NEW YORK (AP) — The Seattle Times’ investigation of the state of Washington’s practice of steering people to methadone to reduce its Medicaid costs won a Public Service award from the Associated Press Media Editors association.
In a three-part series, the newspaper’s ‘‘Methadone and the Politics of Pain’’ exposed how more than 2,000 people in the state between 2003 and 2011 fatally overdosed on methadone, a cheap and unpredictable painkiller that was routinely prescribed for people in state-subsidized health care. After the series was published in December, state Medicaid officials sent out an emergency advisory warning of the risk of methadone. The state also told doctors to prescribe methadone only as a last resort.
The judges in the 2012 APME Journalism Excellence Awards described the series, winner in the large newspaper category, as a ‘‘tremendous, groundbreaking work.’’
‘‘It opened eyes and prompted swift action,’’ they said. ‘‘This is public service journalism at its best.’’
In the 40,000- to 150,000-circulation category, The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., was honored for its coverage of the Penn State sex-abuse scandal involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky. ‘‘The Patriot-News was far out front in reporting one of the most explosive stories of 2011, and they did it at great peril to the newspaper’s reputation in the state,’’ the judges said.
The Virgin Islands Daily News won the small-circulation category for ‘‘License to Steal,’’ a two-month investigation that exposed a con man who set up a credit union to steal from unsuspecting customers—and the lax oversight of such institutions by the Virgin Islands government.
The judges said the work ‘‘represents public service journalism of the highest order. The paper stepped in to protect the islands’ most marginalized, vulnerable residents when their government failed them.’’
APME is an association of editors at newspapers, broadcast outlets and journalism educators and student leaders in the United States and Canada. APME works closely with The Associated Press to foster journalism excellence.
The awards will be presented at the group’s annual conference Sept. 19-21 in Nashville, Tenn.
Judges for the Public Service awards were: Alan Miller, managing editor, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch and APME Journalism Studies chair; APME President Bob Heisse, executive editor, The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.; APME Foundation President Hollis R. Towns, executive editor, Asbury Park Press, Neptune, N.J.; AP Managing Editor Kristin Gazlay; and former APME presidents Bobbie Jo Buel, editor, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson; David Ledford, executive editor, The News Journal, Wilmington, Del.; and Otis Sanford, Helen and Jabie Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economics/Managerial Journalism at the University of Memphis.
Judges did not participate in discussions or vote on their own newspapers’ entries.
The APME board added two contests this year, one recognizing innovation in radio and television and the other for innovations by college students.
Three finalists were selected for APME’s sixth annual Innovator of the Year Award: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for its ‘‘Empty Cradles’’ series about the death of children before their first birthday; the Arizona Republic, Phoenix, for the convergence of print, broadcast and online in its website, AZCentral; and The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, for innovations throughout its website.
The judges said the Journal Sentinel project ‘‘tackles a social issue and not only tells the story but, as an information source, is part of the solution. The project gets readers involved.’’ They described AZCentral as ‘‘comprehensive convergence in a successful model,’’ and said The Oklahoman ‘‘takes new and developing technologies and weaves them throughout news coverage on the Web.’’
Judges were: Joe Hight, director of information and development, The Oklahoman; APME Vice President Brad Dennison, vice president/News & Interactive Division, GateHouse Media; and J.B. Bittner, CNHI deputy national editor, Stillwater (Okla.) News Press.
The papers will present their groundbreaking work at the APME conference, and attendees will select the winner, who will receive $1,000 from GateHouse Media.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune were the winners of the Gannett Foundation Award for Digital Innovation in Watchdog Journalism, administered by APME.
The Journal Sentinel was honored for ‘‘Both Sides of the Law,’’ an investigation into the system that allows Milwaukee police officers to stay on the job despite violating laws and ordinances they were sworn to uphold.Continued...