First place: Staff, The Waxahachie Daily Light
About this entry: “Public service journalism is broadly defined as journalism that contributes to and helps frame the discussion of a heavily debated issues.
When we broke the news in early December that more than 500 undocumented children were coming into Ellis County, and that county officials and law enforcement didn’t know until just less than 24 hours beforehand, the Waxahachie Daily Light did just that.
Residents were outraged.” — Shelly Conlon
Read online: County to house up to 700 undocumented children, Sheriff addresses security concerns about incoming undocumented children, Barton: The law needs to be changed, Children arrive at Lakeview, Facebook followers react with concerns, care for refugees, Donors help Midlothian church provide Christmas for unaccompanied minors, Undocumented children leaving Lakeview camp as 21-day limit expires
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What a fantastic effort by your staff to not ignore a sensitive and sticky issue but to go at it hard with passion and strong voice. This effort showed that if a newspaper pushes for access, we are once again the only player in town who can educate and inform in a way that could just lead to acceptance. What a great public service project this was for your community. Kudos.
Second place: Danny Henley, Hannibal Courier Post
About this entry: “The Hannibal Board of Public Works had spent more than $12 million on an energy investment without delivering a single watt of power for use by customers in Hannibal. The problem was, customers knew very little about it. With at least three rate increases tied to the poor performance of the investment over a period of several years, the Courier-Post sought to illuminate the many complicated facets of the energy investment. The powerful story and several sidelines, compiled by reporter Danny Henley, helped BPW customers focus anew on how their utility money was being spent. One reader called the piece and sidebars “courageous reporting” in a letter to the editor. Letters to the editor, both positive and negative, are included as URL links along with the story and sidebars. The Courier-Post stayed on top of Prairie State into 2016 (investments have now exceeded $16 million). The piece encouraged the public to get more involved with what is happening at the Board of Public Works, and they have with two more issues, including another energy investment.” — Eric Dundon
Read online: HBPW’S power plant investment still generating red ink, Prairie State agreement began in 2007, Many businesses/organizations involved in Prairie State deal, Letter to the editor: BPW Board members made good decision to invest in Prairie State, Letter to the editor: Hannibalians should question Prairie State investment, Letter to the editor: Questions about the Prairie State investment by the city and BPW, BPW scales back electric rate hike request, Letter to the editor: Attack on coal industry driving up costs of Prairie State
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There’s nothing that most journalists like more than uncovering a problem that the community is unaware of but that is causing them a lot of their taxpayer dollars. Often times these issues are done behind closed doors. But your paper uncovered an energy program that was costing everyone in your county more. Good solid work on a seemingly questionable deal.
Third place: Staff, Marshfield Mariner
About this entry: “Our two-week special in-paper series ‘Dealing with Drugs’ was in every way a team effort. This group project had great momentum from the start as the opioid epidemic on the South Shore was a topic our entire newsroom – reporters, editors and photographers – wanted to explore and expose to our readers.
This special report ran over two weeks (March 25-27 and April 1-3) and featured 15 different articles along with several editorials, columns and commentaries. All of the content was also posted to our Wicked Local news websites.
In addition to being an issue of great import to our readers and the region, we believe our coverage of the drug crisis was also a great reader service.” — Alice Coyle
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There’s nothing better than knowing that your staff helped enlighten a community about an issue that impacted so many. Your “Dealing with Drugs” project hit all the right components, there was an epidemic that a lot of folks were struggling with. So you set out to educate, inform and then help solve how this issue might be solved. You should be proud.