Three Newspapers Share First James Batten Award for Outstanding Civic Journalism Efforts
Washington, D.C., Thursday May 2, 1996 - The Pew Charitable Trusts and the pew Center for Civic Journalism today announced the recipients of the first James K. Batten Award presented for excellence in civic journalism. The awards will be presented May 14 in Washington.
The three newspapers sharing the first prize of $25,000 are The Charlotte Observer, for its series "Taking Back Our Neighborhoods," the Argus Leader of Sioux City, South Dakota, for its entry "Community on the Rise," and The Kansas City Star for its project "Raising Kansas City."
Cited for special recognition were The Dallas Morning News for its series "The We Decade, Rebirth of Community" and "We the People, Wisconsin," a joint effort of the Wisconsin State Journal; Wisconsin Public Television; WISC-TV, the Madison CBS affiliate; Wisconsin Public Radio; and Wood Communication Group of Madison.
The winners were selected from 100 entries by a panel of prominent journalists headed by Thomas Winship, Chairman of the Batten Award Advisory Board, and editor emeritus of The Boston Globe.
"The winning entries all illuminate the basic attribute of civic journalism: Doing journalism in a manner calculated to re-engage people in the process of public life," said the Batten Advisory Board. "But each of the winners takes a slightly different path toward that goal. This, the selection committee felt, demonstrates that civic journalism is not a formula or set of techniques, but rather is experimental and open to varying approaches.
"The common thread is that each of these entries demonstrated the impact journalism can have when it moves beyond detachment and the mere chronicling of problems. In no case did the newspapers and broadcast stations set or carry and agenda. Rather, they gave citizens a way to have a different kind of conversation with each other and to connect with each other in new, more deliberative and useful ways.
"The central question of democracy is, 'What shall we do?' The journalism in these cases helped citizens to answer that question better," the Advisory Board said.
Representatives of the winning entries will be in Washington D.C., on May 14th to receive their awards at an awards dinner. The dinner will follow the second James K. Batten Symposium on Civic Journalism to be held at Decatur House, 17th and H Streets. This year's Symposium is entitled: "Journalism: From Citizens Up" and will feature keynote addresses by James Fallows, author of Breaking the news: How the Media Undermine American Democracy, and Matthew V. Storin, editor of The Boston Globe.
The Symposium will be highlighted by panels of journalists discussing the use of civic journalism techniques, both in covering their communities and covering this year's elections.
Two publications will be released, The Citizens Election Project Case Studies, examining civic journalism in the 1996 presidential primaries, and Tapping Civic Life, a workbook to guide journalists in reporting on their communities and based on research at The Wichita Eagle.
The James K. Batten Awards advisory board is headed by Thomas Winship, Chairman of the International Center for Journalism. Members of the board include Edward Fouhy, Executive Director of the Pew Center for Civic Journalism; Katherine W. Fanning, former editor of the Christian Science Monitor; Teresa M. Hanafin, City Editor, The Boston Globe; Bill Kovach, Curator, the Nieman Foundation; Amy McCombs, President and General Manager of KRON-TV, San Francisco; W. Davis Merritt, Editor, The Wichita Eagle; Rich Oppel, Editor, The Austin American-Statesman; Gene Roberts, Managing Editor, The New York Times; Joe Ritchie, journalism professor at Florida A&M University; and Mizell Stewart III, Public Affairs Editor, The Akron Beacon Journal.
Following are the James K. Batten Award Citations for 1996:
To The Charlotte Observer, "Taking Back Our Neighborhoods."
For an unprecendented community/newspaper approach to fighting crime in the city of Charlotte. The newspaper took an activist role by asking residents in the crime-ridden neighborhoods to report on the root causes of crime and to participate in the search for solutions. This newspaper effort was grounded on unusually strong neighborhood-by-neighborhood reporting. The newspaper listened to and wrote about paople whose voices are rarely heard. Residents all over Charlotte responded, demonstrating that an aroused community can, within the system of public life, take responsibility for its own well-being.
To The Argus Leader, Sioux City, S.D., "Community on the Rise."
For setting an example of what a small daily can do in inspiring a rural community in pusuit of a common cause. The newspaper had twin goals: To counter the despair many people have of their government and to help many rural South Dakotan towns that are suffering hard times. First, the newspaper reported on how three communities had surmounted serious problems and taken control of their destinies. Then it enlisted a college professor to help one community, Tyndall, address its many problems in a deliberative and public way. The result was the establishment of a model for community discussion and debate about basic values that led to progress for Tyndall, and, most importantly, hope for other communities that the process of democracy can work.
To The Kansas City Star, "Raising Kansas City."
For its bold and creative leap in building a year-long work of journalism around the exploration of core values that drive society and how those values have been distorted in modern times. In this ongoing effort, more than 50 reporters and editors unabashedly wrote about, discussed, and examined 12 basic values, delivering compelling accounts of children's struggles and triumphs in a most untraditional way. This was not a polemic; it was a bottom-up enterprise that captivated children, parents, schools and social organizations alike. And it was a prime example of how a news organization could connect to its community in a way that engaged thousands of citizens in thinking about their individual responsibility for making public life go better.
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