The 1997 Sigma Delta Chi awards have been given to organizations and journalists whose work includes revelations of abuse by government agencies; a startling look inside a formerly unknown, yet notoriously unsafe industry; a call for change and ways of helping abused adults and children; and emotional stories of tragedy and triumph that touch hearts of every reader, listener and viewer.
“The Sigma Delta Chi awards every year represent the best of American journalism,” said Fred Brown, president of the Society and a past award winner. “They include print and electronic journalism of all types and writing, producing and graphics that display the best talents and energies of journalists from all disciplines, including research. For almost 90 years, SPJ has stood for quality, responsible journalism, and it’s appropriate that we recognize the best efforts in upholding that tradition every year.”
This year’s public service awards went to The Baltimore Sun, the Pensacola News Journal, U.S. News & World Report, Minnesota Public Radio, WISH-TV in Indianapolis, KOTV in Tulsa, Okla., and Phillips Business Information in Potomac, Md. The Society presented its first award for public service in online journalism to Channel 4000 (wcco.com) in Minneapolis. The award was for coverage of the Flood of ’97. A complete list of winners is included below.
The awards will be presented at the Society’s national convention, Oct. 22-24 in Los Angeles, Calif. At the convention, many of the award winners will lead professional development programs and discuss their work.
1997 SIGMA DELTA CHI AWARD WINNERS
Newspaper/Wire Service Deadline Reporting
The staff of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel won the award for its comprehensive coverage of the murder of Gianni Versace.
Newspaper/Wire Service Non-Deadline Reporting
Michael Wilson of The Mobile Register won the award for “Execution of a Klansman.” The series told the hidden story behind America’s last recorded lynching in Mobile, Ala., 17 years ago. The murder put a Ku Klux Klan commander on Alabama Death Row.
Newspaper/Wire Service Investigative Reporting
Will Englund and Gary Cohn of The Baltimore Sun won the award for “Shipbreakers.” The year-long investigation revealed safety hazards and cover-ups in the little-known shipbreaking industry that relies on poor, untrained workers to dismantle the world’s obsolete ships.
Newspaper/Wire Service Feature Reporting
Thomas French of the St. Petersburg Times won the award for “Angels & Demons.” It is a story of the murder of three Ohio tourists and their killer.
Newspaper/Wire Service Editorial Writing
Kate Stanley of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis won the award for “Learning to Die.” Judges said the entry was on of the most provocative discussions of death and dying in America.
Newspaper/Wire Service Washington Correspondence
Frank Greve, national correspondent for Knight Ridder’s Washington Bureau won the award for “Examining the National Park Service.” He uncovered information and wrote about an elaborate outhouse built by the Park Service at a taxpayer cost of more than $330,000.
Newspaper/Wire Service Foreign Correspondence
Laurie Garrett, a reporter for Newsday in New York, won the award for “Crumbled Empire, Shattered Health.” In this series, Garrett chronicled the serious nature of the spread of diseases in Russia triggered by both environmental factors and lifestyle choices.
Newspaper/Wire Service Public Service in Journalism - Circulation over 100,000
The Baltimore Sun and reporters Marego Athans, Debbie Price, Kathy Lally, Howard Libit, Mike Bowler, David Folkenflik and Stephen Henderson won the award for “Reading by 9.” The four-part series tackled the problem of students who were moving through the school system with inadequate or non-existent reading skills. The result was “Reading by 9,” a five-year public service campaign involving all newspaper departments.
Newspaper/Wire Service Public Service in Journalism - Circulation under 100,000
The news staff of the Pensacola News Journal won the award for “The Brownsville Revival: The Money and the Myths.” Despite town sentiment to avoid negative publicity, the newspaper investigated the million-dollar industry the revival had become and entered into an exploration of religion itself.
Steve Lopez, contributor to TIME Magazine, won the award for “The Search for the Unicorn.” This is an astonishing tale of Ira Einhorn, a convicted murderer on the run across five continents for 16 years, and of Richard DiBenedetto, the intrepid Philadelphia lawman who finally tracked him down.
Public Service in Magazine Journalism
Shannon Brownlee and Joannie M. Schrof of U.S. News & World Report won the award for “The Quality of Mercy.”
Staff photographers Bill Alkofer, John Doman, Carolyn Kaster, Joe Rossi and Scott Takushi of the St. Paul Pioneer Press won the award for “Hell and High Water.” The photo essay presents a tragic mix of natural disasters involving blizzards, ice, floods and fires in a vivid context of human emotions, suffering, hardship, agonies, and heroism.
Michael Ramirez of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., won the award for a collection of 10 cartoons on various subjects.
Graphic artist Paul Carbo and Graphics Reporter Brady MacDonald of the Orange County Register in Santa Ana, Calif., won the award for “Tiger!”
Radio Spot News Reporting
Radio Continuing Reporting of a Breaking Event
The staff of KTRH Newsradio in Houston, Texas, won the award for “Republic of Texas.” For several days, the station’s covered of the standoff between authorities and members of the Republic of the Texas militia group that declared the state was illegally annexed by the U.S.
Jim Ryan of WBAP Radio in Arlington, Texas, won the award for “My Daughter Learns about Sexism.” Judges said the editorial was thought provoking and persuasive, keeping the listener emotionally involved.
Radio Investigative Reporting
Bruce E. Gellerman of WBUR in Boston, Mass., won the award for “Germ Killing Toys.” The story investigated the use of Triclosan, a germ-killing chemical widely used in anti-bacterial soaps and more recently in a brand of plastic toys that the company claimed created a safer environment for children who played with them.
Radio Feature Reporting
Joe Richman, Deborah George and teenage reporters Melissa Rodrigues, Frankie Lewchuk and Juan Rodriquez of National Public Radio won the award for “Teenage Diaries.” The audio essays use an individual’s own words and environments to chronicle their daily lives.
Public Service in Radio Journalism
John Biewen, Stephen Smith and Mike Edgerly of Minnesota Public Radio won the award for “The High Cost of Poverty.” Judges said the piece was “eye opening,” and allows people who aren’t poor an inside look into the reality of the less advantaged and it shines a spotlight on those who profit from their plight.
Television Spot News Reporting
Dave Marquis, Mike Gavza, and Kevin Tansey of KXTV in Sacramento, Calif., won the award for “Boats into Bridge.” The News10 crew covered as it happened, the destruction as fast-moving flood water tore away a marina full of boats, carried it downstream and slammed it into a bridge.
Television Continuous Reporting of a Breaking Event
Kim Skeen, Gavin Gibbons, Brian Fuss, Sue Bhore, Karen Ours, Richard Martin and Gary Wordlaw of WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C., won the award for “Burial in Arlington: The Story of Larry Lawrence.” After learning the Clinton administration had approved an unusually high number of waiver requests for burial in Arlington Cemetery, the report examined the waiver process.
Peter Kohler of Cablevision Editorials in association with News12 Long Island won the award for “Household Horrors,” on ways to help victims of domestic violence.
Television Investigative Reporting
Joel Grover, Sylvia Teague, Richard Alvarez, Dolores Lopez and Juan Carreon of KCBS-TV in Los Angeles won the award for “License for Sale.” The investigation exposed corruption within California’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
Television Feature Reporting
NBC News’ Dateline NBC and staff members Sophi Faskianos, Sara James, Bob Brandel, Jamie Bright, Marc Rosenwasser, Caryn Herold, Loren Michelman, Wendy Sachs and Dan Taberski won the award for “The Ties that Bind.” The piece chronicles a year in the life of a family shattered by the explosion of TWA Flight 800.
Public Service in Television Journalism - Networks & Top 40
WISH-TV in Indianapolis, Ind., and staff members Clayton Taylor, Kay Akard, Anna Werner, John Rekis and Ken Lavenberg won the award for “I-Team Prime Time: Return to New Castle.”
Public Service in Television Journalism - All Other Markets
KOTV and staff members Scott Thompson, Grant Gerondale, Joe Durant, Michael Woods, John Creason and Brett Austin won the award for “Songs of the Prairie.” The piece addressed the environment and judges said part of its beauty was its quiet approach that “softly echoed the ecosystem it was about.”
Public Service in Newsletter Journalism
Phillips Business Information and David Evans, managing editor, Aviation Group, received the award for “TWA Flight 800: Dissection of a Disaster.” The series of articles examined the investigation into the cause and industry response to the crash of TWA Flight 800.
Research about Journalism
David Blomquist of The Record in Hackensack N.J., and Cliff Zukin, a professor in the Engleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, won the award for “Does Public Journalism Work?: The ‘Campaign Central’ Experience.” The research is an analysis of the newspaper’s civic journalism experiment.
Public Service in Online Journalism
Marcia Lynz Qualey and Jay Maxwell of Channel 4000 (wcco.com) in Minneapolis won the award for “The Flood of ’97.”