Statehouse Reporters Celebrate Awards
By Stateline Staff
RALEIGH, N.C. - Against a dismal economic backdrop for the news industry, the nation's statehouse reporters gathered Saturday (Nov. 15) to honor the best of their work at the ninth annual conference of CapitolBeat, an association of reporters and editors who cover state government.
For the second straight year, Illinois reporters dominated the reporting contest, winning 12 awards - twice as many as reporters from the next closest state, California.
Governor Rod Blagojevich "was actually responsible for several (awards) tonight," joked contest chair Linda Kleindienst, referring to Illinois' beleaguered Democratic governor, who has come under fire this past year for a messy budget battle. He was also in the news for the troubles of some of his top advisers, including Chicago developer Tony Rezko, who have been convicted of fraud and bribery. Blagojevich was the subject of at least three of the winning reports.
An Illinois reporter also claimed the contest's top prize, the John Aubuchon Freedom of Information Award. Scott Reeder, the Springfield bureau chief for the Small Newspaper Group in Kankakee, Ill., won for "Hidden Violations," a series that looked at Illinois' poor record of dealing with teacher misconduct.
Reeder filed 1,800 open records requests with more than 1,000 government agencies in 50 states to create a national database to compare Illinois with its counterparts.
"Imagine one reporter working for a group of small newspapers shaking up one of the nation's largest education bureaucracies," said Gerald Taylor, publisher of The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, both in Illinois, in nominating Reeder. "This would be a remarkable achievement under any circumstances, but it is particularly noteworthy that this was accomplished by a reporter working for a smaller news organization with limited resources."
The celebration took place as the journalism world suffers more layoffs and cutbacks. Kleindienst, the longtime Tallahassee bureau chief for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, recently took a buyout. The Chicago Tribune's Jeffrey Meitrodt, part of a five-person team that won for Blagojevich coverage, was laid off in August amidst budget problems at the paper. The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., won three awards, but of the five reporters who were honored Saturday, four have accepted buyouts as part of a downsizing that will reduce the newsroom staff by about 40 percent.
Other multiple winners included the Associated Press (with seven awards), the Northwest News Network that covers Oregon, Washington and Idaho (four), Illinois Issues magazine (three) and WUIS/IL public radio in Illinois (three).Alaska's KTUU-TV also won three awards, all of them to Bill McAllister, who left the station in August to become Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's chief spokesman.
Stateline.org took home four awards for online publications, including first and second place, respectively, in beat reporting for tax and budget reporter Pamela M. Prah and crime and courts reporter John Gramlich.
Gramlich also won third place for in-depth reporting for a series on the death penalty, and Louis Jacobson was the only online column winner for his "Out There" columns on state politics.
Capitolbeat also gave its first-ever college journalism award to Evan Shields of Indiana's Franklin College for a story that surveyed the state's legislators and their property taxes. It found that only four of 18 lawmakers whose taxes decreased acknowledged it.
Winners came from 21 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands.
Capitolbeat 2008 winners:
John Aubuchon Freedom of Information Award
- Scott Reeder, The Small Newspaper Group, Kankakee, Ill.: " Hidden Violations "
Wire Services and Newspapers with more than 75,000 circulation
- First place: Ray Long, John Chase, David Kidwell, Jeffrey Meitrodt and David Mendell, Chicago Tribune
- Second place: Judy Lin, The Sacramento Bee, California
- Third place: Samantha Young, Don Thompson, Aaron Davis and Steve Lawrence, Associated Press, California
- Honorable mention: Joe Donohue, The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.
- First place: Susan Livio and Mary Jo Patterson, The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J., " Problems Beset Program for Troubled Kids "
- Second place: Robert Garrett, Dallas Morning News, "Welfare Call Centers Lagging"
- Third place: Samantha Young, Associated Press, California, " L.A. Entertainment Project "
- Honorable mention: John O'Connor, Associated Press, Illinois, " Air Blagojevich "
- First place: Martha Irvine and Robert Tanner, Associated Press, New York, " Teacher Sex Abuse "
- Second place: Dunstan McNichol and John Martin, The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J., " Waiting in pain "
- Third place: Karyn Spencer, Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska, " Fatal Flaws "
- Honorable mention: Don Thompson, Associated Press, California, " Heat Deaths "
- Honorable mention: Ryan J. Foley, Associated Press, Wisconsin, " Financial Aid for Sex Offenders "
- First place: Sheryl Harris, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland
- Second place: Andrew DeMillo, Associated Press, Arkansas
Newspapers with less than 75,000 circulation
- First place: James Sinks, The Bulletin, Bend, Ore.
- Second place: Scott Rothschild, Lawrence Journal-World & News, Kansas
- Third place: Megan Poinski, The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. Thomas, V.I.
- First place: Chris Andrews and Derek Wallbank, Lansing State Journal, Michigan, " State Employees: Under Siege? "
- Second place: Ben Jones, The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Wis., "One Capitol, two worlds"
- Third place: James Sinks, The Bulletin, Bend, Ore., "A way around ethics reform"
- First place: Scott Reeder, The Small Newspaper Group, Kankakee, Ill., " Hidden Violations "
- Second place: Andrea Zelinski, Small Newspaper Group, Kankakee, Ill., "Fighting for a new life"
- Third place: Dean Olsen, The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill., "Care for our elders"
- Honorable mention: Megan Poinski, The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. Thomas, V.I., "V.I. Fifth Constitutional Convention"
- First place: Pamela Prah, Stateline.org , Washington, D.C.
- Second place: John Gramlich, Stateline.org , Washington, D.C.
- Third place: Stephanie Cepak, Gongwer News Service, Lansing, Mich.
- Honorable mention: Shane Goldmacher, The Sacramento Bee, California, " Capitol Alert "
- First place: John Lindstrom and Stephanie Cepak, Gongwer News Service, Lansing, Mich.
- Second place: Center for Public Integrity staff, Washington, D.C.
- Third place: John Gramlich, Stateline.org , Washington, D.C.
- Honorable mention: Cara DeGette, Colorado Independent
- First place: Louis Jacobson, Stateline.org , Washington, D.C., "Roll Call"
- First place: Gabrielle Gurley, CommonWealth Magazine, Boston, "Municipal Meltdown"
- Second place: Bethany Jaeger, Illinois Issues, Springfield, " Clinic in a School "
- Third place: Daniel C. Vock, Illinois Issues, Springfield, " Immigrant friendly "
- First place: John R. D. Celock, The Capitol, New York, " Up and Coming in the Empire State "
- Second place: David Bernstein, Chicago Magazine, " Mr. Un-Popularity "
- First place: Bethany Jaeger, Illinois Issues, Springfield
Television, markets 1 to 50
- First place: Dan Weist, Ohio News Network
- Second place: Robert Kittle, WSPA-TV
- Third place: Mary Lahammer, Twin Cities Public TV
Television, markets 51-210
- First place: Loretta Boniti, WVIR NBC 29, Charlottesville, Va.
- Second place: Bill McAllister, KTUU-TV, Anchorage, Alaska
- First place: Troy Kinsey, Bay News 9/Central Florida News 13, Tallahassee, Fla., "Microtargeting"
- Second place: Bill McAllister, KTUU-TV, Anchorage, Alaska, "FBI raid anniversary"
- First place: Bill McAllister, KTUU-TV, Anchorage, Alaska
- Second place: Dan Weist, Ohio News Network, "Who gets the call?"
- First place: David Gillette, Twin Cities Public Television, Minnesota
- Second place: Joan Cartan-Hansen, Idaho Public Television
- First place: Austin Jenkins, Northwest News Network
- Second place: Karen Kasler, Ohio Public Radio
- Third place (tie): Sean Crawford, WUIS/IL Public Radio, Illinois, and Chris Lehman, Northwest News Network
- First Place: Austin Jenkins, Northwest News Network, "Math Wars"
- Second place: Chris Lehman, Northwest News Network, "Health Care Lottery"
- Third place: Amanda Vinicky, WUIS/IL Public Radio, Illinois, "The Truant Legislator"
- First place: Marianne Russ, Capital Public Radio, "California Education Budget"
- Second place: Bill Cohen, Ohio Public Radio, "Dancers for Democracy"
- Third place: Sean Crawford and Amanda Vinicky, WUIS/IL Public Radio, "Making Little Cents"