Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation of newborn screening program delays wins APME awards

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's investigation of delays in newborn screening programs captured top honors in the annual Associated Press Media Editors' Journalism Excellence Awards.

The newspaper's "Deadly Delays" project won in three categories — Public Service, First Amendment and the Al Neuharth Award for Innovation in Investigative Journalism.

"APME salutes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and all of this year's winners for the exemplary journalism being produced in newsrooms around the country," APME President Debra Adams Simmons said. "We are proud to celebrate journalism that changes lives. The news industry's commitment to solid public service journalism, defense of the First Amendment and digital storytelling is as strong as ever."

The 2013 APME contest recognized news organizations in seven categories and AP staff members in separate judging.

"This is journalism with an exclamation mark," the judges wrote in selecting the Journal Sentinel's project for the 44th annual Public Service Best of Show award. "What started as a data-driven project evolved into a momentous report filled with human dimension and a need for action." The award, sponsored by the APME Foundation, carries a $1,500 prize.

The newspaper also won the Tom Curley First Amendment Sweepstakes Award for the project, which analyzed data nationwide on screening programs designed to detect rare diseases in newborns and found delays at hospitals in testing the results, putting infants at risk. The award, sponsored by the APME Foundation, carries a $1,000 prize.

"This is investigative journalism at its best, practiced by masters of the genre," said the judges in the First Amendment category.

The Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the Virgin Islands Daily News won Public Service awards in their circulation categories.

The Gazette was honored in the 40,000 to 149,000 circulation category for its reporting on how wounded combat veterans lose benefits after being discharged by the Army for minor offenses. "Powerful and beautifully told," the judges said. "It stands up by every measure of journalism excellence we apply."

The Daily News was recognized in the small circulation category for "EMS in Chaos," a three-part series that revealed poor management in the Emergency Medical Service division on St. Thomas island.

"Once again the Virgin Islands' staff shines with its tenacity and reporting," said the judges, who noted the paper also won the Public Service award for its circulation category last year. It also won the Tom Curley First Amendment Sweepstakes award last year.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Colorado Springs Gazette were also honored in the Al Neuharth Award for Innovation in Investigative Journalism. Each will receive $2,500. The award is sponsored by the Gannett Foundation.

Other winners in the First Amendment category were the Herald-Tribune of Sarasota, Florida, in the medium circulation category, for its "Breaking the Banks" project about the failure of community banks in Florida and how local bankers shaped the crisis, and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, in the small circulation category, for a series of stories and editorials on the University of Wyoming's attempt to keep secret the hiring process for a new president.

Finalists in the Innovator of the Year contest were: Sarasota Herald-Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. They will compete at APME's joint conference with the American Society of News Editors Sept. 15-17 in Chicago. The winner will be judged by conference attendees and receive $1,000. The award is sponsored by GateHouse Media Inc.

USA Today was the winner of a new category, "Best Mobile Platform," for its mobile app.

APME also announced award winners in two other innovation categories as well as Digital Storytelling and International Perspective. Awards will be presented at the awards luncheon Sept. 16 during the ASNE-APME conference.

Judges did not participate in discussions or vote on categories involving their own news organizations' entries.

APME is an association of editors and content leaders at newspapers, broadcast outlets and digital newsrooms as well as journalism educators and student leaders in the United States and Canada. APME works closely with The Associated Press to foster journalism excellence.

Here are the award winners:

44th Annual Public Service:

— Winner of Public Service Best of Show and $1,500: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Deadly Delays."

Over 149,000 circulation:

— Winner: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Deadly Delays."

— Honorable mention: The Washington Post, "Homes for the Taking," which revealed abuses by investors and the loss of hundreds of properties in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods, often over tax debts of just a few hundred dollars.

40,000 to 149,000 circulation:

— Winner: The Gazette, Colorado Springs, "Other Than Honorable."

Honorable mention: Herald-Tribune, Sarasota, Florida, "Breaking the Banks."

Under 40,000 circulation:

— Winner: Virgin Islands Daily News, "EMS in Chaos."

— Honorable mentions: Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho, "Never Again", about wildland firefighting deaths; and The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia, "Inside ABC," about abuses in the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agency.

Judges: APME President Debra Adams Simmons, vice president of news development, Advance Local; Bob Heisse, editor, The Times Media Co.; Hollis Towns, executive editor, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press; Bill Church, executive editor, Herald-Tribune Media Group, Sarasota, Florida; Aminda Marques Gonzalez, executive editor, The Miami Herald; Laura Sellers, managing editor, The Daily Astorian, Astoria, Oregon; Jim Simon, deputy managing editor, The Seattle Times; and Brian Carovillano, managing editor, U.S. news, The Associated Press.


44th Annual First Amendment Award and Citations

— Winner of the Tom Curley Sweepstakes Award and $1,000: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Deadly Delays."

Over 149,000 circulation:

— Winner: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Deadly Delays."

40,000-149,999 circulation:

— Winner: Herald-Tribune, Sarasota, "Breaking the Banks."

Honorable mention: The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Freedom of Information work on "Other than Honorable," ''Honor and Deception" and other projects.

Under 40,000 circulation:

— Winner: Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

— Honorable mention: The Ledger, Lakeland, Florida, for its work to gain access to public records held by the Lakeland Police Department.

Judges: Mark Baldwin, executive editor, Rockford (Illinois) Register Star, chairman; APME Vice President Alan Miller, managing editor, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch; Teri Hayt, executive editor, The Canton (Ohio) Repository; and Tom Kent, deputy managing editor/standards editor, The Associated Press.


International Perspective Awards

Over 149,000 circulation:

— Winner: Seattle Times, "Sea Change," about how acidification is disrupting the Pacific's marine ecosystem far faster and on a far bigger scale than first predicted.

40,000 to 149,999 circulation:

— Winner: Portland (Maine) Press Herald, "Arctic Partnership," about the economic impact for Portland and Maine of the decision by an Icelandic shipping company to move its North American headquarters to Portland.

Under 40,000 circulation:

— Winner: Times-News, Twin Falls, "At the Door," about the rigorous training and eventual assignments of Mormon Church members as missionaries worldwide. It offered a rare look at how the missionaries' personal lives change dramatically over the one-year assignment.

Judges: Gary Graham, editor, The Spokesman Review, Spokane, Washington, chairman; Thomas Koetting, assistant managing editor, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; and John Daniszewski, senior managing editor, international news, The Associated Press.


Digital Storytelling

Over 149,000 circulation:

Winner: The Denver Post, "Chasing the Beast," about a storm chaser's ride through central Oklahoma during a tornado.

Honorable mention: The Arizona Republic, "Alone on the Hill," about the deaths of the Yarnell Hill firefighters.

40,000 to 149,999 circulation:

Winner: Maine Sunday Telegram, "Challenge of our Age," about the human impact of aging and how the state's public and private agencies are poorly prepared to meet the needs of an aging population.

Honorable mention: The Gazette, Colorado Springs, "Other Than Honorable."

Under 40,000 circulation:

Winner: Times-News, Twin Falls, "When the Smoke Clears," about firefighter deaths in the West.

Honorable mention: The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W. Va., "JFK: The Legacy Lives."

Judges: APME Vice President Alan Miller, managing editor, The Columbus Dispatch, chairman; Alan English, executive editor/general manager, Shreveport (La.) Times; and Monica Richardson, managing editor, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


Finalists for the Eighth Annual Innovator of the Year Award

— Herald-Tribune, Sarasota, "The Stolen Ones," about sex trafficking of children in an underground economy.

— The Wall Street Journal, "Start-Up of the Year," digital video offering, with a microsite, on 24 early-stage startups, which received mentoring from successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and business executives.

— The Columbus Dispatch, for its sustained enhanced format.

Judges: Joe Hight, editor, The Gazette, Colorado Springs, chairman; Meg Downey, former managing editor, The Tennessean, Nashville; George Rodrigue, managing editor, The Dallas Morning News; Linda Negro, managing editor, Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press; and Alison Gerber, editor, Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press.


Third Annual Innovator of the Year Award for College Students

— Winner: Department of Journalism, College of Media, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, for its mobile app "Virtual Dugout," which allows fans to follow the university's baseball team.

Judges: Chris Cobler, editor, Victoria (Texas) Advocate, chairman; Angie Muhs, executive editor, The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Illinois; Autumn Phillips, editor, Times-News, Twin Falls.


Fourth Annual Al Neuharth Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism

75,000 circulation and below:

— Winner: The Gazette, Colorado Springs, "Other Than Honorable."

— Honorable Mention: Herald-Tribune, Sarasota, "Breaking the Banks."

Above 75,000 circulation:

Winner: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Deadly Delays."

Honorable mention: The Washington Post, for its disclosures of secret surveillance by the National Security Agency.

Judges: Sellers, chairman; Simmons; and Sonny Albarado, projects editor, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


Best Mobile Platform

Winner: USA Today, for its mobile platform.

Honorable mention: Knoxville News (Tenn.) Sentinel, for its iPad app.

Judges: Downey, chairman; Graham, and Church.