[This article was originally published by The Philadelphia Inquirer.]
The Inquirer has won five first-place national journalism awards, including two for investigative stories that uncovered a pattern of abuse at the Glen Mills Schools, once the nation’s oldest reform academy.
Reporter Lisa Gartner received top honors in the annual contest of Investigative Reporters and Editors for “Beaten, Then Silenced,” which detailed decades of widespread abuse of delinquent boys at the now-closed school and the cover-up by those entrusted to care for them.
Stan Wischnowski, executive editor and senior vice president of The Inquirer, said Gartner’s work represented the power of local journalism to make an impact.
“Who knows what could be happening at that school if she had not done this important reporting?” Wischnowski said.
A subsequent investigation by Gartner revealed how Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services allowed violence to go unchecked in juvenile residential programs.
The judges commented that “the writing was beautiful,” and hailed Gartner for an excellent use of sources and data “to draw back the curtain on what was an open secret.”
“One of the only entries to actually tell a story right from the top to explain the impact of the findings,” the judges noted. “One of the big things is the immediate impact and the fact that the work most definitely contributed to getting kids into a safer place, but at the very least got them out of that place.“
The IRE awards also named Spotlight PA, which covers state government and in which The Inquirer is a partner, as a finalist for its investigation, with the Caucus, of lavish spending by lawmakers and candidates.
The IRE awards, given since 1979, cover 17 journalism categories that recognize the best in investigative reporting by print, broadcast, and online media in various market sizes. The Inquirer won in the medium-size newspaper/online category, Spotlight PA in small. This year’s winners were selected from more than 450 entries.
The Inquirer also won four National Headliner Awards, selected by the Press Club of Atlantic City, one of the oldest and largest annual journalism awards contests. The paper won first place honors in the spot news, investigative reporting, photography and online video categories.
“It speaks volumes about the depth and breadth of Inquirer coverage,” Wischnowski said of the four awards. “It’s extremely gratifying.”
The Inquirer staff won first place among daily newspapers for breaking news coverage of a police standoff last August with a gunman that lasted 7½ hours in the Tioga section and left six officers wounded.
The judges commented: “Fast. Complete. Accurate. Multiple angles were covered with high skill with a human element near the top. Hit all qualities of excellent breaking news journalism.” The coverage involved dozens of reporters, photographers, and editors.
Gartner won first place and the “best in show” award for her investigative reporting on Glen Mills. Her reporting led to the City of Philadelphia removing its boys from the school, a state investigation that eventually closed the school, and an overhaul of youth facilities across Pennsylvania. An inside look into the effort to preserve Philadelphia’s ballroom scene, a black LGBTQ safe-space that has endured for 30 years.
”Legendary: 30 Years of Philly Ballroom,“ a documentary produced by Lauren Schneiderman, Raishad Hardnett, and Cassie Owens, won first place for a film on the city’s ballroom scene. Judges called it “compelling … with great energy and cinematography.”
Photographer Steven M. Falk’s image of right fielder Bryce Harper’s celebratory ice water bath from his teammates after winning a game with a walk-off double captured first place honors for an action or sports feature photography.
Said Danese Kenon, The Inquirer’s director of video and photography: “Our visual journalists go the extra mile to document communities in a way that goes beyond surface reporting. They embed themselves into families and scenes that lead to visual narrations that have depth and style.”
The Headliner Awards, established in 1934, also gave second-place honors to Inquirer staffers Jason Nark, for feature writing; Kristen A. Graham, for education writing; and Tim Tai, for multi-day photo stories. Chris Brennan took third place for political coverage.
The Inquirer’s investigative reporting is supported in part by The Lenfest Institute’s Investigative News Fund. Gifts to support the Investigative News Fund can be made at www.inquirer.com/donate. Editorial content is created independently of the Fund’s donors. A listing of Lenfest Institute donors can be found at lenfestinstitute.org.
Photo by Heather Khalifa of The Philadelphia Inquirer