Nieman News

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Argus Leader in Sioux Falls has won the 2010 Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers with “Growing Up Indian,” an eight-part series that examines the daunting challenges faced by children on South Dakota’s Native American reservations.

Two finalists were also selected for the award: The Washington Post for “Paths to Jihad,” a five-part series on the pivotal choices made by young Muslims on four continents; and The Sacramento Bee for “Who Killed Amariana?” a three-part series that investigates the circumstances behind the death of a 4-year-old foster child in a mysterious arson fire.

“Growing Up Indian” tells the stories of three young women and a 3-year-old girl. The project was designed to raise public consciousness about what it is like to be a child on a reservation and show how that experience is both different and significantly more difficult than for many other children living in America today.

The series was produced by reporter Steve Young, photographer and multimedia producer Devin Wagner, managing editor Patrick Lalley, metro editor and project designer Jim Helland and multimedia manager Jim Cheesman.

Taylor Award judge Annmarie Timmins commented “This series was a tightly focused collection of reporting, photographs and first-person essays. The paper gave voice to an underserved population in a most fair way. A lesser reporting effort might have blamed government policies or the Indian lifestyle for the problems of infant mortality and high school dropout rates. This series didn’t shy from either argument but chose instead to highlight the problems in human ways and begin a discussion of what might be done to remedy them. A newspaper doesn’t have a more important job.”

Another judge, Tony Bartelme, added “This project could have been a mess — a disorganized collection of stories that repeated conventional wisdom and knowledge about life on a reservation. Instead, the reporter focused on a diverse set of characters to illustrate the reservation’s challenges. He wove these characters throughout the series in a way that gave the overall package a sense of continuity and cohesion. The paper also dedicated other sections to first-person essays, which added new and authoritative voices without distracting readers from the main event. ‘Growing Up Indian’ is “a truly ambitious eight-day series that brilliantly captures the challenges and hopes of Native Americans on a reservation in South Dakota. Crisp, even-handed writing, excellent photographs. Great work.”

The Taylor Award judges also recognized two finalists:

  • The Washington Post for “Paths to Jihad”

    In this series of articles, The Washington Post explores the choices made by five young Muslims in disparate places around the world in the post-9/11 era. The reporting traces the individual paths the young people have taken — both violent and peaceful — and what that portends for the future. Series reporters were Tara Bahrampour, Will Englund, Peter Finn, Sudarsan Raghavan and Emily Wax.

    Judge Tony Bartelme described “Paths to Jihad” as “a well-conceived and executed series about personal choices and Islamic extremism. The series paints five vivid portraits of people who chose paths of jihad, from a Somali teen to an Indian woman’s struggle with moderation. The subjects themselves are treated in an even-handed way, as should be expected. However, the diversity of the profile subjects and their beliefs gives the series a depth that sets this work apart from many of the other entries. This depth and diversity ultimately illustrates important political and economic trends that are shaping and reshaping the lives of so many people across the world. ”

    Judge Stacy St. Clair added, “In a series of powerful stories, Washington Post reporters avoid stereotyping and in doing so paint multidimensional portraits of their subjects.”

  • The Sacramento Bee for “Who Killed Amariana?”

    This series digs deep into the case of Amariana Crenshaw, a 4-year-old foster child whose death in an arson fire was initially labeled as an “unforeseeable, unpreventable tragedy.” But with prompting from the girl’s biological parents, whose concerns had been ignored by authorities, and a suspicious autopsy report, reporter Marjie Lundstrom set out to find the child’s killer, leading to the foster mother losing her license, an overhaul of the county agency monitoring the girl’s care and an unprecedented admission of wrongdoing by Child Protective Services officials.

    The team behind the series included Marjie Lundstrom, reporter for projects and investigations; Mitchell Brooks and Robert Dorrell, graphic artists; Hector Amezcua and José Luis Villegas, photographers; Julie Owens, team leader and universal copy desk; Amy Pyle, former assistant managing editor for projects and investigations; and Sheila Kern, researcher.

    Taylor Award judge Stacy St. Clair observed, “To tell Amariana Crenshaw’s difficult story fairly and completely, The Sacramento Bee assembled an impressive newsroom team. Together, they challenged the status quo, gave voice to the discounted, prompted an unprecedented admission of wrongdoing from a state agency and, perhaps, prevented other children from suffering a similar fate. The paper’s willingness to go to court to obtain critical records reflects the Bee’s determination to making sure a little girl — who death was dismissed and forgotten by those in power — did not die in vain.”

In making their selections, the Taylor Award judges identified stories that they believe met the highest standards of fairness in all aspects of the journalistic process: reporting, writing, editing, headlines, photographs, illustrations and presentation.

The judges for this year’s Taylor Award were Stacy St. Clair, a reporter for The Chicago Tribune who together with several colleagues was winner of last year’s Taylor Award for the series “Clout Goes to College,” Tony Bartelme, a 2011 Nieman Fellow and projects reporter for The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., and Annmarie Timmins, a 2011 Nieman Fellow and reporter for the Concord Monitor in Concord, N.H. Nieman Foundation Curator Bob Giles served as jury chair.

The Taylor Award ceremony will be held on March 10, 2011 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. The Taylor honor includes a $10,000 prize for the winner and $1,000 each for the two finalists. The award program was established through gifts for an endowment by members of the Taylor family, who published The Boston Globe from 1872 to 1999. The purpose of the award is to encourage fairness in news coverage by America’s daily newspapers.

William O. Taylor, chairman emeritus of the Globe, embraced the idea of an award for fairness in newspapers as a way to give something back to the craft to which five generations of his family devoted their working lives. For more than a century, the Taylor family’s stewardship of the Globe was characterized by an enduring commitment to fairness. At his invitation, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard agreed to administer the prize starting in 2002.

Established in 1938, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard administers the oldest midcareer fellowship program for journalists in the world. Fellowships are awarded to accomplished professionals who come to Harvard for a year of study, seminars and other special events. More than 1,300 journalists from 90 countries have been Nieman Fellows. The foundation’s other programs include the Nieman Journalism Lab, an innovative online collaborative that identifies emerging business models and best practices in journalism in the digital media age; Nieman Reports, an influential quarterly written by and for journalists that examines journalism’s core challenges and opportunities; Nieman Watchdog, a project that encourages journalists to monitor and hold accountable all those who exert power in public life; and Nieman Storyboard, a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism in every medium and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling.

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