The multi-part "Unequal Justice" series by InvestigateWest and the Pamplin Media Group was recognized during the award ceremony for the 2017 Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest last Thursday.
The series documented significant racial disparities in Oregon's criminal justice system. Five people who worked on it were presented with Bruce Baer awards during the June 21 ceremony for the regional contest conducted by the Oregon Territory chapter and the Western Washington Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Winning individual awards were Pamplin Media Group Executive Editor John Schrag, Portland Tribune reporter Nick Budnick, InvestigateWest Managing Director Lee van der Voo, independent reporter Kate Willson, and Portland State University professor Mark Harmon Leymon, who provided some of the data analysis.
The series also was runner-up in the category of best Crime and Justice Reporting.
In other contest awards, the Portland Tribune was the runner-up for the General Excellence award in the medium-size newspaper category. It also won the Sports Reporting award and sportswriter Kerry Eggers won the Best Sports Column award.
The Hillsboro Tribune, also owned by Pamplin Media Group, was the runner-up for the General Excellence award in the small newspaper category. And Nicole Thill, a reporter for the Columbia County Spotlight, another Pamplin paper, was runner up in the short-form feature news reporting category.
The Bruce Baer award was presented by former Portland Mayor Bud Clark. It honors the late Bruce Baer, a political reporter for the Portland Reporter and for 13 years with Portland's KATU Channel 2. The award focuses on in-depth coverage of Oregon politics and public affairs. Stories are judged on the quality of effort in reporting, and the enterprise and courage reflected in the work.
The Friends of Bruce Baer have presented the award for 40 years and this is the first time that the top honor went to a collaborative journalism project.
"Unequal Justice" was made possible by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism. It built on the work by Willson, who compiled and began analyzing 5.8 million criminal and violation cases comprising 8.4 million charges filed in Oregon's 36 counties. Wilson brought her research to InvestigateWest, which developed and coordinated the larger collaboration with the Pamplin Media Group and PSU's Harmon.
Other contributors included The National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, which reviewed and refined the methodology and analysis; data analyst Adam Lake; database administrator Joe Petsche; digital map maker Lynn Songer; University of Oregon School of Journalism instructor Shan Anderson; and independent producer Karen Pelland, who provided audio assistance.
The Society of Professional Journalists is a membership organization that promotes excellence in the field. The regional contest was open to news organizations in five states, including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. Entries were judged by the SPJ chapters in Chicago and Connecticut.
To read the "Unequal Justice" series, go to: tinyurl.com/y9bsyrzl.
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