Miami Herald, Wall Street Journal, USA Today win APME honors

NEW YORK (AP) — The Miami Herald, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today were among the news organizations that won top honors in the annual Associated Press Media Editors’ Journalism Excellence Awards.

APME also announced that the Seattle Times, Alabama Media Group, the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune and Vermont Public Radio were winners in a new contest category, the Community Engagement Award, which drew a large number of entries.

“Challenges in our industry clearly have not diminished the quality of investigative, watchdog reporting in the United States,” said Alan D. Miller, president of APME and managing editor/news for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. “It’s inspiring to read through the many entries in this year’s contest and see not only great journalism but also the responses to it.”

“These stories, whether in print or online, have so affected readers that they have taken action or pressed public officials to take action to right wrongs and fix problems that have affected millions of people,” Miller said. “The world is a better place because of the excellent work done by these journalists.”

The Miami Herald won the 45th Annual Public Service Award in the large circulation category for “Innocents Lost,” its investigation of child deaths because of abuse or neglect after Florida changed its policy and reduced the number of children in state care. The Herald also won the Best of Show award, sponsored by the APME Foundation, which carries a $1,500 prize.

“The death of a child is tragic, but the deaths of more than 500 children in state care is a tragedy of epic proportions — and criminal,” the judges said in honoring the paper. “The depth of reporting allowed for such strong writing that a reader would be compelled to keep reading. And the government would be compelled to act, as it has. … This is the epitome of public service reporting.”

The Detroit News won in the 40,000 to 149,999 circulation category for its investigation of Detroit’s high infant mortality rate. “This is tremendous reporting and a compelling story line that carried through the year,” the judges said. “It’s impossible to stop reading, and it is the best of a very strong class.”

The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, California, was recognized in the small circulation category for its investigation that found that more Marines from the Twentynine Palms Marine base have died back home than in the Middle East. “Stunning, powerful wok by The Desert Sun,” the judges wrote. “Strong reporting and compelling writing makes this entry stand out in a strong category.”

The Wall Street Journal won the Tom Curley First Amendment Sweepstakes Award for “Medicare Unmasked,” which forced the federal government to make public Medicare data that had been kept secret for decades.

“The newspaper kicked open locked doors and provided access for all of us — media and the public — to scrutinize how the government spends taxpayer dollars on health care,” the judges said. “This is high-impact journalism that made a difference for the entire country.” The award, named after AP’s former president and CEO, carries a $1,000 prize.

USA Today’s project “Fugitives Next Door” won the First Amendment Award in the large circulation category for revealing how law enforcement agencies let fugitives go free. The newspaper “put together an outstanding expose of one of law enforcement’s dirty little secrets: Hundreds of thousands of fugitives from justice remain free, often to commit more crimes, because police and courts refuse to retrieve them from other jurisdictions,” the judges said.

The Columbus Dispatch and the Student Press Law Center won in the 40,000 to 149,999 circulation category for “Campus Insecurity,” a series of reports on the denial and injustice that hides the truth about the crime on college campuses from parents and students.

The newspaper and the Law Center “overcame obfuscation, flawed data and public colleges’ willful efforts to hide the facts to produce a stunning and revelatory look at the lack of professionalism in law enforcement and the star-chamber quality of ‘justice’ at the nation’s taxpayer-funded universities,” the judges said.

The San Bernardino (California) Sun was honored in its circulation category for reporting on the Rialto Unified School District, its administrators and school board members — all of whom showed reluctance to provide public records, and even failed to tell the truth. The judges lauded the work as “dogged pursuit of a dysfunctional public agency entrusted with children’s education.”

In the new Community Engagement category, the Seattle Times was recognized in the large circulation entries, for its Education Lab, which used guest columns, live chats, public forums and other engagement forms to create a dialogue with the community about fixing public schools. The Alabama Media Group was a joint winner in that category for bringing together a range of voices to address the long history of problems in the state’s prison system.

The Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune was cited in the small circulation category for “Newtown 100: A Legacy of Struggle and Triumph,” a series on an African-American community and its rich history, voices, successes and struggles.

The broadcast winner in the Community Engagement category was Vermont Public Radio for its efforts to reach out to the public and let them tell how they had been affected by the state’s heroin problem.

The Seattle Times’ investigation of the Oso, Washington, landslide and The Saginaw (Michigan) News’ series on the city’s population decline were honored in the Al Neuharth Award for Innovation in Investigative Journalism. The award, sponsored by the Gannett Foundation, provides $2,500 to each winner.

APME also announced that the Boston Herald, the Los Angeles News Group and The Oklahoman were finalists for its Innovator of the Year Award. They will compete at APME’s joint conference with the American Society of News Editors from Oct. 16 to Oct. 18 at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The winner will be judged by conference attendees and receive a $1,000 award sponsored by GateHouse Media’s Center for News & Design.

The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City was cited for the Best Mobile Platform. The newspaper’s efforts included placing a large video screen with targeted content at the corner of its building overlooking a busy intersection; The Oklahoman Radio app, a hands-free daily newspaper; and NewsOK Now, an app and website that lets readers share location specific news content.

USA Today’s project on “Fugitives Next Door” was also honored for Digital Storytelling in the large circulation category.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune won in the 40,000 to 149,999 circulation category for “Home to Havana,” a story about a family’s return to Cuba. The Herald-Tribune also won the International Perspectives Award in its circulation category for the Havana story.

The Desert Sun was named in the small circulation category for Digital Storytelling for “How Climate Change Is Altering the Deserts of the Southwest.”

The Los Angeles Times won the large circulation category in the International Perspective Awards for its “Product of Mexico,” the story of poorly paid and badly treated migrant workers who harvest the produce for America’s tables.

Marquette University’s student media group in the Diederich College of Communication in Milwaukee was honored with the Innovator of the Year Award for College Students. The group created the Marquette Wire, which delivers news digitally.

Judges did not take part in discussions or vote on categories involving entries from their own news organizations.

APME is an association of editors and content leaders at newspapers, broadcast outlets and digital newsrooms as well as journalism educators and student leaders in the United States and Canada. APME works closely with The Associated Press to foster journalism excellence.

Here are the award winners and honorable mentions:

45th Annual Public Service Awards:

— Winner of Public Service Best of Show and $1,500: The Miami Herald

Over 149,000 circulation:

— Winner: Miami Herald, “Innocents Lost.”

— Honorable mentions: Arizona Republic, “Scandal at the VA”; The Wall Street Journal, “Medicare Unmasked”; and The Record of northern New Jersey, “Stuck in a Jam.”

40,000 to 149,000 circulation:

— Winner: Detroit News, “Surviving through age 18 in Detroit.”

— Honorable mentions: The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, “Till Death Do Us Part,” and The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch and Student Press Law Center, “Campus Insecurity.”

Under 40,000 circulation:

— Winner: The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, California, “Marines in Distress.”

— Honorable mentions: The Santa Fe New Mexican, “Missteps and secrets” about laboratory officials downplaying waste dangers after a leak, and The San Bernardino (California) Sun, “The Truth Behind Rialto Unified.”

Judges: APME President Alan Miller, managing editor of The Columbus Dispatch, chairman; Debra Adams Simmons, vice president of news development, Advance Local; Bob Heisse, editor, The Times Media Co.; and Brian Carovillano, AP managing editor for U.S. news.

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45th Annual First Amendment Awards and Citations:

— Winner of the Tom Curley Sweepstakes Award and $1,000: The Wall Street Journal, “Medicare Unmasked.”

Over 149,000 circulation:

— Winner: USA Today, “Fugitives Next Door.”

— Honorable mentions: The Wall Street Journal, “America’s Rap Sheet,” and the Miami Herald, “Cruel and Unusual.”

40,000 to 149,000 circulation:

— Winner: The Columbus Dispatch and the Student Press Law Center, “Campus Insecurity.”

— Honorable mentions: Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, “Fatal Flaws” about problems with Oklahoma’s executions, and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, for suing the federal government over the military police’s detention of a photographer and a reporter and the deletion of photos from the photographer’s camera.

Under 40,000 circulation:

— Winner: The San Bernardino Sun, “The Truth Behind Rialto Unified.”

— Honorable mentions: Saginaw (Michigan) News, for challenging in court a small town’s refusal to make public the names of 100 reserve police officers whose donations fund the 12-member police department.

Judges: Sonny Albarado, projects editor, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, chairman; Adams Simmons; Miller; Laura Sellers-Earl, editor, the Daily Astorian, Astoria, Oregon; Bill Church, executive editor, Herald-Tribune Media Group, Sarasota, Florida; Jim Simon, deputy managing editor, The Seattle Times; Joe Hight, former editor, The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Brian Barrett, AP corporate counsel.

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Fifth Annual Al Neuharth Award for Innovation in Investigative Journalism. Each winner will receive $2,500. The award is sponsored by the Gannett Foundation.

Above 75,000 circulation:

— Winner: Seattle Times, “The Deadly Slope: Examining the Oso, Washington, Disaster.”

— Honorable Mentions: Orange County (California) Register, “Illusion of Safety,” and the Los Angeles Times, “The Homicide Report.”

75,000 circulation and below:

— Winner: The Saginaw News, “I Used to Live Here,” a series about the factors contributing to Saginaw’s rapid population decline between 1960 and 2010.

Judges: Sellers-Earl, chairwoman; Chris Cobler, editor, Victoria (Texas) Advocate; and Kelly Dyer Fry, editor, The Oklahoman.

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Community Engagement Award:

75,000 circulation and above:

— Winners: Seattle Times, for its Education Lab, and Alabama Media Group, for problems in the Alabama prison system. Broadcast, Vermont Public Radio, for efforts to reach out to the public for stories about how they had been affected by the state’s heroin problem.

— Honorable mention: WBNS-TV (Channel 10), Columbus, Ohio, for “Maria’s Message,” about the death of sports anchor Dom Tiberi’s daughter in a car accident. “Maria’s Message” is aimed at ending distracted driving and providing tools for parents to help their children become defensive drivers.

Under 75,000 circulation:

— Winner: Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune, for “Newtown 100: A Legacy of Struggle and Triumph,” a series on an African-American community and its rich history, voices, successes and struggles.

— Honorable mention: Oakland (California) Tribune, for Oakland Voices, which allows a wide range of community voices to be heard through a storytelling project.

— Honorable mention: MLive Media Group, Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Ballot Bash, which opened up editorial forums for state candidates to the public, with events and webcasts.

Judges: Angie Muhs, executive editor, The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Illinois, chairwoman, and Ray Rivera, editor, The Santa Fe New Mexican.

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Finalists for the Eighth Annual Innovator of the Year Award:

— Boston Herald, for its innovative platform called Boston Herald Radio that is fully integrated with its print, online and video divisions and has attracted major audiences.

— Los Angeles News Group, for its new Audience Growth and Engagement Team and its focus on metrics, social, mobile, SEO and all platforms.

— The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, for its “Downtown Big Screen” and its content management system, new apps and other website innovations.

Judges: Hight, chairman; David Arkin, vice president of content & audience, GateHouse Media; George Rodrigue, editor, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer; and Allison Gerber, editor, Chattanooga (Tennessee) Free Press.

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Fourth Annual Innovator of the Year Award for College Students:

— Winner: Marquette University, Milwaukee, student media group in the Diederich College of Communication, Marquette Wire.

Judges: Arkin, chairman; Muhs; and Chris Quinn, vice president of content, Northeast Ohio Media Group.

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Best Mobile Platform Award:

— Winner: The Oklahoman, for efforts on multiple platforms.

Judges: Autumn Phillips, editor, The Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale, Illinois, chairwoman, and Gary Graham, editor, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington.

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Digital Storytelling Award:

150,000 and above circulation:

— Winner: USA Today, “Fugitives Next Door.”

— Honorable Mention: Los Angeles Times, “A Sting in the Desert.”

40,000 to 149,999 circulation:

— Winner: Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “Home to Havana.”

— Honorable mention: Asbury Park (New Jersey) Press, “The Iron Soldier.”

Under 40,000 circulation:

— Winner: The Desert Sun, “How Climate Change Is Altering the Deserts of the Southwest.”

Judges: Thomas Koetting, deputy managing editor, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, chairman, and Jack Lail, director of digital, Knoxville (Tennessee) News Sentinel.

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International Perspective Awards

Over 60,000 circulation:

— Winner: Los Angeles Times, “Product of Mexico.”

— Honorable mention: Seattle Times, “Culture Clash: Europe Confronts Amazon’s Reach.”

Under 60,000 circulation:

— Winner: Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “Home to Havana.”

Judges: Graham, chairman; John Daniszewski, AP senior managing editor/international news; and Simon.

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