A Washington Post series on the human consequences of welfare reform and an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette investigation of the state’s juvenile justice system tied for first place in the large circulation newspaper category of the 1998 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism, which honor distinguished coverage of disadvantaged children and their families. Seven other first-place awards were made in print and broadcast categories to journalists from The San Jose Mercury News, The Oakland Tribune, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News (Stuart, Fla.), New Times Los Angeles, Nomadic Pictures and KTVU Channel 2 News (Oakland, Ca.).
The reporter’s year-long investigation of the state’s juvenile justice system revealed widespread physical, sexual and emotional abuse suffered by children, and resulted in many reforms. The judges said the reporter’s “tenacity and willingness to look into a horrible juvenile prison system is first-rate journalism. She overcame many obstacles and showed impressive doggedness. It paid off as she got behind the scenes in a system which used confidentiality to protect not the children but itself.”
Two reporters and an editor spent six months exploring the impact of the welfare overhaul on families in the Bay area. The judges praised “the breadth of the undertaking, and the variety of material covered, from potential impacts on immigrants to fathers, and the commitment they made in the reporting and presentation of this critical issue. We were impressed with the way the reporting framed for the public the range of difficulty inherent in reforming welfare.”
A routine neighborhood conversation led a reporter and her newspaper to the discovery of mysterious cancers striking young children at an alarming rate in and around their community. The judges said “the dogged reporting over a long period of time was an extraordinary commitment to good journalism. Since the reporter’s first stories, the newspaper involved more than half of its 54 editorial staffers in the story. It was a real public service and took guts to pursue.”