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15 Awards Honor Excellence by McClatchy Journalists

Released 02/13/2007

A total of 15 McClatchy President's Awards have been given to journalists at 13 of the company's news organizations. The awards recognize outstanding work from the second half of 2006. Three different newsrooms captured two prizes each in the contest, with overall winners spanning from Anchorage to Miami.

The Miami Herald, The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., and The Kansas City Star each received two awards in the competition, which recognizes the best work at McClatchy newsrooms twice each year. Newspaper newsrooms and online journalists at 10 other McClatchy operations won awards, as well.

"These award winners demonstrated an extraordinary range of subjects and appeared in different forms on many platforms, but all were united by high standards of excellence and professionalism," said Howard Weaver, McClatchy's vice president for news. "Journalists nowadays need to be able to tell stories in print and online, to combine skills ranging from video production to database mining. The outstanding projects demonstrated all that, and more."

One award went to two newspapers for a collaborative effort. The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer worked together in producing "The Ghosts of 1898," an unvarnished history of white supremacists' successful overthrow of an elected multiracial government in Wilmington, N.C. The papers also examined their own complicity in the events and included editorials apologizing for the role they played.

The Miami Herald was recognized for "House of Lies," an investigation that led to numerous firings within the local public housing agency and the arrest of a prominent local developer; and "Children of the Americas," a haunting portrait of children trapped by neglect and poverty across Latin America. In addition to the shared prize with The Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer won for an extensive online presentation focused on a major exhibit of Monet paintings that came to the city. At The Kansas City Star, an investigation that showed how selling gasoline at higher temperatures resulted in about $2 billion in excessive charges won an award and so did an innovative online effort, the “Crime Scene KC” blog on KansasCity.com.

The Anchorage Daily News won for an impressive, yearlong print and online report examining the changing demographic face of the city; The Beaufort Gazette in South Carolina won for a series on young women becoming Marines at Paris Island; the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Ga., chronicled and celebrated a local team that won the Little League World Series; the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas won for a long-running online parody using staff talent to voice weekly chronicles of the Dallas Cowboys football exploits; The Fresno Bee in California won for a commemorative magazine focused on the county’s 150th anniversary; The Island Packet in Hilton Head, S.C., discovered that municipal courts were illegally allowing people with traffic citations to avoid state penalties, thereby ending the practice; a reporter following a hunch at The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C., led to a prize-winning exposé of abuses at a local nonprofit; and The Sacramento Bee's online portrait of a camp for obese teens likewise won a President's Award.

Outside judges for this round of awards were Dawn Garcia, deputy director of the John S. Knight Fellowships at Stanford University; and Chris Lopez, former editor of the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, Calif. They were joined in the judging by Howard Weaver, McClatchy vice president, news.

Here are the award winners, judges comments and related internet links, where available.

The Miami Herald
"House of Lies"
Reporter Debbie Cenziper

The Miami Herald started writing about the Miami-Dade housing Agency in late July, and seven of its top managers were fired while the series was still running. "House of Lies" was aptly titled; as the meticulous, sweeping reporting made clear, the nation's sixth largest such agency was being run with both lethargy and larceny. Community outrage was the first reaction to the paper’s revelations; arrests and firings soon followed. Cenziper touched a deep community chord and gave victims reason to hope that the scandalized system might actually be reformed. This was a watchdog working overtime in the public interest.

The Miami Herald
"Children of the Americas"
Newsroom Team

Miami thinks of itself as the capital of Latin America, and in reporting with tenderness, insight and outrage about the plight of children of the Americas, the paper showed again how it serves as the conscience of the region. Closely observed portraits of children in unimaginable circumstances from the slums of Haiti, Tegucigalpa and Buenos Aires came to life through the words of gifted writers and the eyes of exceptional photographers in this compelling, universal appeal to decency on behalf of generations being lost to crime, poverty and neglect.

Sacbee.com/The Sacramento Bee
"The Weight”
Multimedia Editor Manny Crisostomo

Anyone who wonders whether America's newspapers have the talent, ambition and willingness to embrace new storytelling techniques and platforms should simply take a look at Crisostomo’s tour de force online project. Employing astonishing range -- still photography, video, audio recordings and music performed by participants in the story -- Crisostomo tells arresting, illuminating stories of teens in one of the country's only residential programs for obese teens. No matter what the technique, it was his capacity to get close, build trust and tell deeply personal stories that made this such great journalism.

The Kansas City Star
"Hot Fuel…Cold Cash"
Reporter Steve Everly

The Kansas City Star's investigation is compelling and consequential consumer watchdog reporting at its best. Writing about a subject that touches the wallets of nearly all Americans – how gasoline is unfairly priced, measured and sold -- the paper first illustrated the abuse and then dissected the excuses for it. The problem may indeed be one of physics, but reporter Steve Everly made the issue and its impact plain and simple, and in doing so may well have triggered reforms that can end a multibillion dollar abuse.

KansasCity.com/The Kansas City Star
"Crime Scene KC" Blog
Database Editor/Blogger Greg Reeves

This is my new favorite bookmark. The newspaper is right in that this blog creates an audience. Who doesn't like to read about strange but true crime, as this blog so interestingly flushes out not just in Kansas City but across the country? But the blog is more than weird crime stories. It's interactive; it provides useful crime data for the Kansas City area; and it renders a service to the community. Reeves is to be commended for creating and developing this blog. Every newspaper in the country should have some sort of crime blog on its website, whether it’s simply the local police blotter or something as developed as The Kansas City Star's.

The Island Packet
"Ticket Deals Halted"
Reporter Daniel Brownstein

In prosperous Bluffton, S.C., nearly every municipal court session saw dozens of drivers lined up to take advantage of a deal that seemed too good to be true: exchanging the state traffic citations they had been issued for "town tickets" that cost a little more but mattered a great deal less. By paying higher fines that raised more revenue for the town, drivers could avoid getting points on their license and increases in insurance payments. One problem: the practice violated several state statutes, and when Island Packet reporter Brownstein tracked that down and confronted the police chief, it ended. Other McClatchy papers in South Carolina carried Brownstein’s story and spread the impact: the state treasurer in Columbia requested an inquiry into the matter, and other towns ended the practice.

Ledger-Enquirer
"World Series Champs"
Newsroom Staff

The Ledger-Enquirer goes world class to salute its Little League World Series champs. Good for it. The newspaper shows a real commitment to play its coverage on A1, demonstrating that it knows a good local story when it sees one. What a beautiful A1 photograph on the Sunday of the World Series win. The special section with a poster of each team member is magnificent. The artist who created the caricature cover is a real talent. What a keepsake. The images in particular are impressive.

The Beaufort Gazette
"Sisters of the Corps"
Reporter Lori Yount and Photographer Megan Lovett

What a cool series on women in the Marines. Day one is filled with interesting nuggets of information. The day one story nicely weaves in scenes of everyday life for recruits with richly detailed personal moments. The information on the dietary needs of these Marine recruits, the types of injuries they are more prone to incur, are all neatly tucked into the body of the story. The entire series is an easy read because the subject matter is so fresh. The writer throughout the series does a nice job of letting the reader see what’s going on. Enjoyed reading this.

Star-Telegram.com/Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"NFL Cowboys View" Animations
Sports Humorist David Thomas and Animator Alex Russ III

This is genius. Who said newsrooms aren't innovative and creative? This shows they are. It also shows how well the Star-Telegram understands this particular audience – Dallas Cowboys fans -- and what a newspaper can do to create special content for an audience. Congratulations for creating something original and something audience-driven. This is "out-of-the-box" thinking.

The State
"Under the Influence"
Newsroom Staff

The State produces a well-done special section to kick off the newspaper's efforts to not just educate its readers on the perils of teen drinking but to advocate for tougher teen-drinking laws in South Carolina. The special section has crisp writing, is well-designed and has a nice clip-and-save guide on the back page. The newspaper isn’t just pointing out the issue, it’s using its pages to push for change. The State gets aggressive with a solid Sunday package under the headline: “A loaded gun” on wheels. The newspaper examines 75,000 computer records of drunken-driver cases to build a thorough examination of repeat offenders. The package includes a grid on judges and their sentencing practices. All in all, a well-executed, thorough package.

The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer
"The Ghosts of 1898"
Newsroom Staffs

When the truth behind one of the country's worst racial crimes was coming to light in North Carolina after more than a hundred years, the state's largest newspapers each took a close look, faced their own complicity and set out doing what good journalists do: tell the unvarnished truth, face the facts and move forward. The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer had each played a role in the white supremacist coup known as the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898; today, each has played a major role in making the story widely known. A special report produced jointly by the papers and also distributed statewide through African-American newspapers laid out the facts; careful additional reporting brought the story up to date; and honest editorial apologies faced up to the newspapers' own involvements.

Newsobserver.com/The News & Observer
"Monet in Normandy"
Online Staff

What an impressive online package! When the "Monet in Normandy" exhibit, celebrating the works of French impressionist master Claude Monet, made one of its rare U.S. stops at the North Carolina Museum of Art, newsandobserver.com staff members created an interactive presentation that had something for everyone -- and in fact, more than 210,000 people have visited the site. The package allowed viewers to click through works in the exhibit, which you might imagine would be part of an online museum tour. But then they brainstormed a number of other surprising, creative and fun elements: A virtual tour of Normandy, photographed by photographer Corey Lowenstein and narrated by reporter Ellen Sung; the opportunity for viewers to zoom in on one of Monet’s paintings to get a close-up look at brush strokes and painting style and other features. This was a smart, fun and creatively engaging interactive package. Terrific work.

Anchorage Daily News
"New Faces, New City"
Newsroom Staff

An illuminating package of stories about the changing demographics of Anchorage, which likely surprised some readers and confirmed the dramatic change that others were seeing in their city over the past 10 to 20 years. The people featured are shown living real lives, not simply as stereotypes dancing at festivals. Good use of the online platform for audio clips that allows the subjects of the stories to speak for themselves in their own voices; plus photo galleries and other entry points into the story for readers. The scope and detail of this significant demographic change is well documented in statistics displayed in a compelling fashion as interactive census maps and more. Unique angles on stories, including the trend of Mormon missionaries welcoming Hmong community members into their flock, and the surprising fact that Anchorage ranks second in the nation for the number of people who identify with two or more races.

The Sun News
Five Rivers Community Development Corp.
Reporter David Wren

Here's a local example of watchdog reporting at its best. What began with a reporter, on a hunch, checking the Five Rivers Community Development Corp.'s tax returns, turned into an extensive report that exposed a pattern of financial mismanagement and possible fraud of more than $5 million in state and federal grants. The reporter had a number of hurdles to scale, which included stonewalling by the nonprofit's directors. FOIA requests to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development netted documents that showed that Five Rivers had misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars intended to build a community center for low-income residents. In the weeks following publication of those news reports, directors of the Five Rivers Board of Directors resigned, and HUD began an investigation into how the money had been spent. State regulators also began an investigation of the agency’s finances, and the state started a criminal investigation. Great dogged pursuit of an investigative story got results.

The Fresno Bee
"Fresno County: 150 Years"
Assistant Managing Editor Kris Eldred, Artist John Alvin and Photographer John Walker

Terrific project to commemorate Fresno County's sesquicentennial, a magazine that has a real sense of community and history. It does not resemble the generic progress-style special sections that are the worst of this genre. Excellent job weaving in all parts of the community and at the same time focusing on themes special to Fresno: agriculture, waves of immigration, the railroad and more. Well-written pieces that told compelling tales of the people who created Fresno and made it their home: adventurers, prospectors, immigrants and farmers. Published in a glossy magazine style, it will be a keeper for readers for years to come.

ABOUT McCLATCHY

The McClatchy Company is the third largest newspaper company in the United States (after the sale of the Star Tribune newspaper), with 31 daily newspapers and approximately 50 nondailies. McClatchy-owned newspapers include The Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, The Kansas City Star, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Charlotte Observer, and The (Raleigh) News & Observer. In addition, McClatchy has a robust network of internet assets, including leading local websites in each of its daily newspaper markets, offering users information, comprehensive news, advertising, e-commerce and other services. The company also owns and operates McClatchy Interactive, an interactive operation that provides websites with content, publishing tools and software development; Real Cities (http://www.RealCities.com), the largest national advertising network of local news websites, including more than 130 newspaper websites; and 15 percent of CareerBuilder, the nation's largest online job site. McClatchy also owns 25.6 percent of Classified Ventures, a newspaper industry partnership that offers classified websites such as cars.com and apartments.com. McClatchy is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MNI.