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The APME AWARDS for 2018
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May 14, 2018


NEW YORK – Journalism that exposed abuse of the public trust and shed light on the human condition earned top honors in The APME Awards for 2018.


The Houston Chronicle led the way with two first place awards and an honorable mention. Public radio stations – in Boston, Milwaukee and Missoula – won three first place awards, including two in the storytelling category. And in keeping with APME’s tradition of recognizing work from news organizations of all sizes, winners ranged from the Los Angeles Times to the Bristol Herald Courier in Virginia.

"The winning entries reflect a few common themes: a continued commitment to pursue strong watchdog reporting, experiment with innovative storytelling and find new, creative ways to directly engage audiences,” said APME President Jim Simon. “As many of my fellow judges noted, the list of winners shows the spirit of public interest journalism remains strong even in many financially strapped newsrooms with diminished resources." 

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis won the grand prize in the Public Service category for uncovering flaws and incompetence in the handling of elder abuse cases. “It’s so well done in every aspect: The beauty of the prose and the photos, the shocking findings themselves, the tremendous governmental reaction and response,” judges said.


The Kansas City Star won the grand prize in the First Amendment category for exposing the culture of secrecy in Kansas state government, and showing how it undermines the democratic process. “The impact of the Star’s work was swift,” judges said. “In a 12-week span, 32 transparency measures were proposed, and the speaker of the House ended the practice of allowing bills to be introduced anonymously.”


The Houston Chronicle won the grand prize for News Reporting for its coverage of Hurricane Harvey. “The Houston Chronicle gave readers everything they needed to know, and then some.  Exceptional multi-platform work from beginning to end,” judges said.


The annual contest honors excellence and innovation in journalism, and reflects the Associated Press Media Editors’ mission of fostering newsroom leaders, empowering journalists to succeed, and cultivating ideas that work. Teams of judges are composed of APME national board members and top editors at The Associated Press. Individual awards have one, two or three size categories, based on tradition and the wishes of some sponsors.


Winners will be recognized at the ASNE-APME-APPM News Leadership Conference, Sept. 11-12, in Austin, Texas.


At the conference, finalists for one of the APME’s most prestigious awards – Innovator of the Year – made presentations and the winner was selected by conference attendees. This year's winner was a web template used across GateHouse Media. The other finalists were an app created through a collaboration between The Blade of Toledo and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and an “Idea Fest” hosted by the Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. The live judging by industry peers is unique among journalism awards.


A full listing of winners with judges’ comments follows. Judges also had the option of awarding honorable mention recognition.


Grand Prize sponsored by GateHouse Media ($1,000)

Winner: “Left to Suffer,” Star Tribune of Minneapolis

Large Newsroom (76 people and up):

Winner: Left to Suffer,” Star Tribune, of Minneapolis

For exposing scandalous flaws and incompetence in handling elder abuse cases. It’s so well done in every aspect: The beauty of the prose and the photos, the shocking findings themselves, the tremendous governmental reaction and response. This is an issue that can and will affect many, and the Star Tribune's work did a tremendous public service in exposing these problems and pushing for change. 

Honorable Mention: Developing Storm,” Houston Chronicle

For a fascinating and very deep dive into the complex forces that exacerbated Hurricane Harvey's devastation on the Texas Gulf Coast. The details – timeline, players, decisions – were skillfully presented. The entire package had a strong editorial voice and offered possible solutions for going forward.

Honorable Mention: Evictions,” The Detroit News

For revelations about the rental market in Detroit that were both shocking and horrific. Never-before-released data powerfully illustrated the extent of the problem and the huge toll evictions take on families. The video and pictures, while sometimes hard to watch, added emotional power. The series prompted changes in city and state policies.  

Medium Newsroom (26 to 75 people):

Winner: “Nuclear Negligence,” Patrick MalonePeter CaryR. Jeffrey Smith, Center for Public Integrity, of Washington, D.C.

For a powerful, scary investigation that painted a frightening portrait of the safety climate in America's most secret and sensitive industry. Great use of FOIA documents and exhaustive, years-long digging.

Honorable Mention: “Jailed to Death,” Dan Kane and David Raynor, The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.

For terrific work documenting the number of jail deaths – 51 in five years – which should serve as a wake-up call for the community.  

Small Newsroom (Up to 25 people):

Winner: “Addicted at Birth,” Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier

For a smart, deeply reported and accessibly presented examination of a little-noticed angle of the opioid problem: babies affected by their mother's use while pregnant. The presentation – from the writing to the headlines to all the visual elements – commanded attention.  It was packaged in a very reader-friendly format, offering numerous podcasts, glances, graphics, lists and other chunky bits to both convey key points and pull readers in. Exceptional work.  


Honorable Mention: “Waiting in Pain,” John Hill, Honolulu (Hawaii) Civil Beat


For outstanding work revealing the effects of Hawaii's bizarre rules allowing insurance companies to choose the doctors who examine injured workers. The series combined deep and detailed investigative work with compelling personal stories that drove home how these rules sometimes play out in real life, and the inequities in a workers' comp system that is dysfunctional and arguably manipulated. 

Honorable Mention: “Category 10,” Virgin Islands Daily News of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

For the public service in simply being able to report and publish in the horrific circumstances created by Hurricanes Irma and Marie. Clearly, island residents hungered for news, and had their spirits lifted just by seeing the newspaper published. One judge was nearly in tears reading the letter describing what the staff went through. 


Grand Prize sponsored by the APME Foundation ($1,000)

Winner: “Why So Secret, Kansas?” The Kansas City Star

Large Newsroom (76 people and up):

Winner: Why So Secret, Kansas?” The Kansas City Star

For exposing the pervasiveness of secrecy in Kansas state government and how that culture subverts the democratic process. The impact of the Star’s work was swift: In a 12-week span, 32 transparency measures were proposed, and the speaker of the House ended the practice of allowing bills to be introduced anonymously.  

Honorable Mention: Fired, But Fit for Duty,” The Oregonian/Oregonlive of Portland, Ore.

For revealing that the state agency licensing police officers had allowed dozens of officers to retain their credentials even after they had been fired for sleeping on the job, showing up drunk to work, refusing to complete reports, failing to show up to court hearings, and beating handcuffed suspects. The news organization faced stiff resistance, but won every appeal and wound up with 10,000 pages of documents and three databases on police employment, training and discipline.

Medium Newsroom (26 to 75 people):

Winner: Redacted: What We Don’t Know and Why,” Wallace McKelvey, PennLive and The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Penn.


For springing into action when the state of Pennsylvania reneged on a promise that the medical marijuana industry would be regulated in transparent fashion. In news stories and editorials, they underscored the absurdity of a system in which applicants for growing and distribution permits decide what information they want the public to see, and the identities of regulators are kept secret.

Small Newsroom (Up to 25 people):

No award.


(Winner selected at ASNE-APME-APPM News Leadership Conference, Sept. 11-12, in Austin, Texas. Grand prize of $1,000 is sponsored by the APME Regents)

Winner: “Longform template,” GateHouse Media


For creating a template that can be used by all GateHouse publications. It allows readers to experience news and features in a whole new way.


Finalist: “NewsSlide,” The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


For a collaboration that shows the elegant side of storytelling. With stunning visuals, photo galleries and videos, NewsSlide delivers an immersive, dynamic and intuitive experience

Finalist: “Cap Times Idea Fest,” The Capital Times of Madison, Wis.

For embracing the role of good newsrooms to promote public discourse and be a community thought leader. The Cap Times did this through an gathering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that drew 70 guest speakers and 20 moderators for a daylong, immersive discussion on the issues of the day. 


No award.


Winning awards sponsored by Gannett Foundation ($1,250 for each size category)

Large Newsroom (51 people and up)

Winner: Quantity of Care,” Mike Baker and Justin Mayo, The Seattle Times

For courageous, painstaking, and lucid reporting that revealed the arrogant and dangerous practices of renowned neuroscience institute Swedish Health, a now-disgraced superstar surgeon, and a culture of sacrificing patient safety for profit.

Honorable Mention: Fight Club,” Carol Marbin Miller, Audra D.S. Burch and Emily Michot, Miami Herald

For exposing chilling, perverse and reprehensible practices including sanctioned beatings, sexual exploitation and vast administrative incompetence in Florida’s juvenile justice system.

Honorable Mention: “Mexico Blackouts,” Raquel Rutledge, Milwaukee (Wis.) Journal Sentinel

For revealing the deadly and pervasive presence of tainted bootleg alcohol in upscale Mexico resorts, a culture of callousness and exploitation toward victims, as well as the shameful censorship practices of the influential vacation site TripAdvisor.

Honorable Mention: “The Tax Divide,” Jason Grotto, Sandhya Kambhampati, Ray Long and Hal Dardick, Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois

For an examination of the systemic, patently unfair and egregiously fallacious property tax practices of the city of Chicago, as led by its politically powerful tax assessor, through the use of both traditional and innovative reporting techniques.

Small Newsroom (Up to 50 people)

Winner: “Nuclear Negligence,” Patrick Malone, R. Jeffrey Smith and Peter Cary, Center for Public Integrity of Washington, D.C.

For documenting safety hazards at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and beyond. The accounts of a near-disaster at Los Alamos during what amounted to a photo shoot of plutonium rods was simply chilling.

Honorable Mention: “Caged in Van No. 1304,” Christopher Williams, Sun Journal of Lewiston, Maine.

For taking an over-the-transom letter to the Sun Journal newsroom and digging to reveal unspeakably inhumane conditions that prisoners endure during the transports.  


Grand Prize sponsored by Middle Tennessee State University ($1,000)

Winner: “Hurricane Harvey: Houston’s Reckoning,” Houston Chronicle

Large Newsroom (76 people and up):

Winner: “Hurricane Harvey: Houston’s Reckoning,” Houston Chronicle

For truly spectacular coverage in the face of danger and even death. The Houston Chronicle gave readers everything they needed to know, and then some. The coverage included exceptional multi-platform work from beginning to end.

Medium Newsroom (26 to 75 people):

Winner: “Northern California Wildfires,” The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, Calif.

For amazing breaking news coverage across all platforms the night of the fire, and smart, focused watchdog follow-ups that featured strong reporting and writing. The multimedia work added a layer of compelling complexity.

Small Newsroom (Up to 25 people):

Winner: “Category 10,” Virgin Islands Daily News of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

For amazing, brave journalism by a newsroom working through back-to-back Category 5 storms that literally destroyed the island.  In the midst of it all, the Virgin Islands Daily News produced compelling stories, incredible photography and strongly designed work.


Large Newsroom (76 people and up):

Winner: “Alive Inside,” Mike Hixenbaugh and Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle

For a touching and informative narrative about the journey of a sheriff’s deputy with a brain injury that left him “in the netherworld between consciousness and brain death.” The story carefully examined how loved ones worked through questions about what life and living really means. The videos and graphics complemented the story without overwhelming it.

Honorable Mention: “A Tale of Two Cities,” Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times

For an especially well-written story about how moving work from an American city to a Mexican city changes lives in both places.

Honorable Mention: “My Aryan Princess,” Scott Farwell, The Dallas Morning News

For a gritty look inside the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, and the tragic life of a lifelong addict with mental illness who weaves her way deep into the gang and becomes an invaluable spy for law enforcement officials.

Medium Newsroom (26 to 75 people):

Winner: “Beyond Sides of History,” Erika Lantz and Frannie Carr Toth, WBUR-FM Boston Public Radio

For blending history and humanity in telling how two women became linked – one, the granddaughter of a brutal Nazi officer, the other the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. In a field of excellent entries, this one still clearly stood out. The narrative, video, audio and photos show how one generation influences the next, and the remarkable ways that people go about making themselves whole.

Small Newsroom (Up to 25 people):

Winner: “SubSurface: Resisting Montana's Underwater Invaders,” Nicky Ouellet, Montana Public Radio of Missoula, Mont.

For an intelligent and compelling examination of how invasive species threaten Montana’s fisheries, and how various agencies and interest groups are not always on the same page in fighting them.

Honorable Mention: “The Good Samaritan,” Stephanie Innes and Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star of Tucson, Ariz.

For the heartbreaking story of a married mother of three who was struck by a car while helping a stranded motorist, and lost both her legs.


Large Newsroom (51 people and up)

Winner: “Civilian Casualties In Iraq,” Molly Hennessy-Fiske, W.J. Hennigan, Marcus Yam and Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times

For taking readers to places that even American military investigators were avoiding, and drawing remarkable stories out of the victims of horrendous explosions..

Small Newsroom (Up to 50 people)

Winner: “Faith Betrayed,” Anita Hofschneider and Cory Lum, Honolulu (Hawaii) Civil Beat

For examining how decades of sexual abuse by Catholic priests has torn apart the overwhelmingly Catholic community on Guam. The ability to get so many people to open up was remarkable; the straightforward writing was critical to telling a story so unsettling.


Winner: NewsSlide,” The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

For a development that is reader friendly, intuitive, colorful and bright. The app invites readers to dive in, browse around, and spend time engaging with content.


Large Newsroom (51 people and up)

Winner: “The Reentry Project” Philadelphia Media Network

For leveraging innovative partnerships across news organizations, and creating a project of stunning breadth and clear engagement with the community. The journalism was exceptionally strong; the infographic especially impressive.

Honorable mention: “Costs of Growth and Change in Nashville,” David Plazas, The Tennessean of Nashville, Tenn.

For an informative look at how efforts to move Nashville forward and develop it into a mecca of the South have left some people behind, and resulted in a a shortage of affordable housing.

Small Newsroom (Up to 50 people)

Winner: "WUWM and the Milwaukee Community: All Hands On Deck," WUWM-FM Milwaukee Public Radio of Milwaukee, Wis.

For transforming the culture of its newsroom, involving every reporter and producer in actively listening to the community, and experimenting with ways to encourage audience participation. The convincing metrics that resulted show the audience is on board, and people are talking.

Associated Press Media Editors

APME is a professional network, a resource for helping editors and broadcasters improve their news coverage and newsroom operations.

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