Statehouse Reporters Honored for Stories

 

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Capitolbeat , a nationwide organization of state government reporters and editors, presented awards for the nation's best statehouse coverage for news stories that revealed tax breaks for a failed bid for the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Georgia, exposed questionable hiring practices in Illinois government and chronicled the growing influence of evangelicals in Ohio.

The group presented its awards during its 7 th annual conference Aug. 4-7 in Columbus, Ohio.

Two Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters, Walter Woods and Rick Minter, earned the group's Aubuchon Freedom of Information Award for covering Atlanta's bid to host the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The pair forced state and local officials to reveal how they planned to use tax incentives to attract the facility, which eventually was awarded to Charlotte, N.C.

Ohio Public Radio correspondent Bill Cohen swept the radio awards, taking first place for single report, beat reporting, in-depth reporting and commentary / news analysis (the last of which he shared with colleague Karen Kasler.) Cohen is also a contributor to Stateline.org.

Chicago Sun-Times reporters Dave McKinney, Chris Fusco, Scott Fornek and Steve Warmbir took top prize in the beat reporting category for newspapers with circulations more than 75,000. The team disclosed several federal investigations of the administration of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and reported on questionable hiring practices by the administration.

On the airwaves, Victoria Langley of Capitol News Service in Tallahassee, Fla., earned first-place honors for beat reporting for small television markets. Langley was recognized for a wide range of stories, including pieces on efforts to get health care for uninsured children, the controversy over new voter registration rules and the debate over whether to designate key lime as Florida's official pie.

Other journalists taking first prize for beat reporting were: Robert Tanner of The Associated Press in Washington, D.C., for wire service; Anita Weier of The Capital Times in Madison, Wis., for newspapers under 75,000; Betsy Z. Russell of Spokesmanreview.com for the online category; and Robert Kittle of WSPA-TV in South Carolina for large TV markets.

Herb Jackson of The Record in Bergen County, New Jersey, took top honors for commentary in a large newspaper. His columns explored the legacy of former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (D), the potential pitfalls of being an unmarried governor such as Gov. Jon Corzine (D), and the issue of capital punishment in last year's governor's race. Jackson also contributes occasional articles to Stateline.org.

Lou Jacobson of Roll Call in Washington, D.C., received first place for commentary for smaller papers. His entries detailed the reasons that highly touted candidates elected not to run for Congress, discussed a trend of prominent politicians seeking lower-rung elected posts, and highlighted a nationwide movement to trim administrative costs in schools.

Joan Cartan-Hansen of Idaho Public Television earned the top commentary prize for television for her show " Dialogue ." The roundtable covered topics such as early childhood education and the environmental challenges of new development.

Charlie Wheeler of Illinois Issues won first place for news analysis and commentary in the magazine category. Wheeler's "Ends and Means" column discussed the future of wind energy in Illinois, the motivations behind Blagojevich's "AllKids" health insurance initiative, teacher tenure reform and the ramifications of former Gov. George Ryan's (R) guilty verdicts in a corruption case on Illinois politics.

Brian Bakst of The Associated Press in Minnesota won the top commentary prize for wire services.

Other first-place winners were:

Single report: David A. Lieb, The Associated Press (Mo.), for wire service; Dunstan McNichol, The Star-Ledger (N.J.), for newspapers over 75,000; Tom Sheehan , Lee Newspapers (Wis.) , for newspapers under 75,000; Ryan Mahoney, Atlanta Business Chronicle , in the online category.

In-depth reporting: Don Thompson, The Associated Press (Calif.), for wire service; Laura Mecoy, The Sacramento Bee , for newspapers over 75,000; Paul E. Kostyu, The Repository (Ohio), for newspapers under 75,000; staff, The Center for Public Integrity (Washington, D.C.), in the online category.

Capitolbeat, also known as the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, was founded in 1999 to provide a professional organization and forum for statehouse reporters around the country. It is supported in part by Stateline.org. Capitolbeat announced that its 2007 conference will be held in Philadelphia.

 
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