News organizations in Illinois and Alaska have been named as winners of the sixth annual Associated Press Media Editors’ Community Journalism Public Service Initiative.
The Southern Illinoisan and Unalaska Community Broadcasting Inc. (KUCB Radio) were named as winners of $2,500 grants and expenses to attend the annual ASNE-APME-APPM News Leadership Conference Oct. 8-11 in Washington. The grants and expenses were provided through grants from the Park and APME foundations.
“The judges felt that these two news organizations presented totally different projects, but were both equally deserving of the honor,” said Joe Hight, chairman of the grant project and judging panel this year. “They and the other entrants typify the outstanding public service work that smaller news organizations are doing in this country. APME continues to honor them through these grants.”
The Southern Illinoisan won for its series "Falling Through the Cracks: The Overlooked Public Housing Crisis in Rural America." The grant will allow The Southern to innovate and enhance the project looking at rural housing projects not only in Cairo, Ill., but in the Midwest.
In its application, the news organization found that people living in Cairo public housing “are living in apartments with rats and roaches, contaminated by lead and exposed asbestos, and without adequate heating systems, forcing them to use their ovens to stay warm. Our ‘Falling Through the Cracks” series will be built upon our coverage by examining rural public housing developments in the Midwest while continuing to cover the crisis in Cairo.”
Cate Barron, a grant judge and vice president for content for PA Media Group, wrote that the entry had a “detailed budget for grant money, including hosting a public forum, public records battles and equipment to enhance digital storytelling.”
“This newsroom’s powerful award-winning watchdog work on conditions in Cairo has already drawn a lot of outside attention and praise. Best of all, HUD took action against corrupt housing officials in the face of evidence documented by the newspaper,” Barron wrote. “Now, The (Southern) Illinoisan wants to take its investigation to another level, using multimedia to examine conditions in neglected public housing developments throughout the region. … With the newsroom’s track record of dramatic results, we are sure the funding will be put to good use.”
As for Unalaska Community Broadcasting Inc. it won for its project to record the history of the Unangax people, who were forced to evacuate and then were interned after the bombing of Dutch Harbor in Alaska'a Aleutian Chain during World War II.
“While students learn about the internment of Japanese-Americans, this history of the Unangax is rarely taught in schools and many survivors are uncomfortable recounting their experiences,” KUCB noted its application. “Seventy-five years later, survivors are dwindling and the chance to capture first-hand narratives is quickly shrinking. The bombing of Dutch Harbor, and subsequent forced evacuation of the residents of the Region, is a dark and little-known chapter in American History. We want to bring it into the light.”
Summer Moore, digital and audience engagement editor for The Times of Northwest Indiana, wrote that she and the other judges were impressed the radio station was emphasizing the need for the project to become a teaching tool in schools.
“The project KUCB is going after is an ambitious one that gets to the very heart of one of the most important facets of journalism: Being the historians of our culture,” Moore wrote. “The judges were impressed that KUCB recognized a little-known story was disappearing quickly and decided to do something about it. Audio storytelling is one of the oldest and best ways to preserve history, and we’re excited that KUCB is taking it on for their community.”
This is the second year The Park Foundation of Ithaca, N.Y., has funded two $2,500 grants that will help the news organizations finish their projects. The APME Foundation has supported the public service initiative since its inception.
The grants are awarded to media companies that have a website and serve a metropolitan area (MSA) of 100,000 or fewer people. The project can use print and/or digital platforms and include social media and/or a mobile strategy. It should be considered entrepreneurial and should have the potential to be used elsewhere, including by a larger media company.
Previous winners have been The Journal-Standard, which has won the grant honor twice, last year for its “Freeport Fish Tank” project and previously for its series analyzing the dramatic effect of a series of shootings on the 24,000 people who live in Freeport, Ill.; The Daily Item of Sunbury, PA, for its project on heroin and prescription drug abuse crisis in its community; the Tribune-Star of Terre Haute, Ind., for its project, “A City on the Brink: Terre Haute’s Financial Crisis ” The Enid, Okla., News & Eagle for "Under Pressure" about the city’s lack of services for poor parts of its city; The Sedalia (Mo.) Democrat for "Meth at the Crossroads"; and The Daily Citizen of Beaver Dam, Wis., for "Mental Health on Hold."