An investigation into the dangers of the increasing use of radiation in diagnosing and treating disease earned The New York Times a Public Service Award Wednesday from the Associated Press Managing Editors association.
In a series of stories on the dangers of wayward medical radiation, the newspaper reported on a fast-evolving medical world in which safety has lagged behind technical innovation. It found that financial incentives have driven the medical radiation boom, with the average American receiving seven times as much diagnostic radiation in a lifetime as three decades ago. It also found that there are insufficient standards for radiation, and that manufacturers sometimes send products into the market without failsafe devices.
In the 40,000- to 150,000-circulation category, the Asbury Park Press of Neptune, N.J., won for a comprehensive look at the oppressive property tax system in New Jersey. It reported that nearly half of the $47 billion raised to fund government in New Jersey comes from property taxes, a burden unmatched by any other state.
The Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier won the small-circulation category for an eight-day series and subsequent follow-ups on how Virginia's system of natural gas royalties is mismanaged.
APME, an association of editors at AP's 1,500 member newspapers in the U.S. and newspapers served by the Canadian Press in Canada, recognizes journalism excellence with annual awards in six categories. The awards will be presented at the group's annual conference Oct. 20-22 at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. Judges did not participate in discussions or vote on their own newspapers' entries.
Judges for the Public Service awards were APME President Otis Sanford, editor/Opinion and Editorials, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.; past APME presidents Bobbie Jo Buel, editor, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson; Suki Dardarian, managing editor, The Seattle Times; and David Hawpe, formerly vice president and editorial director, The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.; and Kristin Gazlay, AP vice president and managing editor for financial news and global training.
"In a category full of outstanding entries, this was an amazing piece of journalism," the judges said in making the award to The New York Times for the radiation boom series. "It was well-reported, well-supported, fluidly woven and artfully constructed with dramatic effect."
"The way this human tale was pieced together from e-mails and other sources that were not subject to a gag order was ingenious, and while there were some in the medical community who cooperated with the newspaper, the secrecy and silence was enormous. But the impact and effect of The Times' effort, which got regulations changed and led to the protection of patients and consumers, was huge," they said.
Innovator of the Year Finalists
Three finalists were selected for APME's fourth annual Innovator of the Year Award: The Seattle Times for its breaking news coverage of the deaths of four police officers and its networked journalism project; the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle for its Picture the Impossible alternate reality game developed in partnership with the Rochester Institute of Technology; and the Statesman Journal of Salem, Ore., for its extensive use of social networking in all types of reporting.
Judges were Jon Broadbooks, executive editor, The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.; Bob Heisse, vice president and executive editor, Centre Daily Times, State College, Pa.; and Laura Sellers-Earl, director of audience development, East Oregonian Publishing Co., Astoria, Ore.
The papers will present their innovative work at the APME conference, and attendees will choose the winner.
Gannett Foundation Award for Digital Innovation in Watchdog Journalism
The Chicago Tribune and the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune were winners of the first Gannett Foundation Award for Digital Innovation in Watchdog Journalism, administered by APME.
The award recognized papers that creatively used digital tools in the role of being a community's watchdog. Each winning paper will receive $2,500 from the Gannett Foundation and will be recognized at the APME conference.
The Chicago Tribune won the award for papers over 75,000 circulation with work produced by its News Apps Team, which was formed to create new ways to tell watchdog stories online.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune was honored for papers under 75,000 circulation for its flipping fraud investigation, which examined a decade's worth of Florida real estate sales.
Judges were Heisse, Sanford, Sellers-Earl and Alan Miller, managing editor, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch.
The association also chose the winners for the following awards (in order of circulation category – over 150,000, 40,000-150,000 and under 40,000):
• The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch for reporter Randy Ludlow's crusade for openness. His use of public records led to the resignation or removal of two state public safety directors and the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
• The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C., for a three-part series revealing that North Carolina has one of the nation's most secretive laws regarding the release of personnel information for public employees.
• Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star for exposing, through open records requests, racist e-mails sent by a city councilman to friends.
Judges: Hollis Towns, executive editor, Asbury Park Press, Neptune, N.J.; Dennis Anderson, managing editor, Lawrence (Kan.) Journal World; David Bailey, managing editor, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock; Brad Dennison, vice president/News & Interactive Division, GateHouse Media, Fairport, N.Y.; Kurt Franck, executive editor, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio; and Dave Tomlin, AP associate general counsel.
• The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J., for columnist Bob Braun's coverage of the earthquake in Haiti, which gave a personal tone to the heartbreaking stories he found.
• The Washington Times for Heather Murdock's coverage of Yemen, which, through a variety of stories, gave a sense of the challenges and dangers facing the Mideastern country.
• The News Virginian, Waynesboro, Va., for the Borders Within, which told the story of the growing Hispanic population in Waynesboro.
Judges: Peggy Bellows, managing editor, Media General's Metro Consolidated Editing Center; Michael Days, editor, The Philadelphia Daily News; and John Daniszewski, AP's senior managing editor for international news and photos.
• The Seattle Times for coverage in print and online of the slayings of four police officers in a suburban coffee shop and the ensuing 40-hour manhunt, which the judges said gave the audience a chance to interact with the news in real time.
• Florida Today, Melbourne, Fla., for a multimedia package that looked at the life of William Dillon, who spent 27 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. It combined a special Flash presentation, a 44-minute documentary and stories.
• The Courier, Waterloo, Iowa, for wall-to-wall coverage of the murder of a popular high school coach who was gunned down in front of students.
Judges: Jack Lail, multimedia editor, Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel; Kathy Best, managing editor/digital news and innovation, The Seattle Times; Carole Tarrant, editor, The Roanoke (Va.) Times; and Paul Cheung, AP interactive and graphics editor.
The judges listed honorable mentions in other categories: PUBLIC SERVICE
• The New York Times for an investigation into why ground beef tainted with E. coli remains such a common threat.
40,000 to 150,000:
• The News Journal, Wilmington, Del., for an investigation into the failed attempts by police and prosecutors to build a case against a suspected pedophile pediatrician.
• The News Virginian, Waynesboro, Va., for its coverage of a children's mental health facility that twice avoided closure in tight budgeting times.GANNETT AWARD FOR DIGITAL INNOVATION IN WATCHDOG JOURNALISM
• The Statesman Journal, Salem, Ore., for its work on several watchdog projects.
• The Milwaukee (Wis.) Journal-Sentinel for A Father's Journey: Searching for Answers in Afghanistan. 40,000 to 150,000:
• The News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla., for stories and photos on the Haiti earthquake.
• The Detroit Free Press for Rising from the Wreckage, the story behind the historic meltdown of the American auto industry in 2009.
• The New York Times for a variety of interactive projects.
40,000 to 150,000:
• The News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla., for Life on the Edge, the story of the community's poorest neighborhood and the people who live life on the edge there.
• The Roanoke (Va.) Times for Interstate 81: Fear, Facts and the Future.
• Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World for Growing Up Together, the story of a pregnant teenager.
• The Enterprise, Brockton, Mass., for a series on a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who died in Afghanistan.
In addition the judges awarded these First Amendment citations:
• The News Journal, Wilmington, Del., for forcing the Social Security Administration to release judicial records from across the country, exposing judges who deny worthy claimants.
• The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, for aggressive coverage of the battle between the legislature and courts over whether birth dates of public employees should be open records.