Missouri newspaper wins APME grant; papers in Ohio and Pennsylvania chosen as finalists
Monday, May 13, 2013
Posted by: Laura Sellers-Earl
A Missouri newspaper’s proposed project on the issue of methamphetamine in its community has been selected as the winner of APME’s Community Journalism Public Service Initiative.
In winning the second-annual grant, the Sedalia, MO, Democrat will receive a $1,000 grant from the Associated Press Media Editors and an expenses-paid trip to present the project at APME’s annual conference in October in Indianapolis.
Democrat Editor Dennis Rich proposed the "Meth at the Crossroads” project because of the problem posed by his newspaper’s location in west-central Missouri at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 50, a major east-west corridor, and U.S. Highway 65, a "busy north-south shipping route.” He and city/crime beat reporter Emily Jarrett will work on the project.
"While we enjoy the benefits of a broad local manufacturing base and tourism dollars because of this proximity, there is also a downside that has proven costly both in terms of lives and resources,” Rich wrote. "Our project … would provide a comprehensive look at how and why meth comes to our area, what effect it has and what resources are available to reduce trafficking, possession and abuse.
"It is our hope that by engaging community members across multiple platforms and media formats we can give our readership a clear and thorough understanding of the issues and, potentially, encourage public officials and lawmakers to more carefully examine the resources dedicated to interdiction, treatment and public education.”
The runner-up for the grant was The Times-Reporter of New Philadelphia-Dover, Ohio, for its project examining foster care, and the other finalist was the Observer-Reporter in Washington, PA, for its project on the homeless.
To be eligible for the grant, media organizations must have a website and serve a metropolitan area (MSA) of 100,000 or fewer people. They were asked to submit a public service project that addresses a long-standing community issue The projects had to use print and/or digital platforms and include social media or mobile strategy. There was also an expectation that part of the project would be published before Sept. 1.
"The grant shows APME’s continuing commitment to community news organizations in this country. They are the backbone of journalism,” APME President Brad Dennison said. "These projects being undertaken by these three newspapers in Missouri, Pennsylvania and Ohio show the impact they can have on their communities. They are examples to all of us.”
Members of APME’s Awards/Great Ideas/Innovations Committee selected the winner, runner-up and finalist. Joe Hight, editor of The Gazette in Colorado Springs, and David Arkin, vice president of content and audience for GateHouse Media, are co-chairmen of the committee.
Judges said they were impressed with the proposal and the project’s potential impact on the Democrat’s readers and the community.
"It appears to be a very brave and important effort, which could help Sedalia and other communities understand and deal with a cruel scourge afflicting many smaller towns,” wrote judge George Rodrigue, managing editor of The Dallas Morning News.
Linda Negro, managing editor of the Evansville, IND, Courier & Press, said the Democrat showed that it had done significant reporting before proposing the extensive project.
"The facts and figures alone that have already been collected show a clear, compelling case,” said Negro, one of four judges. The other two judges were Meg Downey, managing editor of The Tennessean, and Laura Kessel, managing editor of the News-Herald in northern Ohio.
Last year's grant winner was The Daily Citizen of Beaver Dam, WI, for its series on "Mental Health on Hold," a multimedia project on mental illness in the community. Staff members Megan Sheridan and Trista Pruett presented their work at the 2012 APME conference in Nashville.