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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Go behind the scenes with these Casey Medal honorees: