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SPJ announces New America Award winners


For immediate release

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

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to announce the recipients of its New America Award for work published or broadcast in 2009. This year, judges chose two first place winners and two honorable mentions for work highlighting issues of importance to immigrant and ethnic communities in the United States.

Winner:Are Your Papers in Order?” series, by Michael Lacey, Stephen Lemons and Paul Rubin of the Phoenix New Times.

Winner:Hate Crimes,” by the KGTV 10 News I-Team in San Diego, Calif.

Honorable Mention:No Racial Boundary for HIV,” by Rong Xiaoqing of Sing Tao Daily.

Honorable Mention:Brian Ross Investigates: The Blueberry Children,” by Brian Ross, Avni Patel and Asa Eslocker of ABC News.

In the series “Are Your Papers in Order?” Phoenix New Times staff members placed the local sheriff under the microscope and reported on his bias against Maricopa County (Ariz.) residents of color. According to the entry’s cover letter, “The sheriff’s forces, using excuses such as broken taillights or cracked windshields, stopped anyone who might be illegal and sorted it out later.” The staff interviewed families who believed they faced discrimination and the series included stories that called for action against the sheriff and his cohort, County Attorney Andrew Thomas, as well as a story that looked into President Obama’s lack of policy in dealing with civil rights abuses against Hispanics.

Awards and Honors Committee Chairwoman Ginny Frizzi helped judge the contest and wrote highly of the winning Phoenix New Times series. She called it an “ambitious and eye-opening series (that) goes beyond the obvious to detail many contributory issues, such as racial profiling and deportation and groups, including neo-Nazis and other anti-immigration groups.” She said the reporters showed non-daily newspapers can achieve excellence in journalism.

The KGTV 10News I-Team spent 2009 exposing hate issues affecting San Diego and examining national hate crime trends. Their reports included stories of religious hate, crimes against gays and lesbians, hate crimes at schools and the on-going debate about immigrant rights. The I-Team made their audience aware of existing intolerances in the community. They co-hosted a hate crimes forum and worked with the local anti-hate group United for a Hate-Free San Diego. The station was sent negative messages for its coverage, but those messages didn’t deter them from their award-winning reporting.

Of the winning KGTV “Hate Crimes” entry, contest judge and Diversity Committee Chairwoman PuengVongs wrote: “Hate crimes is not a new topic but remains a serious issue in many communities; kudos to KGTV for putting in the resources to do this story throughout the past year. The series had great breadth showing how hate crimes affect ethnic, religious and LGBT communities.”

Vongs also praised the honorable mention “No Racial Boundary for HIV,” saying Xiaoqing’s entry is “an insightful series about HIV and AIDS in the immigrant Chinese community.” In “No Racial Boundary for HIV,” reporter Rong Xiaoqing of Sing Tao Daily delves into the HIV/AIDS issue within the Asian community. Her story takes a deeper look at how the Asian culture tends to have little sympathy for those with HIV and points out that continued ignorance of the disease will lead many down an unhealthy and potentially fatal path.

Frizzi also gave accolades to Brian Ross’ investigation and the team that produced the expose of children as young as five years old being used to harvest food in the United States. The ABC News team spent a summer in American blueberry fields to unveil that young children were working in order to help provide for their families. “The Blueberry Children” sparked outrage among human rights groups, major supermarket chains and the U.S. Department of Labor, prompting swift action across the nation. Frizzi wrote that the ABC News team told the story “in a strong and uncompromising way, exposing the problem, the impact on the children, most of whom are illegal aliens, and how the U.S. Department of Labor is failing to enforce child labor laws already on the books.”

This is the sixth year the award has been presented, but this is the first year with multiple first place winners and honorable mentions. The two first place awards will be presented during the 2010 SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference, Oct. 3-5 in Las Vegas.

For complete details on the New America Award, including past recipients, please see the SPJ website 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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