McClatchy Announces 11 President's Awards for Journalism Excellence in 2010
The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI) today announced the winners of 11 President's Awards for journalism excellence in 2010 for a range of projects, including investigative work, digital innovation, explanatory coverage and narrative writing. Journalists from the Carolinas to California were recognized in awards for the companys best work of the year.
Staff members in Raleigh, N.C., Belleville, Ill., and Bradenton, Fla., won for investigative reporting on public agencies. The News & Observer reported on faulty work by the states crime laboratory that jeopardized court cases. The Belleville News-Democrat discovered a county treasurer who awarded tax liens to political contributors. The Bradenton Herald documented widespread conflicts and misuse of funds by the local public health agency. In each case, the reporting led to reforms and changes in public policy.
The staffs of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald won for coverage of the earthquake in Haiti that took the lives of almost 300,000 people. The papers websites, print editions, mobile news and social media provided extensive coverage that included daily reporting, enterprise work, investigative projects and exemplary photo and video reporting. The visuals were turned into a PBS documentary broadcast last month on 35 stations across the United States.
The Charlotte Observer won for a probing look at how cases of child deaths are being improperly categorized as sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS, which blocks investigations and public policy that could help save lives. The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, S.C., was recognized for a series on a fathers fight to regain custody of his 3-year-old daughter.
The Kansas City Star won for a digital election website called the Midwest Democracy Project that promoted civic engagement and provided vast information on elections last year. The site worked with area universities, foundations and other news providers as part of an open-source approach to election news that drew raves from all across the region.
Two newspapers were recognized for narrative projects that illuminated difficult topics. An Anchorage Daily News series followed a young womans struggle with heroin addiction. The Wichita Eagle ran a series on two sisters who decided to confront the hidden horrors of incest by telling their stories, using their names and photos. About 40 women wrote the paper in the days following publication, saying they, too, had been silent victims of the crime.
The Fresno Bee won for "In Denial," a clear-eyed look at the contradictions in the nations attitudes toward illegal immigration. The Lexington Herald-Leader was recognized for its extensive and imaginative coverage and exemplary photography of the World Equestrian Games held in the United States for the first time.
The annual President's Awards are the highest employee honors given by The McClatchy Company. Judging the competition this year were Jeff Leen, assistant managing editor for investigations with The Washington Post; Trisha O'Connor, media executive-in-residence at Coastal Carolina University and former editor of The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and journalism department head at Coastal Carolina University; and Anders Gyllenhaal, McClatchy's vice president for news and Washington editor.
Here are the judges' comments and internet links to the winning entries:
Anchorage Daily News
"Hooked: One Addict's Story"
Columnist Julia O'Malley; photographer Marc Lester; online editor Scott Levin
This series tells the heart-wrenching story of a 23-year-old Anchorage woman with a steady job and her own home who lost everything to a heroin addiction that is part of a spreading trend in Alaska. Columnist Julia O'Malley took on a topic usually avoided and created a compelling, seven-part narrative accompanied by the work of photographer Marc Lester and online editor Scott Levin. "The story telling is so powerful you come to truly understand the nature of this womans struggle," the judges said.
"Tax Buyers, Politicians Benefit from Tax Sales"
Reporters Brian Brueggemann and Mike Fitzgerald
Relentless reporting by Brian Brueggemann and Mike Fitzgerald uncovered an obscure and abusive practice by the county treasury department that sold overdue tax bills to bidders who were political contributors to the treasurer. The News-Democrat spent weeks looking through county records, interviewing victims and practitioners and gathering documentation. The work prompted criminal investigations and state legislative proposals aimed at protecting taxpayers. "They took a very dry and convoluted topic and made it highly readable every step of the way. This is investigative work of the highest caliber," the judges said.
Manatee County Rural Health
Reporter Duane Marsteller
Startled by the $433,000 salary of the local public health executive, the Bradenton Herald dug into the agency to find conflicts of interests, excessive spending and questionable contracts. The agency's board funneled business to family members, ignored bidding practices and operated almost entirely in the dark. The coverage forced reforms, including the resignation of board members, new rules for contracts and fresh oversight. "This is a great example of accountability journalism that revamped the way this agency was run," the judges said. "They've stayed on this story as only a dedicated newspaper can, which has served their readers and taxpayers well."
The Charlotte Observer
"Cradle of Secrets"
The Charlotte Observer took one of the most complicated and emotional topics -- the sudden death of a child -- and revealed how North Carolina had made it a practice to hide the truth in many cases. "This is a story that will save lives," the judges said. "It's the kind of story that nobody wants to face -- but everybody should. The Observer's commitment to this will have enormous impact for many families." The reporters analyzed more than 500 autopsies over four years to deliver a hard-hitting and deeply revealing story that provides a clear path on how deaths can be avoided.
The Kansas City Star
Midwest Democracy Project
Assistant managing editor Anne Spenner; Metro desk editor Craig Nienaber; Kansas government reporter David Klepper; online designer Tim Baxter; assistant Johnson County editor Grace Hobson
"I love this site," one reader gushed at midwestdemocracyproject.org, an innovative website devoted to election coverage. She was speaking for the hundreds of thousands of readers who became regulars at the site, which makes terrific use of modern reader engagement tools combined with The Kansas City Star's news and information. Directed by assistant managing editor Anne Spenner and supported by $125,000 in grants, the project took an "open-source" approach that enabled it to draw from the Star's coverage and staff, a staff of student contributors and other news organizations. "Every community ought to have an election site like this, the judges said. "They've set the standard for providing election information at the community level."
The Fresno Bee
Reporter Chris Collins
Few topics generate more coverage -- or more highly charged reaction -- than immigration, which is what makes The Fresno Bee's explanatory treatment of the nations contradictory stances stand out. The seven-day series by reporter Chris Collins brings a clear, dispassionate view and deep understanding to a topic that is central to the San Joaquin Valley. "These stories put you on the very front lines of the struggle over immigration and bring a level of wisdom and clarity that is so rare," the judges said. "It's a prime example of the value and power of good explanatory work."
The News & Observer
"Agents Secrets: Junk Science, Tainted Testimony at SBI"
Raleighs coverage of the misdeeds of the state Bureau of Investigation uncovered a startling story: The agency responsible for many prosecution cases couldnt be trusted. Reporters Joseph Neff and Mandy Locke worked for months to review documents, study practices and analyze questionable cases. Their reporting led to sweeping changes in the state agency, and spawned a CNN documentary that ran nationally this month. The project comes with an eloquent online website that includes stories, graphics and photos and tracks the developing coverage of this story. Wow, one judge wrote across the top of the entry. The judges panel added, The treatment of this subject turned into a conversation all across town, which meant the reforms and reaction developed a real momentum. With the excellent reporting and strong online treatment, the series provides a how-to on making the most of an important, ongoing investigative project."
World Equestrian Games
Every newspaper faces the challenge of covering the big community event, but Lexingtons version this past year came with a number of twists, not the least of which was that no U.S. city had ever held the World Equestrian Games. Every member of the staff pitched in, developing expertise overnight, learning obscure rules of the games on the fly. The results were stunning, from the 16 days of special sections to online photo galleries, from a 40-page visitors guide to the aggressive accountability coverage on public costs. "This was a total package," the judges said, "a fabulous combination of smart coverage, strong photography and presentation every bit the equal to this big event."
The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald
Earthquake in Haiti
From the moment word came about the earthquake in Haiti, The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald launched a coverage plan that was as ambitious as it was difficult. Facing a sprawling story with huge impact in South Florida, the papers worked together to deliver the news in print, online and via social media, in news reports, enterprise reporting and investigative coverage. Standout work included a PBS documentary, first-person columns by Haitian-American reporters on the staff, an investigation of child smuggling on the border, and a full library of photography and video. "They made a commitment to own this story from the beginning and straight through the year -- long after other news organizations moved on," the judges said. "The coverage has been vital to understanding the Haiti story."
The Sun News
"A Father's Fight"
Columnist Issac J. Bailey
Myrtle Beach columnist Issac J. Bailey has made a career of taking on murky, complex topics. So when he came across a tale about a father waging a long-distance custody battle, he saw a story where many might see a hopeless morass. The result was "A Father's Fight," told in installments full of insights about the delicate dance between broken families and government oversight. The series ends with the father and daughter being reunited, due in large part to Bailey. "It's a rare, one-man crusade on behalf of a father with little recourse to get his child back -- and it succeeded," the judges said. "It's the kind of story that newspapers almost never do anymore. This could have saved the life of this child."
The Wichita Eagle
"Promise Not to Tell"
Reporter Roy Wenzl
In the days after publishing the long-secret story of sisters Kellie and Kathie Henderson, about 40 women wrote to the newspaper saying that the same thing had quietly happened to them. The outpouring demonstrated that the three-part narrative series on incest in which the victims shared their full stories, including their names and photos, was having enormous impact. "It took courage on the part of the sisters, and also on the part of the paper," the judges said. "It's a powerful reminder of the importance of telling the difficult story and the tremendous good that can come out of it."
The McClatchy Company is the third largest newspaper company in the United States, publishing 30 daily newspapers, 43 non-dailies, and direct marketing and direct mail operations. McClatchy also operates leading local websites in each of its markets which extend its audience reach. The websites offer users comprehensive news and information, advertising, e-commerce and other services. Together with its newspapers and direct marketing products, these interactive operations make McClatchy the leading local media company in each of its premium high growth markets. McClatchy-owned newspapers include The Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Kansas City Star, The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer (Raleigh).
McClatchy also owns a portfolio of premium digital assets, including 14.4% of CareerBuilder, the nation's largest online job site, 25.6% of Classified Ventures, a newspaper industry partnership that offers two of the nation's premier classified websites: the auto website Cars.com and the rental site Apartments.com and 33.3% of HomeFinder, which operates the real estate website HomeFinder.com. McClatchy is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MNI.