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SPJ announces New America Award recipients


For Immediate Release:

Lauren Rochester, SPJ Awards Coordinator, 317-927-8000 ext. 210, lrochester@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists announced today the first and second place recipients of its New America Award for work published or broadcasted in 2008.

The first place winner is the “American Divide” series from The Columbus Dispatch and reporters Stephanie Czekalinski, Jill Riepenhoff and Todd Jones.

In second place are Nashville City Paper reporter Nate Rau, photographer Matthew Williams and editor Clint Brewer, who reported and editorialized on a proposed English-only referendum.

This is the fifth year for the award, which honors public service journalism that exposes an issue of importance to immigrant or ethnic communities in United States. The two awards will be presented during the annual SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference, August 27-30 in Indianapolis.

In “American Divide,” The Columbus Dispatch investigated for six months the burdens and benefits facing illegal immigrants in Ohio. The paper published the results in an extensive four-day series, highlighting that proposed immigration legislation in Ohio had negative consequences for other states. Showing its commitment to inform both English and Spanish-speaking populations, the paper published the series in both languages.

“The Dispatch is to be commended highly for translating their well-researched, comprehensive piece into Spanish,” said Pueng Vongs, chair of SPJ’s Diversity Committee. “The series gave critical information to the booming Latino immigrant population and fairly informed both sides of an increasingly vital issue.”

Through its Web site, the Nashville City Paper gave continuing coverage between June and December 2008 of the city’s proposed English-only referendum. The issue was of particular interest due to the region’s substantial and growing immigrant population. Though the twice-weekly print paper carried stories, the bulk of the coverage was purposed for the Web. The paper’s enterprising stories and editorials helped shape the city-wide debate on the pros and cons of English-only mandates in government.

“While the City Paper eventually editorialized against the proposal, its news coverage was balanced, unbiased and included reader-submitted comments, many in favor of making English the city's official language,” said Ginny Frizzi, chair of SPJ’s Awards & Honors Committee. “The series exposed an issue of great importance to ethnic communities and the general population.”

The City Paper’s former executive editor, Clint Brewer, is the immediate past president of SPJ. He was part of the team that produced the entry. His service to SPJ had no influence on the award selection.

For complete details on the New America Award, including past recipients, please see the SPJ Web site or contact awards coordinator Lauren Rochester at 317-927-8000 ext. 210.

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. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.


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