wide-angle reporting, that the state’s policies have been both expensive and ineffective; the prisons are ill-equipped to provide the rehabilitative services these youths so desperately need. His work produced significant reforms in a state where powerful district attorneys and corrections officials had long resisted change.
Mary Engel, Los Angeles Times, “Standing up to Street Gangs.” Engel expertly balances vivid reporting, contextual analysis and well-focused advocacy in calling for an examination of methods to prevent violence among street gangs in Los Angeles.
Freedberg’s persuasive series on advertising in children’s lives provided a roadmap for parent involvement and influenced the California Legislature to ban the sale of sodas in schools.
Ahearn is a wonderful stylist who writes with authority and brings readers to her work in an engaging, accessible way. Hers is the work of a journalist interested in reportorial discovery, and her reporting is superb. She's on the street, investing shoeleather, sticking notes in screen doors, talking to real people and listening to what they say. She obviously knows these stories before she ever touches a keyboard.
Lundstrom kept a watchful eye on how the new law concerning abandoned babies played out in California. With punchy, concise writing that doesn't dwell on the maudlin, she made an effective case for why $1 million might have helped prevent a spate of baby abandonments in her state. The ultimately allocated funds, while not a panacea, surely were in part a result of her persistent prodding.