Washington, D.C., April 3, 2000 -- The Savannah Morning News will share this year's James K. Batten Award for Excellence in Civic Journalism with a Philadelphia election project and a New Hampshire interactive tax series in a competition that showcased the striking range of civic journalism evolving around the country, the Pew Center for Civic Journalism announced today.
"The winners - the Savannah Morning News for "Aging Matters," The Philadelphia Inquirer for "Citizen Voices '99" and New Hampshire Public Radio's "Tax Challenge" and online tax calculator -- demonstrated civic journalism's impressive ingenuity in engaging citizens. The winning journalism was produced in four different news cultures -- in a newsroom, an editorial department, online/on the air," said Jan Schaffer, executive director of the Pew Center, which sponsors the award.
"This year's winners produced journalism that didn't tell people what to think but actively engaged them in choices and gave them the information to understand and think about the values surrounding those choices," Schaffer said. "They also demonstrated impressive enterprise by both large and small news organizations in helping citizens understand their community and do their jobs as citizens."
The winners will share the $25,000 award. They will be honored April 26-27 at the sixth annual Batten Awards Dinner and Symposium. This year's program, "The People's Choice: The Media, the Campaign and the Citizens," will be hosted by Boston University's College of Communication and Department of Journalism.
The top vote getter was the Savannah Morning News' year-long multi-series on how an influx of retirees, longer life spans and a growing elderly population has impacted Southeast Georgia and South Carolina. The newsroom used focus groups, community forums, call-ins, web chat rooms and message boards to engage the community in a discussion of solutions. The initiative resulted in new legislation, increased volunteerism and new partnerships among community organizations.
The Philadelphia Inquirer's "Citizen Voices '99" created a yearlong civic dialogue about the city's 1999 mayoral election that involved Philadelphia Online, WHYY Public TV and Radio, and WPVI/Channel 6. By guiding about 600 citizens through a process of naming, framing and deliberating their options on issues, the effort helped people convey their concerns to the candidates, helped the journalists shape their reporting around people's most vivid issues and helped produce a civil campaign. The effort included more than 60 public forums, three broadcast candidate forums with citizen questioners and two electronic town meetings.
New Hampshire Public Radio's "Tax Challenge" web site featured an Online Tax Calculator that allowed people literally to test drive how different tax proposals would affect their individual tax bills. The web site was used by more than 31,000 people. Complemented by on-air reports and 10 citizen forums, the initiative empowered people to engage in intelligent debate on a verboten subject and gave them the tools they needed to consider for the first time a statewide tax to fund education.
The winners were selected from a record 116 entries by an advisory board of journalists. Notable this year was the range of on-line journalism that accompanied print and broadcast reports and many conscious efforts to frame stories so they considered all the potential stakeholders.
Semi-finalists included: the Star Tribune's multi-media project, "Teen Drinking;" "Target Transportation," a year-long examination of Washington, DC's transportation issues by NewsChannel 8; the Greeley Daily Tribune's "On the Right Road?" series on traffic safety; the Lexington Herald-Leader's series on development, "Common Ground, Deciding How the Bluegrass Should Grow;" and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer's "Campaign 2000 Agenda," a series probing citizen's opinions on the issues candidates should address.
Also: "Working for Better Schools" by The Wichita Eagle, KWCH/Channel 12; "What's Your Problem?" a weekly effort to research and answer reader questions by the Union-News and Sunday Republican of Springfield, MA; "The Changing Face of Maine," the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram's report on the region's changing racial mix; the Bradenton (FL) Herald's "Project Safeguard" on how to ensure children's well-being; "New Faces, New Voices" ("Nuevas Caras, Nuevas Voces"), a series on the expanding Latino population in a small Nebraska town by the Lincoln Journal Star and Nebraska Educational Television Network; and "Read for Life" The Bakersfield Californian/Bakersfield.com campaign to raise children's reading skills.
The Batten Awards are named in honor of the late James K. Batten, former chief executive of the Knight Ridder newspaper chain, who pioneered some of the earliest civic journalism thinking. The awards are funded by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts, based in Philadelphia.
FOLLOWING ARE THE 2000 JAMES K. BATTEN AWARD CITATIONS
To the Savannah Morning News
For "Aging Matters," a comprehensive and creative examination of the issues surrounding an influx of retirees and an aging community. It stretched the definition of civic journalism in engaging and healthy ways through its use of community forums, polls, focus groups and web interaction. Its compelling information, well-edited and well-displayed, broke a lot of stereotypes. Notable was its inclusivity and the ethnicity of its subjects.
To The Philadelphia Inquirer
With Philadelphia Online, WHYY-TV, WHYY-AM, WPVI/Channel 6
For "Citizen Voices '99," an extraordinary and original editorial-page initiative that clearly laid out not only the background on issues and policy matters in the race for Philadelphia's mayor but also the various options for dealing with those issues. It did not make decisions for people, rather it got people thinking about the underlying values surrounding various choices. And it made use of a lot of techniques, such as neighborhood conversations, that you would not expect on the editorial pages. You seldom see an op-ed page put to work as hard as this one.
To New Hampshire Public Radio
For the "New Hampshire Tax Challenge" and its crisp and user-friendly on-line Tax Calculator, which did an outstanding job of creating common information on the most important public policy issue in the recent history of the state -- passing a statewide tax to fund education. It gave citizens a place to go to get personally involved in determining their stake in the issue of how to finance their schools.
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