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Cyntoia's Story runner-up in 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism (long-form video)

*** Partial excerpt. Original post can be found here. ***

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (June 28, 2012)-- An investigation of violence-plagued public schools. A memorable narrative about an autistic young adult achieving independence. A shocking account of unprosecuted rapes on a Native American reservation. An intensive 360-degree examination of a city’s infant mortality crisis. Fresh and personal stories by youth who are undocumented, coming out as LGBT, or dealing with multiple mental health diagnoses. A series of columns about a surprising epidemic of childhood hunger. An exposé of federally subsidized infant formula in the Women, Infants and Children program. A photographic essay documenting the journey to recovery of a 9-year-old boy blinded by a stray bullet. A stunning video about families struggling to crawl out of debt and despair caused by the recession. An investigation into a murder, a cover-up and widespread sexual assault of young women volunteers in the Peace Corps. An unforgettable series on Native American children forced into foster care. A detailed exploration into the history, science, economics and experience of autism in America.

These are the journalistic efforts that rose to the top in the 2012 competition for Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism about the lives of children, youth and families in the U.S. The Journalism Center on Children and Families received entries from more than 500 reporters, editors, photographers, and producers at 100 news organizations. Among the winners: NPR, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, ABCNews 20/20, WNYC’s Radio Rookies, Harper’s Magazine and Women’s eNews.

Judges sought masterfully reported, compelling stories that cut through compassion fatigue on socially significant topics; demonstrated enterprise and thorough research; and made an impact on policy and people. This year’s content was so powerful and impressive, judges named a record number of runners up and honorable mentions. The complete list of judges is at the end of this release.

The Casey Medals are a project of the Journalism Center on Children and Families at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland. JCCF is funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Twelve winners will receive $1000 at an awards ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on October 18. Two winners will receive additional prizes of $5000 from America’s Promise Alliance.


WINNER: “Peace Corps: A Trust Betrayed,” ABC News 20/20, Brian Ross, Anna Schecter, Angela Hill, Craig Matthew, Tom Marcyes, Jack Pyle, Mark Schone, Rhonda Schwartz and David Sloan

A 10-month investigation into the murder of Peace Corps volunteer Kate Puzey in Benin, Africa uncovered the Peace Corps’ shocking failure to protect young women volunteers who were victims of sexual assault. The highly revered and respected agency showed callous disregard for women, routinely holding them responsible for their rapes and refusing to pursue prosecutions in order to keep the peace. Brian Ross and his team traveled to Africa to solve the murder of Kate Puzey, sensitively interviewed rape survivors who recounted their experiences, and confronted Peace Corps leaders with evidence of the agency’s malfeasance and pattern of cover-ups. This story prompted Congressional hearings and a new law requiring the Peace Corps to protect whistleblowers, hire victims’ advocates and provide better training to reduce the risk of sexual assault. One judge said the story “renewed my faith in investigative journalism on the network level.”

RUNNER-UP: “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story,” ITVS, Daniel Birman

This unforgettable documentary follows a child-like teenager -- a sexual abuse survivor --who was tried and convicted for the execution-style murder of a man who paid her for sex. Filmmaker Dan Birman spent six years unraveling the truth of Cyntoia’s dysfunctional life and the multi-generational lethal combination of poverty, violence, substance abuse, neglect and untreated mental illness that led her to pull the trigger. The film raises important questions about incarceration versus rehabilitation of juveniles Cyntoia’s journal entries reflect a profound level of self-awareness and a personal commitment to do something with her life behind bars. Judges called the work, “gut-wrenching” and “unflinching.”

HONORABLE MENTION: “Drugs in the System,” PBS Need to Know and The Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, Sarah Fitzpatrick and Mar Cabra

An eight-month investigation revealed that children, especially those in foster care, were being prescribed powerful medications in combinations that left them lethargic and morose. Foster kids in U.S. were receiving antipsychotic drugs at nine times the rate of other children in the Medicaid system. Adoptive and foster parents detailed the monumental challenges they faced weaning their children off of meds in order to get to know the real child and enable them to develop a healthy attachment. This story made a sizable splash, leading to a Government Accountability Office reports and hearings on Capitol Hill. Judges praised the reporting for being “voice for the voiceless.”

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