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SPJ announces recipients of the 2005 New America Award

For Immediate Release

Heather Porter, Programs Coordinator, 317-927-8000 ext. 204, hporter@spj.org
Guy Baehr, Awards and Honors Committee, 732-932-7500 ext. 8024, gbaehr@spj.org

Indianapolis – The Society of Professional Journalists announced today the recipients of its New America Award. This is the second year for the award, which is designed to honor collaborative public service journalism by ethnic and mainstream news media working together to explore and expose issues of importance to immigrant or ethnic communities in the United States.

First Place went to WNYC Radio, The Center for New York City Affairs at The New School in association with Minnesota Public Radio and Macollvie Jean-Francois, Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska and Arun Venugopal for “Feet in Two Worlds: Immigrants in a Global City.” The one-hour broadcast, narrated by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt, told the stories of new immigrants from various nations and their adaptation to life in New York City.

The Salt Lake City Deseret Morning News and Mundo Hispano of Midvale, Utah, won second place for “Life in the Shadows/Viviendo en la Sombra,” their seven-part series exploring the effects of illegal immigration in Utah and the nation, not just on the border between the United States and Mexico, but also on schools, health care, the legal system and immigrant families.

Society president, David Carlson said, “These works are excellent examples of cooperation between mainstream and ethnic media, exactly what this award is meant to promote.”

Guy Baehr, chair of SPJ’s awards and honors committee, said that in both cases, teamwork by ethnic and mainstream journalists enriched the reporting and made it more impacting than it might have been otherwise.

“We knew two things when we created this award. First, that collaboration among news organizations of any kind is never easy, and, second, that collaboration between ethnic and mainstream news organizations can provide unique benefits for both ethnic and mainstream audiences. The entries we’ve seen both last year and this year demonstrate that what can be produced is well worth the effort. We’re extremely gratified to be able to recognize these journalistic pioneers and, we hope, to encourage others in the future to give their audiences the kind of journalism that can result from such innovative collaborations.”

The recipients will receive their awards at the society’s annual Sigma Delta Chi Awards banquet to be held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on July 14.

The first place entry, “Feet in Two Worlds: Immigrants in a Global City,” was a complex endeavor led by John Rudolph, a veteran independent producer, in which WNYC, owned by the WNYC Foundation, worked with The Center for New York City Affairs at the New School in association with Minnesota Public Radio and three local ethnic journalists.

They recruited, mentored and trained three ethnic newspaper reporters -- Jean-Francois, Kern-Jedrychowska and Venugopal -- to help produce reports for the program. One of the reporters, Venugopal, was later hired by WNYC, becoming the station’s first full-time South Asian reporter.

Their pieces were included along with segments by WNYC reporters who regularly cover the city’s immigrant communities. Author Frank McCourt, the bestselling author of “Angela’s Ashes,” hosted the program, which was broadcast May 16-20 on WNYC and some 80 other public radio stations around the nation.

The result was a compelling and nuanced exploration of the cultural, emotional, economic and political issues faced by new immigrants from different nations as they try to bridge the gap between their new home and the homelands from which they came.

In addition, they held a “Feet in Two Worlds” town hall-style meeting with journalists from both ethnic and mainstream media at the New School on May 10 to discuss the subject of immigration. The meeting was later broadcast on WNYC.

John Keefe, executive producer for news and information at WNYC, said the project, which has attracted attention among both ethnic journalists and public radio journalists, “became a benchmark for using new voices on the air, a training process through which we bring valuable talent to public radio, and a way to introduce our existing staff to new communities, sources and cultures.” The program and related content are available at: www.wnyc.org/news/articles/46883.

The second place entry, “Life in the Shadows/Viviendo en la Sombra,” was a comprehensive examination of how illegal immigration is affecting people’s lives and attitudes on both sides of the border between the United States and Mexico.

Focusing on Utah and its estimated 85,000 illegal immigrants, the Salt Lake City-based Deseret Morning News sought to get past the political and ideological rhetoric about the issue of illegal immigration and look at the facts of the matter and tell the stories of those affected.
Reporters tried to untangle contradictory statistics; visited communities in Mexico where many immigrants come from and told the stories of real immigrants, from hard-working breadwinners to a murder. To get at what most Utah residents were really thinking, as opposed to what was on talk radio, the newspaper, in cooperation with local television station KSL-TV, sponsored an opinion poll that showed the public was far less polarized than might have been expected.

To make the series more available in Spanish as well as English, the newspaper worked with Gladys Gonzalez and Sandra Plazas, who publish and edit Mundo Hispano, a local 10,000 circulation bi-lingual newspaper published in nearby Midvale, to translate the stories into Spanish. Mundo Hispano (www.munhispano.com) then published the series over several weeks.

John Hughes, editor of the Deseret Morning News, said the two papers have a long-standing working and personal relationship, but “this opportunity to reach a broader audience with such vital information strengthened our partnership.” The series, including some parts in Spanish, are available on the Deseret Morning News Web site at: www.deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,615152226,00.html.The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. The organization is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.


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