SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI) today announced 12 President's Awards for journalism excellence in 2013 for work that exposed corruption, led to reforms in several states and showed the power of digital publishing.
The Sacramento Bee won two awards, one for stories on a Nevada hospital that discarded more than 1,500 mental patients by busing them to random cities around the country, and another for its collection of databases that provides a wealth of public information and sets the standard for digital access.
The Kansas City Star was recognized for a narrative investigative piece about the hazing of a 14-year-old victim of a sexual assault in the small Missouri town of Maryville. The stories prompted an international outpouring that led the case to be reopened.
The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg won for her leadership role in the coverage of the prison at Guantánamo. The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., was honored for a series of stories built on the relentless pursuit of public records. The Biloxi, Miss., Sun Herald won for its reporting on a rogue state agency that led to resignations, criminal charges and reforms.
The awards recognized a number of newsrooms for digital performance. The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., a member of the partnership among the paper, public broadcasting and Mercer Universitys journalism program, was honored for its breaking news coverage of a dangerous fire. The staff used the web, social media, broadcast updates and print to provide deep and up-to-the-minute reporting.
Boise's Idaho Statesman won for a multimedia package about the city's 150th anniversary. In print, online and in an elegant book that prompted great community reaction, the paper reported on 150 local icons.
Several papers were recognized for holding government agencies accountable. The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., won for its investigative series on a rural job creation agency that misrepresented its accomplishments and wasted millions in state funds. The Charlotte Observer was recognized for its reporting on the carbon monoxide poisoning of a boy in the same hotel room in which another couple had died just months before.
Two newspapers won for explanatory storytelling. The Tribune in San Luis Obispo, Calif., won for stories on the regions water shortages that pit residents against the all-important local wine industry. The Anchorage Daily News was honored for a feature package about two teenage boys who were struck by cancer and found their way to recovery with the help of their friendship. "High-quality, public-service journalism is not only McClatchy's legacy, it's the key to our future and what keeps us relevant in the modern media mix," said Pat Talamantes, McClatchy's president and CEO. TThis year's winners illustrate rather impressively that McClatchy journalism today is flourishing in a variety of different formats and on a variety of print and digital platforms. I thank our winners and their respective newsrooms for their commitment to journalism and our communities."
The annual President's Awards are among the highest employee honors given by The McClatchy Company. Judging the competition this year were Lucy Dalglish, the dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland; Clark Hoyt, independent senior editor at Bloomberg, former New York Times public editor and past Knight Ridder vice president for news; and Anders Gyllenhaal, McClatchys vice president for news and Washington editor.
Here are the judges comments and internet links, where available, to the winning entries:
The case had the makings of a fascinating feature story: Two teenage friends are somehow struck by cancer within months of one another and find their way back to health together. Yet in the hands of the Anchorage Daily News, this series became a far deeper story, exploring themes ranging from culture and religion to the struggles of growing up. "The paper clearly thought through how to deliver this for a multimedia audience, the judges said, "complete with great photos, videos, smart presentation and writing that takes your breath away."
The Sun Herald's coverage of a rogue state agency is a prime example of how to use public records, how to invite public participation and how to pursue a story no matter what obstacles arise. At one point, the paper shared 24,000 pages of public records with readers and asked for help sorting through them all. In two years of reporting, the paper forced resignations, led to a series of charges, and uncovered corruption that would otherwise never have been known.
One of the perennial challenges in local journalism is how to celebrate the community milestones in a meaningful way. The Idaho Statesmans package on Boises 150th anniversary shows how it ought to be done. With great imagination and a deep knowledge of the community and its history, the paper served up a smorgasbord of local icons that together paint a portrait of this city and created unforgettable packages for the paper and its book compilation. "One of the best ideas for capturing a community's spirit that weve ever seen," the judges said.
Toward the end of Charlottes coverage of an unusual series of deaths, the paper wove its massive reporting into a comprehensive narrative piece that captured in riveting detail what led to this tragedy. It was the crowning article after months of coverage that gradually revealed what happened in a death that should have been prevented. "A masterful blend of aggressive reporting and superb storytelling," the judges said.
Kansas City's magazine-style exploration of what happened at Maryville, Mo., set off a reaction that changed the course of events in this case and is still having repercussions. The judges were struck by the reporting and writing in the initial piece, and then how the paper followed the case through the twists and turns to come. "The story started a national conversation in fact an international conversation that very much needed to happen," the judges said.
The coverage of an early morning fire at a Macon cardboard factory was a textbook case of delivering on breaking news. Filing a steady stream of updates, photos and videos to the web, social media, radio and finally the paper, the team caught every turn of the drama and then explained the impact of the loss in the print edition. "Breaking news coverage today calls for speed, precision, accuracy and a multitude of skills," the judges said. "This package had it all."
The prison at Guantánamo is a legal and political morass that presents one of the most complex stories of our times. Carol Rosenberg alone has stayed with it for a full decade, placing a spotlight on a U.S. policy that many would rather forget, breaking important stories and explaining the prison as no one else can. The combination of her relentless coverage and Miami's commitment to Guantánamo amount to a true public service.
At a time when job creation and government spending are on everyones minds, Raleighs story about an economic development agency run amok had immediate and far-reaching impact. The reporting by Andy Curliss led to resignations, reform and the return of tens of millions of dollars in state funds. This continues the N&O’s stellar record for oversight of state government corruption, the judges said.
Once they started exploring The Sacramento Bee's data center, the judges found they couldn't stop reading, searching, and plowing through this mountain of information assembled by database specialist Phillip Reese. "Not only is this an important community service, it's flat-out fascinating," they said. "You can spend hours learning things theres no other way to find out." The Sacramento Bee's data center sets the standard for the breadth and presentation of records that should be part of every news website.
Starting with a simple tip, The Sacramento Bee's reporters used shoe-leather reporting, database research and public records to follow this story wherever it went around the country. By the time the Bee exposed the full dimensions of the injustice, sweeping reforms were on the way. The paper added to the story with editorials and columns that dug into the many issues behind these cases. This was an absolute outrage, made worse by the fact that the victims were some of the most vulnerable in our society," the judges said.
Taking on a story that sits at the very heart of the community, The Tribune's water and wine series is an achievement in explanatory journalism. The paper approached a tough topic with full command of the issues, even-handed storytelling and a thoughtful emphasis on solutions. Most impressive, the judges said, were the clear writing and eloquent and compact presentation that together brought this important story to life.
The (Tacoma) News Tribune First AmendmentTeam
The News Tribune has made a tradition of wielding access and openness laws as a central tool of reporting. This past year, the paper assembled a list of stories that any newsroom would be proud of and in the process let the community know that the paper will protect the public's right to know, no matter what it takes. "At a time when many news organizations are backing away from this vital role, The News Tribune has found a way to ramp it up, the judges said. This work shows impressive First Amendment leadership."
The McClatchy Company is a leading news and information provider, offering a wide array of print and digital products in each of the markets it serves. McClatchys operations include 30 daily newspapers, community newspapers, websites, mobile news and advertising, niche publications, direct marketing and direct mail services. The companys largest newspapers include the (Fort Worth) Star-Telegram, The Sacramento Bee, The Kansas City Star, the Miami Herald, The Charlotte Observer and The (Raleigh) News & Observer. McClatchy is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MNI.