The Rocky Mountain News’s penetrating examination of dropouts; Mother Jones’ thorough investigation of the overmedication of children in state-run institutions; the Kindling Group’s longform portrait of a woman assisting pregnant teens; and The Commercial Appeals’ revealing stories and photographs about Memphis’ hidden crisis in infant deaths were among the winning stories in the 2006 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism contest
This enlightening, comprehensive package may be the most precise and nuanced statistical portrait of dropouts that has yet been done in a big-city school system. The articles effectively illuminate some of the economic and cultural factors buffeting individual choices, while continually emphasizing what is at stake: the future of flawed, complex, promising kids.
“Born to Die” is classic journalism. The newspaper identified a local problem of national importance: Memphis was home to the worst infant mortality rate in the nation, and many of those dying were babies of color. The reporting was terrific, powered by sharp details; the writing was spare and direct. The writer got at the root causes, found a creative way to bring it home not only to Memphis, but to a specific community and made it difficult for readers to turn away.
Deep, powerful reporting and writing about the ravages of alcohol at the Pine Ridge reservation and how the disease has been tearing apart the Lakota tribe. The reporters placed a lot of their attention on the young generation struggling to succeed. This series could have devolved into stereotypes, but the reporters always treated the reservation residents with dignity, and approached them as vulnerable human beings.
An unsparing, searing account of a single child custody case that illustrates the tenuous nature of life in the underclass, and the obstacles confronting both parents and those charged with ensuring child welfare. The sustained nature of the two-year reporting focus was the key to the drama of the story; the reporter didn't know whether he would be telling a story of tragedy or triumph, but simply showed the unraveling of the couple's hopes to be reunited with their child.
A shining example of how a tenacious reporter can make a significant difference in her community and her state. Upshaw recognized a good story when she started working on a standard follow-up to a brief about a girl's death. Through dogged reporting she ultimately discovered that problems at a youth services center most likely contributed to the neglect of Keisha Brown, who died after complaining of health problems. Impressive impact on the state legislature and agencies.
The ups and downs of becoming a “parent” for the second time come through loud and clear in this story. There is a lot here: The story gets deeply into the life of the main character and thoroughly documents the scope of the phenomenon of grandparents raising kids, and offers resources for those who want help. And the writer lets grandma Bonnie Wozniak show readers what it’s like raising two young girls in a Britney Spears culture.
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.
Waters' diligent reporting and clear explanatory prose take the reader through a series of little-known worlds, where concerns about overmedication of children and pharmaceutical companies' influence are silenced.
The paper’s commitment to covering -- and uncovering -- the story of how a sect of fundamentalist Mormon polygamists took over a town didn’t just make for compelling reading, it was important work, revealing shockingly widespread sexual abuse, pedophilia and misuse of public funds that had gone on for years. This body of work shows lots of shoe-leather and determination.
Focht’s photographs on infant mortality and premature babies dissected this important issue in a visually intimate way. By spending a great deal of time with her subjects, she was able to create intimate and beautiful portraits of pain and hope. Her images helped bring attention to how young, African-American mothers were being affected by a trend that few people in or out of government fully understood. This is the highest form of photojournalism: images that prick the conscience and encourage action.
This superbly reported and edited series brings listeners into the lives of people living on the edge of economic security and illuminates their daily struggles. The range of stories provides a profound understanding of the issues facing people living at or below the poverty level. And 150 listener e-mails for this local station is nothing to sneeze at -- and since audio segments will be used by local teachers, the series’ impact continues to reverberate within the community
McDermott and Nakasone’s four-part series on the Indiana foster care system begins with a harrowing scene: Police and caseworkers have come to the home of woman who has tested positive for drug abuse. In the dark of the night, they carry the woman’s child away. The harrowing part is not just the removal, it’s the underlying reality: A shortage of foster care homes means the caseworkers are not sure where this child will end up.
With compassion, clarity and a keen eye for detail, the producers portray the efforts of Loretha Weisinger, a doula (or childbirth educator), to guide and empower teen mothers on Chicago’s West side. Her daily rounds become a prism through which we come to understand teen pregnancy and a lot more. Impossible to forget hours after watching it -- the mark of a great tale.