Contact: Center Director Julie Drizin
2012 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism
“The Journalism Center Announces Winners of 18th Annual Contest”
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (June 28, 2012)--An investigation of violence-plagued public schools. A memorable narrative about an autistic young adult achieving independence. A shocking account of unprosecuted rapes on a Native American reservation. An intensive 360-degree examination of a city’s infant mortality crisis. Fresh and personal stories by youth who are undocumented, coming out as LGBT, or dealing with multiple mental health diagnoses. A series of columns about a surprising epidemic of childhood hunger. An exposé of federally subsidized infant formula in the Women, Infants and Children program. A photographic essay documenting the journey to recovery of a 9-year-old boy blinded by a stray bullet. A stunning video about families struggling to crawl out of debt and despair caused by the recession. An investigation into a murder, a cover-up and widespread sexual assault of young women volunteers in the Peace Corps. An unforgettable series on Native American children forced into foster care. A detailed exploration into the history, science, economics and experience of autism in America.
These are the journalistic efforts that rose to the top in the 2012 competition for Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism about the lives of children, youth and families in the U.S. The Journalism Center on Children and Families received entries from more than 500 reporters, editors, photographers, and producers at 100 news organizations. Among the winners: NPR, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, ABCNews 20/20, WNYC’s Radio Rookies, Harper’s Magazine and Women’s eNews.
Judges sought masterfully reported, compelling stories that cut through compassion fatigue on socially significant topics; demonstrated enterprise and thorough research; and made an impact on policy and people. This year’s content was so powerful and impressive, judges named a record number of runners up and honorable mentions. The complete list of judges is at the end of this release.
The Casey Medals are a project of the Journalism Center on Children and Families at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland. JCCF is funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Twelve winners will receive $1000 at an awards ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on October 18. Two winners will receive additional prizes of $5000 from America’s Promise Alliance.
PROJECT/SERIES: Over 200,000 circulation/unique monthly digital user
WINNER: “Assault on Learning,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, John Sullivan, Susan Snyder, Kristen A. Graham, Dylan Purcell, Jeff Gammage, Mike Leary (ed.) and Rose Ciotta (ed.)
Can children learn if their schools are places where violence and chaos can erupt at any moment? This powerhouse of a series opens with teenage girls smearing Vaseline on their faces and tying their hair back in bandanas to prepare for a fight. Anecdote by anecdote, bureaucratic failure by bureaucratic failure, "Assault on Learning" aggressively exposes the treacherous conditions within Philadelphia public schools -- a state of toxic stress and fear that contributes to the dropout crisis -- as well as the utter ineffectiveness of adults and leaders to stop it. Within five months after reporting began, the superintendent was gone, schools started operating more transparently and the system got serious about reform. This series also spotlighted what was working well at individual schools, showing how positive leadership can create a safe place for children and education. Judges praised the series for its depth of analysis, the successful coordination and editing of so many reporters working on a complicated topic. They wrote,“when mainstream media puts its resources behind an issue, this can be the result.”
RUNNER-UP: “Deadly Day Cares,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nancy Cambria and Matthew Franck (ed.)
A working mother leaves her precious infant with a home-based day care in her neighborhood only to receive a call from police that her baby has been taken to the hospital, unresponsive. A year of investigative work yielded a powerful series about unlicensed, home-based day care providers who were responsible for the deaths of 41 children, yet went unpunished and were allowed to continue operating. The majority of these baby deaths were the result of unsafe sleeping practices; infants were put down for naps on beds, on their bellies, surrounded by suffocating pillows, stuffed animals and other dangers. As a result of this series, bills to enhance safety in childcare settings are under consideration in the Missouri legislature. Judges called the series “gripping” and “effective” and praised the journalist’s sensitivity and her use of social media and old-fashioned reporting to find the families who lost their beloved babies to caregiver and regulatory neglect.
HONORABLE MENTION: "Shattered Families: Thousands of Kids Lost From Parents in U.S. Deportation System," Colorlines, Seth Freed Wessler, Esther Portillo-Gonzales and Kai Wright (ed.)
U.S. policy of cracking down on undocumented immigrants has led to painful separations between children and their parents, and an influx of Latino youth into the foster care system. Judges said this series tackled a huge problem with emotional impact, putting an important issue on the national agenda leading up to a presidential election year. In response to this investigation, California lawmakers have introduced two bills to address family separation as a result of immigration and child welfare policies.
PROJECT/SERIES: Under 200,000 circulation/unique monthly digital users
WINNER: “Empty Cradles,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Journal Sentinel Staff and Greg Borowski (ed.)
Babies born in Botswana stand a better chance of survival than in some Milwaukee neighborhoods. Through a year long commitment, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put the issue of infant mortality under the microscope, exploring the causes and consequences of a complex public health crisis. Judges lauded the newspaper for “throwing resources at a problem hidden in plain view, in order to mobilize its community.” They credited reporters for “eloquent writing and enormous skill and compassion in interviews with bereaved young families” and for integrating science, public health, economics, sociology in their reporting. As result of this series, infant mortality is now high on the city’s agenda: Milwaukee’s mayor set a specific goal to reduce infant mortality and the United Way adopted it as a primary funding area.
RUNNER-UP: “Becoming Katie,” Tulsa (Okla.) World, Cary Aspinwall, Adam Wisneski and Ziva Branstetter (ed.)
In Oklahoma, where a gay teenager committed suicide after being bullied in school, a brave youth -- born a boy -- asserts her right to live freely as her true female self. Her father, a retired Marine Corps and ROTC teacher, refused to be interviewed; but Katie’s mom rises to the challenge and embraces what’s best for her transgender child’s wellbeing. The judges admired the reporter’s graceful work in conveying the angst of adolescence in a touching story that leaves readers feeling hopeful for this young girl’s future. The story cost the Tulsa World some subscribers, but gave voice to a misunderstood minority.
HONORABLE MENTION: “Between Two Worlds,” Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press, Perla Trevizo and John Vass (ed.)
Over two decades, the Guatemalan population in the U.S. Southeast jumped 3,000 percent. This series shined a spotlight on immigration and deportation, through the eyes of young children: those brought here, those left behind, and those returned to their countries of origin by choice or by force. The reporting explores how children raised in the U.S. cope with a transition to life in an impoverished Guatemalan village.
HONORABLE MENTION: “Child Sexual Abuse in the Ultra-Orthodox Community,” The Jewish Week (New York), Hella Winston and Robert Goldblum (ed.)
“Abuse Case Tests Ohel’s Adherence to Reporting Policy”
“Tragedy in Borough Park Puts Shomrim Under Scrutiny”
“New York Ohel Campaign To Bolster Image Questioned”
“In Lakewood Abuse Cases, A Parallel Justice System”
“News of Abuse Arrests Hailed, Questioned”
The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has a long history of handling problems like the sexual abuse of children internally without reporting or cooperating with law enforcement officials. Instead, suspects are subject to a process that involves rabbis, religious tribunals, social workers and community watchdogs. This shadow system ultimately denies justice to victims, casts out whistleblowers and enables perpetrators to continue endangering children. The Jewish Week’s coverage encouraged abuse victims to come forward and spurred mainstream media outlets into action. The judges praised the series for sending a message to ethnic media to be unafraid to air and take on problems in their own communities.
SINGLE ARTICLE: Over 200,000 circulation/unique monthly digital users
WINNER: “Autistic and Seeking a Place in the Adult World,”The New York Times, Amy Harmon and Barbara Graustark (ed.)
How will we as neighbors, employers, co-workers and citizens cope with an entire generation of young people whose brains are wired differently? Through the eyes of Justin Canha, an autistic 20-year-old looking for independence, we see a universe. By taking us deep into one vibrant life, Amy Harmon shows us the challenges autistic young adults face as they come of age, as well as the ways society must evolve to accommodate and integrate differently abled adults. Harmon followed Justin during his last year of public high school in Montclair, N.J., where a community-based program under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act effectively helps him transition to adulthood. Harmon documented Justin’s monumental achievements: learning how to use public transportation, finding a job, and making his first real friend. The judges called this piece “excruciatingly well-written,” and said, “this story is moving and funny and unforgettable and important, and full of the kind of detailed character reporting and grace notes to which more explanatory narratives should aspire.” High school educators told the New York Times they were using the stories to strengthen their supportive transition programs for autistic teens.
RUNNER-UP: “Led by the Child Who Simply Knew,” The Boston Globe, Bella English and Martin Baron (ed.)
Boston Children’s Hospital is the first institution to provide gender management treatment to transgender children at a young age. Through persistence and sensitivity, this reporter gained the trust of a family who allowed her to witness and share the intensely personal journey of their son’s transition to becoming their daughter. The story was the most widely read piece on The Boston Globe website in 2011, with more than one million page views.
HONORABLE MENTION: “Mennonites as Foster Mothers,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, Carolyn Davis
This fresh, off-the-radar story explored the unusual relationship between pregnant (mostly African American) inmates from Philadelphia and deeply religious Mennonite families of central Pennsylvania. Incarcerated mothers skirt the state child welfare system and instead place their newborns -- and their faith -- in private foster care with Mennonite families who live in safe, tight-knit, traditional, rural communities.
SINGLE ARTICLE: Under 200,000 circulation/unique monthly digital users
WINNER: "Infant Formula Companies Milk US Food Program," Women’s eNews and the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, Molly M. Ginty, Corinna Barnard (ed.) and Rita Henley Jensen (ed.)
A meticulous exposé of how industry-sponsored research, lobbying and advertising by infant formula companies have led to a federal government subsidized market for infant formula, despite global consensus on the superior health benefits of breast milk. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program distributes more than half the infant formula sold in the U.S. but the supply provided to new moms is not enough to feed their babies for a full month. As a result, impoverished mothers bear the burden of high out-of-pocket monthly expenses to feed their growing babies. Judges praised this investigation by Women’s eNews as being “in the best tradition of accountability reporting.”
RUNNER-UP: “Saving Mary,” Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press, Pam Sohn and John Vass (ed.)
Retired organizational psychologist Nancy Rus created a Facebook page for a stranger, Mary Cody, an epileptic, disabled and mentally challenged homeless woman she met on a street bench. That Facebook post caught the attention of a local reporter who then spent three months tracking the burgeoning friendship of these two women and uncovering the cruel truths of Mary’s history of abuse at the hands of family and officials. The series led two organizations that serve the homeless to re-evaluate their policies, inspired compassion on the part of readers and rekindled belief in Good Samaritans.
WINNER: “Columns by David Sarasohn,” The (Portland) Oregonian, David Sarasohn and Peter Bhatia (ed.)
"In House Food Cuts, It’s Women and Children First"
"A Growling Stomach Tends to Distract from Learning"
"A Bad Child Hunger Season Leads to Worse Years"
"The Hungry State of Oregon’s Children"
"An Oregon Magazine Cover We’d Rather Cover Up"
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.”
RUNNER-UP: “Diaries of Dreams,” The Orange County (Calif.) Register, Yvette Cabrera
A series of poignant columns illuminated the impact of the nation’s financial crisis on Latino immigrant families who live on the edge of poverty, but still cling to the American dream of upward mobility. Judges praised the author for finding her way to the heart of an economic story and revealing the daily struggles and tough decisions faced by those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
WINNER: “Tiny Little Laws,”Harper’s Magazine and The Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, Kathy Dobie
Dobie’s article tells the story of legal and social dysfunction on a South Dakota Sioux reservation where nearly two-thirds of women are raped and threatened with retaliation, while their rapists roam freely; where hospitals fail to administer rape kits, and where a police dispatcher tells desperate victims of domestic abuse to “hit him back.” The federal government is responsible for prosecuting major crimes in Indian country, but has failed to pursue over 75 percent of the cases brought by the FBI, BIA and tribal police. Victim-survivors may have been denied their day in court, but they did get the chance to testify --to tell their stories -- at kitchen tables, in motel rooms, at corner booths of fast food chains, to a reporter who listened with tremendous empathy. The judges called Dobie’s reporting “diligent and courageous,” and noted “the haunting beauty of her storytelling.”
RUNNER-UP: “An Epidemic of Expulsions,” iWatch News, The Center for Public Integrity, Susan Ferriss, David Donald and Gordon Witkin (ed.)
Schools in Kern County, Calif., expelled more students than anywhere else in the state during the 2010 to 2011 academic year. This high poverty district more often kicked students out for using bad language and disrupting class than for bringing drugs or weapons to school. The reporter found cases of exaggerated charges, and undocumented parents too frightened to challenge a system that meted out punishments disproportionate to the infractions. Judges praised this project for its impressive combination of shoe-leather reporting and data gathering, the mainstays of great journalism.
HONORABLE MENTION: “Slumlords, Shoddy Oversight, Tax Dollars…Living on Section 8,” The Advertiser Democrat (Norway, Maine), A.M. Sheehan and Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
What began with questions about a frightening fire that gutted a low-income building became a full-scale, door-knocking investigation into squalid conditions in rural Maine apartments that are federally subsidized with Section 8 housing vouchers. This series demonstrates the power and dogged determination of a small newspaper with a staff of three and a circulation of 6,500 to help right a community wrong. Inspectors wrote up citations; some landlords were dropped from the Section 8 program and elected officials raised a stink. The judges said, “The country needs more of this kind of hyperlocal reporting.”
NEW CATEGORY: YOUTH MEDIA
WINNER: “Coming of Age in 2011,” WNYC Radio Rookies, Beatrice Aquino, Tim Brown-Martinez, Brianna Fugate, Michael Jacobson, Alicia Martinez, Jimmy Musa, Kaari Pitkin, Sanda Htyte, Marianne McCune, Courtney Stein, Veralyn Williams and Mike Jones
"Coming of Age in 2011" is a compelling look at youth identity, weaving personal narrative with outside perspectives on issues as diverse -- and real -- as a family’s immigration status, a teen’s mental health diagnoses, a journey through the foster care system and the process of coming out as LGBT. Radio Rookies reports aren’t sugar-coated tales of triumph over adversity, but illuminating self-portraits of how bright kids get stuck in situations that aren’t working for them or their futures. Judges remarked, “It's a rare treat to listen to a first-person narrative that moves you; it's even rarer to find storytellers who are brave enough to confront their own issues and face other people who may not always tell them what they want to hear.”
RUNNER-UP: “Domestic Silence: Revisited,” The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, Alex Stuckey
Ohio promised to make a serious effort to reduce domestic violence, but as the enterprising young reporter found, the state failed to make good on its promises. This series was an in-depth exploration of how and why partner abuse is so often overlooked and underreported. The judges praised reporter Alex Stuckey for her use of data, her compelling narratives, and her persistence in tracking down lawyers and judges and county commissioners. They wrote, “Stuckey wrote fairly and with just the right amount of outrage.”
HONORABLE MENTION: “My Headscarf Cover-Up,” New Youth Connections, Anonymous and Luisa Tucker (ed.)
An anonymous young reporter’s battle with her father about wearing a traditional headscarf is symbolic of the larger, and deeply personal, issue of identity for a Muslim-American young woman.
WINNER: “A Stray Bullet, A Shattered Life,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, April Saul
A playful 9-year-old, walking home to feed his parakeets, was shot and blinded by a bullet meant for someone else. April Saul’s photographic narrative documents the struggles of Jorge Cartagena and his family who were traumatized by gun violence in the streets of Camden, N.J. As a result of this coverage, a local charity helped Jorge move to a new house in a safer neighborhood, readers donated money and the Camden Police Chief became the boy’s friend and mentor. Judges praised April Saul’s ability to capture youthful innocence, tender childhood moments and the real uphill battle facing a boy forced to grow up too soon. Judges wrote, “The words alone would be powerful. So would the photos. Together, they allow the reader to live the aftermath of a terrible tragedy. Anybody who reads this article, and looks at the photos, will find it impossible to take the easy road we all choose -- putting the people hurt by violence aside as ‘statistics.’”
RUNNER-UP: “An Unending Battle: A Military Family’s Struggle with Traumatic Brain Injury,” The Dallas Morning News, Lara Solt
For most of us, war does not come closer than cable TV news. But Lara Solt forces us to confront the human horrors of war by taking us into the daily life of a U.S. soldier who returns home a broken, damaged shadow of his former self, and the loyal, loving family who must cope with the monumental level of care he requires. The judges lauded Solt’s riveting images for enabling us to “feel what it is like to live a life ravaged by 3,000 pounds of explosives...it’s a painful, poignant visit.”
WINNER: “Discovering Autism,” Los Angeles Times, LA Times staff
The mysterious explosion in autism cases over the last two decades has raised many questions about the causes of this poorly understood condition. The Los Angeles Times reviewed the scientific literature, interviewed dozens of experts and profiled nine diverse local families who share the love, pain, frustration and pride they feel for their autistic children. The series included a map of autism rates around the U.S., a timeline of key historic moments, and an interactive tool that explains how autism diagnoses are made. The judges called the series “a true public service” and said the reporting offered an early glimpse into the emerging politics and economics of autism diagnosis and treatment.
RUNNER-UP: “Autism, Growing Up,” The New York Times, Amy Harmon, Sean Patrick Farrell, Josh Williams, Kassie Bracken and Fred Conrad
What happens to children diagnosed as autistic who grow up and seek to live as independent adults? Reporter Amy Harmon’s two-part series breaks new ground by looking at the next chapter of autism. These compelling narratives lucidly share the simple, yet remarkable experiences of unique individuals who learn to find work -- and find love -- in a world that doesn’t quite understand their alternate experience of reality. How does a young couple achieve intimacy when one partner doesn’t like affection while the other needs strong touch? Harmon’s stories are embedded with video clips and artwork enabling the reader to understand the thought processes of her characters, revealing the challenges and charms of these brilliant, honest and fascinating autistic young adults. “Taken together,” the judges remarked, “these multimedia narratives begin as stories and become unforgettable experiences.”
HONORABLE MENTION: “Empty Cradles,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Journal Sentinel Staff and Greg Borowski (ed.)
"Empty Cradles" is an ambitious project that models modern public service journalism by providing a wealth of tools readers and influencers can tap to understand infant mortality rates. The use of data and interactives to supplement the personal stories appeals both to the reader's heart and mind.
The Journal Sentinel used its multimedia capacity to provide important information on how to avoid sleep-related infant deaths and other preventable high-risk threats to infants and premature-birth children, including lesson plans for high schools and prevention videos for health clinics.
HONORABLE MENTION: “Getting In,” The Boston Globe, James Vaznis, Stephanie Ebbert, Jenna Russell, Akilah Johnson, Patricia Wen, Meghan E. Irons, Maria Sacchetti, Andrew Ryan, Darren Durlach, Lauren Frohne, Scott LaPierre, Monica Ulmanu, Tom Giratikanon, Grant Staublin, John Tlumacki, Aram Boghosian and Martin Baron (ed.)
Parents of all backgrounds wait with hope, anxiety and anticipation for the official letter from Boston public schools informing them which kindergarten their child will attend. This project brought this shared experience to life through original reporting on a subject of great interest and concern to families. Cleverly produced videos introduced viewers to a compelling cast of characters. The series explained the mathematic algorithm behind school assignment and included an innovative mapping tool that traced the divergent daily bus commutes from students who lived on a single block but attended different schools.
WINNER: "Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families," NPR, Laura Sullivan, Amy Walters, Barbara Van Woerkom, Alicia Cypress, Alyson Hurt, Nate Rott, Quinn Ford, John Poole, Susanne Reber (ed.), Steve Drummond (ed.), Keith Jenks (ed.) and Jonathan Kern (ed.)
This outstanding investigation reveals the troubling financial incentive that’s fueling the placement of hundreds of Native American children in foster care. The practice is a disturbing echo of the past, when the U.S. government routinely pulled Native youth from their families and forced them to attend boarding schools. The stories of adults who return home after being sent away to foster care illuminate the human toll on Indian tribes whose very survival depends on children knowing their relatives and learning their culture. The judges said, “This series epitomizes what radio does best: Get into your head, into your heart, under your skin in a way that other media just can't.” In response to the series, U.S. lawmakers demanded action from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other federal agencies.
RUNNER-UP (tie): “Our 9/11,” WNYC Radio Rookies, Norhan Basuni, Brendan Illis, Eric Leinung, Erin Reeg, Joey Rizzolo, Jillian Suarez, Brooke Gladstone, Sanda Htyte, Marianne McCune, Kaari Pitkin, Ben Shapiro, Courtney Stein, Chris Bannon, Karen Frillmann, Mike Jones and John DeLore
In a crowded field of documentary coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Radio Rookies offers a fresh and diverse collection of voices, experiences, and memories from young people who lived through the terror, the profound grief, and the dramatic changes to their ways of life.
RUNNER-UP (tie): “Post Mortem: The Child Cases,” NPR, PBS Frontline and ProPublica, NPR personnel: Joseph Shapiro, Sandra Bartlett, Coburn Dukehart, John Poole, Susanne Reber, Keith Jenkins, Barbara Van Woerkom, Nelson Hsu, Aly Hurt, Stephanie D'Otreppe, Alicia Cypress, Anne Hawke, and Katrine Elk; ProPublica personnel: A.C. Thompson, Chisun Lee, Marshall Allen, Aarti Shahani, Mosi Secret, Krista Kjellman Schmidt, Al Shaw, Jennifer LaFleur and Robin Fields; Frontline personnel: Lowell Bergman, Carl Byker, Andres Cediel, Arun Rath, Raney Aronson-Rath, David Fanning and Catherine Upin; California Watch Personnel: Ryan Gabrielson
This series uncovers how a justice system that relies on tainted medical evidence and flawed conclusions from the coroner can condemn innocent people in prison for the worst of all possible crimes: the murder of a child. A grim topic explored in depth and without sensationalism, the series found that almost always, accused parents and caregivers are poor people of color, whose families are irreparably destroyed by heinous allegations and wrongful convictions. In addition, NPR found the physician who coined the term “Shaken Baby Syndrome,” who at age 95 admitted he was troubled to see his diagnosis used in murder cases.
HONORABLE MENTION: “The Heavy Burden of Childhood Obesity,” WAMU Public Radio (Washington, D.C.), Kavitha Cardoza, Ginger Moored and Rebecca Blatt (ed.)
A series with powerful relevance and immediacy explores the complex relationship between poor nutrition and access to healthy foods in low-income communities.
VIDEO: LONG FORM
WINNER: “Peace Corps: A Trust Betrayed,” ABC News 20/20, Brian Ross, Anna Schecter, Angela Hill, Craig Matthew, Tom Marcyes, Jack Pyle, Mark Schone, Rhonda Schwartz and David Sloan
A 10-month investigation into the murder of Peace Corps volunteer Kate Puzey in Benin, Africa uncovered the Peace Corps’ shocking failure to protect young women volunteers who were victims of sexual assault. The highly revered and respected agency showed callous disregard for women, routinely holding them responsible for their rapes and refusing to pursue prosecutions in order to keep the peace. Brian Ross and his team traveled to Africa to solve the murder of Kate Puzey, sensitively interviewed rape survivors who recounted their experiences, and confronted Peace Corps leaders with evidence of the agency’s malfeasance and pattern of cover-ups. This story prompted Congressional hearings and a new law requiring the Peace Corps to protect whistleblowers, hire victims’ advocates and provide better training to reduce the risk of sexual assault. One judge said the story “renewed my faith in investigative journalism on the network level.”
RUNNER-UP: “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story,” ITVS, Daniel Birman
This unforgettable documentary follows a child-like teenager -- a sexual abuse survivor --who was tried and convicted for the execution-style murder of a man who paid her for sex. Filmmaker Dan Birman spent six years unraveling the truth of Cyntoia’s dysfunctional life and the multi-generational lethal combination of poverty, violence, substance abuse, neglect and untreated mental illness that led her to pull the trigger. The film raises important questions about incarceration versus rehabilitation of juveniles Cyntoia’s journal entries reflect a profound level of self-awareness and a personal commitment to do something with her life behind bars. Judges called the work, “gut-wrenching” and “unflinching.”
HONORABLE MENTION: “Drugs in the System,” PBS Need to Know and The Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, Sarah Fitzpatrick and Mar Cabra
An eight-month investigation revealed that children, especially those in foster care, were being prescribed powerful medications in combinations that left them lethargic and morose. Foster kids in U.S. were receiving antipsychotic drugs at nine times the rate of other children in the Medicaid system. Adoptive and foster parents detailed the monumental challenges they faced weaning their children off of meds in order to get to know the real child and enable them to develop a healthy attachment. This story made a sizable splash, leading to a Government Accountability Office reports and hearings on Capitol Hill. Judges praised the reporting for being “voice for the voiceless.”
VIDEO: SHORT FORM
WINNER: “A Lasting Toll,” Los Angeles Times, Katie Falkenberg and Mary Vignoles (ed.)
Americans are still struggling to regain their footing in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. This stunningly beautiful, intimate look at the impact of the recession on a range of families reveals the strain on relationships of rapid downward mobility and snowballing personal debt. It shows that no matter what their educational or socio-economic standing, any family could end up in the same place—in financial, emotional and psychological despair.
RUNNER-UP: “To Adopt A Child,” PBS Need to Know, The Pulitzer Center and The Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, Habiba Nosheen, Lisa Desai, Anup Kaphle and Brenda Breslauer
A fascinating look at the risks on both sides of the foreign adoption equation and the emotional toll on families of fraudulent agencies, lax government oversight and disregard for child welfare. Especially impressive was the reporting that allowed viewers to meet the family of a little girl put up for adoption even though her birth parents were searching for her. An impressively fair and balanced approach that included multiple viewpoints.
HONORABLE MENTION: “A Thousand More,” MediaStorm, Kristina Budelis, Piotr Malecki, Jeff Rhode, Rick Gershon, Eric Maierson, and Brian Storm
Produced from start to finish over a single week, this piece is a magnificent, nuanced and soulful story about a family’s devotion to their child who is living with a fatal genetic disease. An inspiring and memorable account that gives the viewer the time and space to breathe and think and smile and cry.
The judges for this years contest included: Marisol Bello, USA Today; Lori Beecher, Executive Producer for Katie Couric; Pieter Bickford, WHAG-TV; Dan Collison*, public radio producer, Long Haul Productions; KJ Dell’Antonia, New York Times Motherlode blogger/editor; Rachel Dretzin*, Ark Media, documentary producer; Michelle Garcia, independent video producer, Latino Public Broadcasting; Sarah Glover, former Philadelphia Daily News & Inquirer photojournalist; LynNell Hancock, author and professor of journalism, Columbia University; Kenny Irby, photojournalist, faculty, Poynter Institute and JCCF Advisory Board member; Sue Kopen-Katcef, director, Maryland Newsline, Merrill College faculty; Peggy Lewis, faculty, Howard University School of Communications; Mark Luckie, creative content manager for Journalism at Twitter; Beth Macy*, Roanoke Times; Doris Nhan, National Journal; Stanton Paddock, Ph.D candidate, Merrill College; Raul Ramirez, executive director KQED-FM News & Public Affairs; Nadia Reiman, producer, Futuro Media/Latino USA; Michele Remillard, executive producer, C-SPAN; Cindy Rich, National Center on Children & Families, former senior writer, Washingtonian; Rebecca Roberts, substitute host on NPR and WAMU; Lynda Robinson, social issues/projects editor, Washington Post; Jeffrey Rosenberg, Crosby Communications and JCCF Advisory Board member; Bruce Shapiro, Dart Center on Journalism & Trauma, Columbia University; Laura Sessions Stepp, author and JCCF Advisory Board member; John Stoehr, editor, New Haven Advocate, writing professor at Yale University; Cathy Trost, vice president, Exhibits, Newseum, founding director Casey Journalism Center; John Watson, faculty, American University School of Communication; Paige Williams*, Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard University; Leonard Witt, Center for Sustainable Journalism, Kennesaw State (JJIE.org); John Yang, NBC News, Rock Center with Brian Williams
*Casey Medal honorees
AMERICA’S PROMISE FOURTH ANNUAL JOURNALISM AWARDS
In 2009, America’s Promise Alliance joined with the Journalism Center on Children & Families to launch its first annual journalism awards for excellence in coverage of youth issues. The America’s Promise Journalism Awards honor journalists whose work helps raise national awareness about the needs of the young and inspire communities to put the needs of children and youth first. Two recipient receive a $5,000 prize from the Alliance in addition to receiving the Casey medal. Winners are announced at the awards dinner in October.