Washington, D.C., March 17, 1999 -- Two newspapers and one television station will share the 1999 James K. Batten Award for Excellence in Civic Journalism for innovative efforts that produced in-depth journalism and paved the way for news organizations to play new roles in their communities.
The winners -- the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram and KRON-TV, San Francisco's NBC affiliate -- were announced today by the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, which sponsors the annual awards.
The three news organizations will split the $25,000 award. It was the fourth year in a row that the board of judges has named three winners. They will be honored May 3 and 4 in Minneapolis at the Batten Symposium and Awards Dinner. This year's program will focus on "A Citizen's-Eye View: Civic Journalism, Civic Engagement."
"Each of the winners courageously and thoroughly explored a sensitive subject in ways that encouraged unprecedented levels of reader and viewer response," said Jan Schaffer, executive director of the Pew Center.
"In Maine, the journalism gave rise to more than 70 study circles on alcohol abuse; in the Twin Cities, more than 2,500 people participated in book clubs and discussion groups on poverty amid welfare reform; and in San Francisco, thousands of people are still engaged in an on-line conversation about race relations, and the reporting is entering its second year.
"As a result, in each of these communities, the one-way conversation of traditional journalism became an active civic dialogue that continued long after the journalism wound down," Schaffer said.
The Portland Press Herald/ Maine Sunday Telegram's winning entry, an eight-part series, "The Deadliest Drug: Maine's Addiction to Alcohol," delivered such startling statistics and personal stories that it prompted a year-long grassroots effort in 1998 that mobilized nearly 2,000 people to participate in study circles on the impact of alcohol abuse in their community. Their final action plans were compiled in a book as well as followed up in the newspaper.
In "Poverty Among Us" the St. Paul Pioneer Press chronicled, once a month for seven months, what it was like to be poor in Minnesota at a time when the official welfare safety net was replaced by welfare-to-work programs. The paper told the story through the eyes of schoolchildren, the working poor, immigrants and others. But the paper didn't stop there. It tried to pull readers into a conversation about poverty by conducting a major public opinion poll on attitudes towards poverty, by forming book clubs on the literature of poverty with the St. Paul Public Libraries, by publishing interviews with the poor on its web site and by providing discussion guides and tool kits for those wanting to organize discussion groups.
KRON-TV launched "About Race," its year-long exploration of how race and ethnicity shape how people live together in the Bay Area, with an unprecedented five-part series during the 6 p.m. newscast in February 1998 sweeps. The first story ran 13 minutes; total time for the week was 60 minutes. Coverage explored the genetics of race, diversity in the workplace and in schools, talking about race and a look at efforts to bridge the racial divide. KRON's 18 stories over the year included a one-hour special, since provided to more than 90 local schools and three community access cable stations. Collaborating with KRON were the station's long-standing civic journalism partners, The San Francisco Chronicle, KQED-FM public radio and the BayTV cable affiliate.
The winners were selected from 91 entries. Notable this year was the evolution of civic journalism to deeper explanatory and investigative reporting on issues that are meaningful to people's every-day lives, observed Batten Board member John X. Miller, Managing Editor of The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Semi-finalists included. "Hunger in the Land of Plenty," The Charlotte Observer's look at the changing face of hunger; "A Turning Point," the Wilmington (Del.) News-Journal's examination of the 1968 race riots and current race relations; "Motel Children," the Orange County Register's saga of the one of the fastest growing segments of the poor, children living in residential motels; "Community Conversation," the Grand Fork Herald's efforts to engage its flood-damaged community in a rebirth; "Pottstown: It's Do or Die Time," The Mercury's examination of problems and possible solutions to the plight of Pottstown, PA; "What Corporate Welfare Costs You," Time magazine's series on government job-creation subsidies; "The State of Secrecy," an effort by seven Indiana newspapers to test statewide compliance with open-records laws.
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.
This year's Batten Symposium and Awards Dinner will be hosted in Minneapolis by the Star-Tribune, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, KTCA-TV, Minnesota Public Radio and the Minnesota Journalism Center of the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
The symposium, "A Citizen's-Eye View: Civic Journalism, Civic Engagement," will examine citizens' experience with civic journalism efforts, new research on civic engagement, on-line efforts to engage citizens as well as presentations from the winners. To attend, call the Pew Center, 202-331-3200.
FOLLOWING ARE THE 1999 JAMES K. BATTEN AWARD CITATIONS:
To the Portland Press Herald/ Maine Sunday Telegram
Web site: www.portland.com
"The Deadliest Drug: Maine's Addiction to Alcohol" was a courageous effort to listen to the silences in the community not just the buzz. Starting with thorough computer-assisted reporting, the newspapers put human faces on the statistics as they reported the true costs to citizens of the use and abuse of alcohol. But they didn't stop there. They followed up and responded to reader requests to help launch study circles that undergirded the dialogue and gave the topic a legacy in the community. To have thousands of people involved in an ongoing discussion is what civic journalism is all about.
To the St. Paul Pioneer Press
Web site: www.pioneerplanet.com
"Poverty Among Us" is an illuminating look at the underclass that combined detailed reporting with strong storytelling and compelling photography. As a distinguished example of civic journalism, it provided some wonderful hooks "Do the Math," what people have to live on - is a just one example. Civic participation moved to a new level with the concepts of a tool kit, discussion guides and a book club, reinforcing the ideas that an informed citizenry is best equipped to deal with pressing public issues.
To KRON-TV, San Francisco
Web site: www.sfgate.com
"About Race" took a very non-traditional approach to the difficult subject of race relations that invited viewers into the conversation at every turn. The on-line impact was impressive, the collaboration with other media was strong. The television station devoted enormous resources to the effort and broke all the rules regarding the amount of broadcast time that should be devoted to a single news segment. It showed that viewers do respond well to thoughtful, impactful, compelling issues -- even during the sweeps period.
1999 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
Executive Editor and Vice President
The Portland Newspapers
AME, Computer Assisted Reporting
The Boston Globe
Minnesota Journalism Center
W. Davis Merritt
Former Senior Editor
The Wichita Eagle
John X. Miller
Myrtle Beach Sun News
Knight Chair in Journalism
Florida A&M University
Former Managing Editor
The New York Times
Pew Center for Civic Journalism
Media Correspondent & Sr. Producer
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
Mizell Stewart III
AME, Local News
Akron Beacon Journal