Asbury Park, Baltimore and Idaho News Organizations Win
1998 Batten Prize for Excellence in Civic Journalism
Washington, D.C., April 6, 1998 - Highlighting the cross-continental growth of civic journalism, the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, the Baltimore (MD) Sun and a coalition of Idaho newspapers and television stations will share the 1998 James K. Batten Award for Excellence in Civic Journalism.
The winners were announced by the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, which sponsors the annual awards. "For the third year in a row the board of judges chose three news initiatives to split the $25,000 award," said Jan Schaffer, executive director of the Pew Center. "Each entry took a different approach to reporting a problem and the public policy choices surrounding that issue. The news organizations then served as catalysts to engage the public in solving the problem."
"Notable in the 83 entries this year was the depth and the sophistication of the civic journalism. Civic techniques were blended with investigative, computer-assisted and explanatory journalism and with classic newspaper crusades in ways that advanced the tools far beyond early uses of polls and town meetings," Schaffer said.
The Idaho Statesman, The Idaho Spokesman-Review, the Lewiston Morning Tribune, the Idaho Falls Post Register, Idaho Public Television and KTVB-TV joined forces to present "A Collision Course: Prisons vs. Higher Education in Idaho." The series compared the steep climb of prison spending with the declining support for education and has led state legislators to sentencing and other reforms.
The Baltimore Sun's winning entry, "Reading by 9," involved explanatory reporting about how children learn to read, followed up by tutoring and volunteer efforts by the news company's staff and by news stories focused on a single goal -- building the capacity to help children read satisfactorily by third grade. The effort has had broad civic impact.
The Asbury Park Press's winning series "What Ails Asbury? A City Searches for Solutions" and the related "House of Cards" spotlighted problems and solutions for that blighted seashore community. In the process, reporters uncovered a real estate scam that attracted the attention of law enforcement officials and was the impetus for new laws to protect citizens.
"This year's entries showcase the many new elements now seasoning the mix of civic journalism approaches," said John X. Miller, managing editor of the Sun News in Myrtle Beach and a member of the Batten Award Advisory Board.
"There appear to be new sensitivities and creativities in engaging readers and viewers in choices and solutions and in creating a kind of journalism that is useful to the community. By acting on a different set of journalistic reflexes and using different tools to explain to readers what the world is like, civic journalism is producing much better news stories."
The awards will be presented May 12 at the annual James K. Batten Symposium, hosted this year by the Medill School of Journalism in Chicago, Ill. This year's symposium topic is "News Futures: Civic Innovations in Reporting." To attend, call the Pew Center, 202-331-3200.
Following are the 1998 James K. Batten Award Citations:
To The Idaho Statesman, the Idaho Spokesman-Review, the Lewiston Morning Tribune, the Idaho Falls Post Register, Idaho Public Television and KTVB-TV, for "A Collision Course: Prisons vs. Higher Education in Idaho."
These news organizations set out to convene a statewide discussion on conflicting budget priorities, namely greatly increased spending on prisons vs. declining support for higher education. By analyzing that spending in Idaho, the initiative allowed people to understand the consequences of the choices in spending that were being made in their name by the politicians of the state. But rather than just telling people about it, the coverage positioned citizens as part of the conversation. All across the state, hundreds of people were involved in the conversation of "What shall we do?" -- which, finally, is what civic journalism is all about.
To the Asbury Park Press for "House of Cards" and "What Ails Asbury: A City Searches for Solutions."
These two series powerfully demonstrate how getting out into the community and listening to citizens pays off. This determined effort started with such civic reporting techniques as polling and extensive community conversations about crime, education, recreation and city management, but it quickly led reporters to a massive real estate fraud. By blending civic listening with investigative and computer-assisted reporting techniques, the newspaper uncovered the fraud just as it was unfolding rather than a year or two later, after it had already happened and the perpetrators had left the community. The Press gave readers a much fuller picture of what was going on in Asbury Park, which informed their conversations about the future of their community.
To the Baltimore Sun for "Reading by 9."
In a clear example of activist journalism, the newspaper not only reported the devastating scores on reading ability and probed how children learn to read, it also went out and did something about it. It engaged employee volunteers to teach reading and it mobilized its own news pages in an impressive literacy campaign aimed at improving test scores. It is a shining example of what Jim Batten would like to see. He involved himself in very, very significant ways in community problems.
1998 James K. Batten Award for
Excellence in Civic Journalism
Thomas Winship, Chair
Editor Emeritus, The Boston Globe
Chair, International Center for Journalists
*Katherine W. Fanning
Christian Science Monitor
Edward M. Fouhy
Pew Center on the States
The Portland Newspapers
*Teresa M. Hanafin
Assistant Managing Editor/Metro
The Boston Globe
President and General Manager
Higher Education Editor
The Boston Globe
W. Davis Merritt
The Wichita Eagle
John X. Miller
Myrtle Beach Sun News
Knight Professor in Journalism
Florida A&M University
Former Managing Editor
The New York Times
Pew Center for Civic Journalism
Medill News Service
Mizell Stewart, III
Akron Beacon Journal
* Indicates members unable to attend this year's judging.
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