The Chicago Headline Club is pleased to announce that the winners of the 2008 Watchdog Award for Excellence in Public Interest Reporting are Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, Rui Kaneya and Tram Nguyen for their Chicago Reporter series, “Missed Signals.”
The Watchdog Award was presented April 25 at the Intercontinental Hotel during the Chicago Headline Club’s annual Peter Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, honoring the best Chicago-area reporting in print, broadcast and online media. “Missed Signals” was an exhaustive look at police shootings in Chicago, and included a great deal of computer-assisted and traditional research. The reporters analyzed thousands of pages of documents and conducted dozens of interviews to find connections between officers involved in shootings and those who get sued the most often by citizens alleging abuse or misconduct. The report raises serious issues about whether the police department is doing enough to identify and weed out bad cops.
The Watchdog Award honors Chicago area news reporting that calls attention to situations in which the public is being harmed or poorly served. Stories may involve public interest reporting at the local, state or national level. Stories may include coverage of the government, entities contracting with the government and public or private business.
The award is explicitly designed to encourage stories that stick up for the common person. Subject matter includes outstanding reporting that highlights disparities in how the public is served or which highlights those public activities that disproportionately affect certain segments of the population. Judges consider reporting enterprise, barriers to obtaining the information, accuracy, clarity of analysis, writing style. Judges may consider civic impact and evaluate the circumstances prompting the coverage and results achieved.
The Watchdog Award is sponsored by the Richard H. Dreihaus Foundation and includes a cash prize. The 2008 judges were: Tony Noce, retired, formerly executive producer of WGN-TV; Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association; Allen Pusey, managing editor of the ABA Journal; and Meg Tebo, adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago and a past Headline Club president.
In addition to the Watchdog Award, the club administers a Watchdog Fund for investigative reporting, also sponsored by the Dreihaus Foundation.
Information about how to apply for money to help cover research costs associated with investigative work is at headlineclub.org.