The Boston Globe’s examination of a state’s failure to save a young girl from a life of neglect; KOLR-TV’s (Springfield, Mo.) remarkable three-year journey to tell the story of one young man trapped in a nursing home for the elderly; and the Akron Beacon Journal’s series on the economic story of our time are among the winners of the 2009 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism. The medals are presented by the Journalism Center on Children & Families and funded by The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
USA Today spent eight months investigating the impact of industrial pollution on the air outside schools and its toxic effect on children. The project deserves top recognition for its commitment to a demanding, nationwide investigation as well as its exemplary use of database and computer-assisted reporting. The team used the government’s own database and research and then mobilized their own resources to gather comprehensive data on air quality to analyze exposure and toxicity. The project is a prime example of both public service journalism and classic investigative reporting.
This series on the poultry industry pulls the curtain back on many hidden issues: worker safety, industrial food production, immigration violations and lax government oversight. The Observer’s team spent 22 months analyzing government safety data, reviewing thousands of pages of documents and interviewing more than 200 poultry workers, many of whom were undocumented workers and afraid to speak out. By holding the powerful accountable, The Charlotte Observer’s enterprising investigation shows why strong local newspapers are so vital.
Vivid, on-the-ground portraits of real people illustrate the plight of families driven into bankruptcy and other economic hardships with razor sharp clarity. The project gains power from the use of narrative techniques, including scenes and dialogue, to illustrate the struggle of declining wages, rising health care costs, soaring tuition and shrinking retirement funds. An extraordinary undertaking and an innovative approach to making a complicated story into one that brims with insight and humanity.
This heartbreaking story endears 14-year-old Acia Johnson to strangers who have never met her. Acia and her sister lived a life of neglect in a troubled home, ultimately dying in a house fire. Once emotionally connected, readers are primed to grasp the shortcomings of the state’s system for protecting its children – usually from the children’s own family. Letters to the editor and an investigation of Acia’s case by the state’s new Child Advocate show the impact of this moving story. The piece brings home the tragedy not only of Acia’s life, but also those of countless children like her.
“Mental illness is an insidious form of identity theft, erasing one future and replacing it with another,” writes Smith in this powerful tale that brings home the nightmare of families who try to navigate one state’s broken mental health care system. The writing is original, compelling and clear. The story deftly moves from a wrenching narrative of a mother grieving for her tormented son, to a news peg of a recent shooting spree, to explanatory reporting on overtaxed state resources.
Carmichael’s article on Max Blake, a 10-year-old boy with bipolar disorder, is moving and vivid. She didn’t blink or look away from the difficulties faced by Max and his parents: the strain on their marriage, their struggles to love him, the limitations of his future and the degree to which he pushes the limits of what a child can expect from his parents. Carmichael clearly spent the kind of time with Max and his family that enables a reporter to write with insight and close-to-the-ground detail.
This is the epitome of public service journalism. The Long Island Press made a commitment to educating its community about a growing heroin epidemic among young people. The team simultaneously reveals a hidden scourge and a disturbing truth about the community at large. The series exposes wrongdoing and deception by school administrators, who stonewalled the reporters and put their schools’ reputations above student health. Readers see the problem from all angles – through the eyes of kids, parents, schools and cops. The story did what the best stories do: It galvanized an entire community to take action.
Classic, beautiful photography that covers one of today’s greatest issues – health care – but also gives it a face. These photographs capture the struggle to stay healthy endured by so many, as Williamson photographs the hundreds of uninsured and underinsured Americans who flocked to an annual 3-day free field hospital in Wise County, Va. He is both documentarian and witness: His wrenching pictures cover the scope of activity, yet portray the hope and expectation in the eyes of the patients. Ultimately, the photographs capture the intensely personal moments that offer the insight needed to better understand this crisis.
This series about palliative care is innovative; it may be a photojournalistic first. It is not just a story about death; it is about the way people die and how some special people care for the terminally ill. The photojournalist covered all of her bases in this solid and carefully documented work. Hebert did an incredible job gaining access to this story, and then to get so close - perhaps closer to the subject than any of us want to be – speaks to the trust she was able to earn.
A brilliantly structured presentation on the challenges facing a region and its aging population. By documenting the stories of caregivers, patients and families, the multimedia project is a great balance of narrative and user utility – not an easy thing to achieve. The incorporation of numerous social networking sites demonstrates a creative use of the medium to tell an important story.
These first person stories personalize the foster care system and the challenges facing the children within. Each reporter is a teen who has been, as they say, ‘in the system.’ The writing, narration and production are emblematic of superb radio journalism. To give voice to these teen reporters is to give voice to the thousands of other kids who find themselves in that very same system: aging out, finding a home, or finding a place in the world.
This is an example of local television at its best, helping real people who do not deserve terrible treatment and cannot advocate for themselves. Sade Lopez, a 15-year-old boy, was trapped in a nursing home for the elderly and mentally ill – simply because he was deaf. Because the state of Missouri would not allow Weidinger to interview Lopez as a minor, she literally waited three years for him to grow up. The power of her work and her tenacity is admirable.
Compelling stories and fluid story-telling drive this sharp documentary on the lack of affordable health care. The issue affects so many in this country and has been told so often, but Public Policy Productions reports these harrowing tales in an extraordinarily intimate way. The program offered comprehensive follow-up materials through community engagements and lesson plans; the availability of online materials and tie-ins to the 2008 presidential campaign; and a mash-up map that enables viewers to locate health services for the uninsured in their area.
Go behind the scenes with these Casey Medal honorees: