Taking Back our Neighborhoods/Carolina Crime Solutions Charlotte, NC 1994
The Charlotte Observer
Pew funds supported the hiring of a community coordinator, Charlene Price-Patterson, who was instrumental in organizing town meetings and focus groups and coordinating reader response.
Reporting started with a computer-assisted analysis of two years of crime statistics that helped the partners select which neighborhoods to focus on. They then polled 400 neighb orhood residents about what they believed to be the root causes of the crime rate. The partners also asked residents of each neighborhood to join an advisory panel that would help frame coverage and define what they saw as the causes and solutions.
Meanwhile, reporters hit the streets to do ground-level reporting on the crime situation in each neighborhood and to produce parallel reports about what worked in neighborhoods where crime was dropping. When the stories ran, the paper included boxes of very specific actions readers could take to help, including a "needs list" drawn up by residents of items and services that could be donated to make improvements in their neighborhoods. The paper also published a telephone number, manned by the United Way, where volunteers could sign up to help.
The response was large and immediate. Lawyers volunteered to use the legal process to shut down crack houses. Volunteers cleared a neglected community park, and started an after-school program and Girl Scout troops. The government also responded, razing unsafe buildings, improving sidewalks and storm drains, sending special police task forces into neighborhoods and launching recreational activities for children. In many of the neighborhoods, crime rates dropped.
Follow-up stories in subsequent years showed improvements continuing in most communities. The project won the 1996 Batten Award.
Chuck Clark (former Government Editor, The Observer)
633 N. Orange Avenue
Orlando, FL 32801
TEL: (407) 420-5468
A Collision Course, Idaho Falls, ID 1998
Idaho Falls Post Register
Lewiston Morning Tribune
Idaho Public Television
KTVB (NBC, Boise)
This unique partnership sparked a statewide conversation on Idaho's runaway prison spending with "Collision Course," a five-part series that revealed the hidden cost of building more jails and engaged hundreds of people in the search for alternatives.
As a point of comparison, the partners chose declining state spending on higher education to illustrate how escalating prison spending was affecting Idaho's quality of life. A poll of 804 residents in October 1997 showed 73 percent disagreed with the state's spending priorities. A series of focus groups in six communities explored the reasoning behind the opinions the poll surfaced.
Each paper focused on one part of the overall story. The Spokesman-Review, for instance, coordinated polling and took the lead role in writing the kick-off segment while the Statesman created a database on prison population trends and wrote the bulk of prisoner profiles and articles on higher education. All four papers ran the series from Nov. 16 to 24, 1997. KTVB produced a four-part series of stories that week. Idaho public television broadcast a live town hall meeting Nov. 24.
The series prompted a noticeable change in elected officials' approach to the issue, which had been dominated by law-and-order, lock-'em-up rhetoric. After the series, legislators explored sentencing reform proposals that would reduce the number of non-violent offenders incarcerated.
The partners seized the momentum of the project to launch "Idaho Speaks Out," a civic approach to their 1998 election coverage. A statewide poll in May, the largest ever taken in Idaho, revealed four major issues-federal debt, health care costs, taxes and schools-as voters biggest concerns. A second poll in September refined the findings, showing that education was the issue that would most influence voter decisions. The partners shared the information and analysis; then each partner used it to develop stories tailored to local readers and viewers.
"Collision Course" shared in the 1998 Batten Award.
Dennis Joyce (formerly with Statesman)
Asst Managing Editor
Arizona Daily Star
PO Box 26807
Tucson, AZ 85726-6807
Phone: (520) 573-4224
Fax: (520) 573-4200
The Post Register
P.O. Box 1800
Idaho Falls, ID 83403
Phone: (208) 542-6766
Men as Peacemakers, Duluth, MN 1996
Duluth (MN) News Tribune
WDSE-TV public television
Violence Free Duluth organization
The project "Men as Peacemakers" reversed the normal tendency to let men stay on the sidelines while women lead efforts to end violence and attracted the efforts of hundreds of Duluth men.
A community organization approached the media partners after a series of particularly gruesome incidents in Duluth, asking for help in promoting violence- prevention strategies. Initially, the partners agreed to finance a retreat, where about 50 men planned strategies for curbing violence. Impressed with the results, the partners launched a civic journalism project to explore the issue more fully.
In March 1996, the News-Tribune began seven-month series of stories on ways people are affected by violence, how they learn to be violent through sports, the media and in the home, and how prejudice, drugs and peer pressure influence violence. The paper also printed and distributed a resource guide showing men what services are needed and exactly how to volunteer.
WDSE featured segments on its public affairs show and produced a documentary and a 90-minute televised town forum, Oct. 8, 1996. The documentary was distributed to libraries and edited for use in classrooms, along with a teacher's guide created for the project.
The "Men as Peacemakers" group grew from the original 50 to more than 200 and sponsored a "week without violence" that included a community fair, showcasing the news coverage and showing people how they could get involved.
Deputy Managing Editor
202 S. Parker Street
Tampa, FL 33601
TEL: (813) 259-7600
FAX: (813) 259-7676
Safer Cities, St. Paul, MN 1995
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Wilder Research Center
Breaking out of the daily police blotter routine, the paper commissioned a poll of 2,853 Twin City residents that explored public attitudes toward crime and safety and assigned a team of four reporters to look at crime in the context of race, age, gender and geography. They also explored the media's role in public perceptions of crime.
The 10-part series began in the Pioneer Press on Sept. 24, 1995 and ran Sundays through Nov. 26. With interactive features, such as a risk quiz and a neighborhood audit, the series guided readers through a psychological evaluation of their own fears, a reality check about the dangers in their lives, the best ideas from around the country for fighting crime and a look at the most promising local efforts, including a map of resources and lists of safety tips. The paper also sponsored two public forums - each with about 40 people - on crime issues and reported the results.
KARE aired six stories about the poll results.
Reader reaction was overwhelmingly positive and the series won the top prize from the Minnesota Associated Press and the University of Minnesota Journalism School. The series had a long-term impact on the paper, too. Editors revamped crime coverage, instituting a public safety column, and reorganized the newsroom into teams and clusters.
The paper also applied and refined the "Safer Cities" model in later projects, including "Across Generations," about tensions among different age groups, "Poverty Among Us," about combating post-welfare reform poverty, and "The New Face of Minnesota," about immigration. Together, these projects won a Legacy Award in the Pew Center's 2002 Batten Awards competition.
Walker Lundy (Former Pioneer Press editor)
Editor & Executive Vice President
The Philadelphia Inquirer
400 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19101-8263
TEL: (215) 854-4594
FAX: (215) 854-5099
Sr. Editor, Politics & Special Projects
St. Paul Pioneer Press
345 Cedar Street
St. Paul, MN 55105-1057
TEL: (651) 228-5522
FAX: (651) 228-5500
Aging and Family Issues, Express
St. Paul Pioneer Press
345 Cedar Street
St. Paul, MN 55101-1057
TEL: (651) 228-5468