The 2012 Broun Award judges spent several months reading entries before choosing a winner. Clockwise from left: Chair Scott Stephens, former reporter with the Cleveland Plain Dealer and staff member at American Federation of Teachers; Sandra Banisky, former deputy managing editor at the Baltimore Sun and journalism instructor at University of Maryland; Robert Struckland, former reporter at the Missoulian and an AFL-CIO speechwriter, and Elmer Smith, retired columnist from the Philadelphia Daily News and part-time journalism instructor.
A Miami Herald series that exposed what contest judges called a "gut-wrenching epidemic of elder abuses and deaths" in Florida's assisted living facilities has won the NewsGuild-CWA's 2012 Heywood Broun Award.
"Through the aggressive pursuit of records, shoe-leather reporting, and vivid writing, the Herald's reporting team delivered journalism that was hard-hitting, fair, and life-altering," the four journalists serving as judges said in a joint statement. "With Florida the home to the nation's largest percentage of seniors, the importance of the series cannot be overstated."
The project, Neglected to Death, took reporters Michael Sallah, Carol Marbin Miller and Rob Barry more than a year to investigate and produce. The award, including a $5,000 check, will be presented at a dinner Oct. 16 at the Maritime Institute conference center near BWI. In addition, "Awards of Distinction" will be presented to The New York Times and NPR, each with a $1,000 check. Read more about the winners here.
The Heywood Broun Award is named for the New York columnist who helped found The Newspaper Guild, now known as NewsGuild, in 1933. As a journalist, Broun was a champion of the underdog and the award honors reporting that upholds that tradition.
The 2012 Broun contest drew 78 entries, 62 from print and 16 from broadcast. The quantity and "tremendous quality" of entries, the judges said, was uplifting in a time of grave concern about newsroom staffing cuts, ownership consolidation and other changes threatening traditional reporting and its vital role in a democracy.
"In the tradition of Broun, the majority of the stories shined a bright light on wrongs and tried to right them. They gave voice to the voiceless, and made visible the invisible."