Casey Medalists 2011

NJ Spotlight | August 29, 2011 | More Issues
Among the many distinguished winners of this year's Casey Medals, NJ Spotlight chose three that we believe deserve wider circulation.

The Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism honor distinguished coverage of children, youth, and families — particularly those that are at risk or are otherwise in danger. NJ Spotlight believes that three of this year’s honorees, whose concerns mirror our own, are deserving of a wider readership. The Casey Medals are awarded by the Journalism Center on Children & Families (JCCF), a program of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The Other Welfare
The Boston Globe
Patricia Wen and Martin Baron

This highly readable and thoroughly reported series deftly exposes waste, mismanagement and abuse within a $10 billion federal program. The reporter found faces and figures to support anecdotal claims that the Supplemental Security Income program had, as she writes, “gone seriously astray, becoming an alternative welfare system with troubling built-in incentives that risk harm to children.”

Dogged reporting reveals that parents are willing to label their children “disabled,” despite its limiting nature, as long as the diagnosis came with a paycheck; that SSI workers blindly pay benefits years after a childhood diagnosis; and teens are motivated to continue the cycle because their families can’t afford to lose the benefit. This reporting led to an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Invisible Families
The Seattle Times
Mark Higgins, Nina Pardo, Danny Gawlowski and Kathy Best

This project, packaged in an easily navigable Web presentation, is filled with beautifully told stories in text, video and photos of an important topic: the day-to-day challenges facing homeless families. The five-month investigation found an overwhelmed social service network and families living in trucks and bouncing between friends’ homes and run-down motels. The videos of the homeless mothers, fathers and children telling their stories were extremely moving — and eye-opening. The voice and story of the teenage homeless boy and his single mother — and their quiet dignity — is hard to forget. The outpouring of comments and offers of help from businesses and individuals revealed the nerves the stories touched in the community.

Caught in the Crossfire: Victims of Gang Violence
Los Angeles Times
Barbara Davidson, Mary Cooney and Jeremiah Bogart

This powerful portrait of the tragic effects of gang violence demonstrates a strong commitment to the people in this story on the part of the photographer and the publication. It takes enormous time and effort to gain this degree of understanding and trust of the people covered. This body of work meets the truest and highest purposes of the profession — to give a strong and clear voice to those who are suffering. Davidson’s photos are intimate and shocking; they take us far beyond the daily crime stories into a world where being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be fatal.