Announcement

EWA Announces Winners of Top Education Reporting Prizes

Cara Fitzpatrick and Lisa Gartner, education reporters for the Tampa Bay Times, with Caroline Hendrie, executive director for EWA (Photo credit: Lili Boxer for EWA)

The Education Writers Association is pleased to announce that “Failure Factories,” an investigative series from the Tampa Bay Times, has won the top prize in the National Awards for Education Reporting. This year’s Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting will go to three writers of the series – Cara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Gartner and Michael LaForgia.

Joining them are two other journalists honored today with premier prizes: The Miami Herald’s Michael Vasquez for his investigative series “Higher-Ed Hustle” and Chalkbeat New York’s Patrick Wall for his beat coverage of New York City schools.

Vasquez is the recipient of the second-annual Eddie Prize, the journalism prize from The Edwin Gould Foundation that recognizes the best work on the challenges low-income students face completing college. Wall is the winner of EWA’s first-ever Ronald Moskowitz Prize for Outstanding Beat Reporting, named for the late California education journalist and EWA board member.

“We saw so many examples of distinguished journalism, and choosing among the entries involved many hard decisions,” said Cornelia Grumman, chair of the EWA Awards Board and a member of the EWA Board of Directors. “These prizes acknowledge the very best of the extraordinary work that education journalists are producing all across the country.”

“Failure Factories” investigated the causes of the sudden decline in performance at five Tampa area schools, laying much of the blame on a school board decision in 2007 that effectively resegregated the schools. The federal government has launched an investigation into the district’s practices in response to the series.

“Higher-Ed Hustle” investigated graft and corruption at Florida’s for-profit colleges and led to the shuttering of Dade Medical College. Wall produced scores of stories exploring critical issues in the nation’s largest school district.

The winners were announced and honored during a reception at EWA’s 2016 National Seminar at Boston University. The reception also featured Boston Globe Editor at Large Walter Robinson, who led the newspaper’s investigation portrayed in the film “Spotlight,” winner of the 2016 Academy Award for Best Picture.

The EWA grand prize, named for the late New York Times education editor Fred M. Hechinger, carries an award of $10,000. The winner of the Eddie Prize receives a bowler hat – the signature headwear of the late New York philanthropist Edwin Gould – as well as a $7,500 cash award. The Moskowitz prize, made possible by a bequest to EWA upon Moskowitz’s death in 2013, comes with a $2,500 cash award.

“We are heartened by the number of journalists paying attention to the prospects for students from low-income backgrounds to prepare for and succeed in college,” said Mark Bieler, the chairman of the Edwin Gould Foundation’s Board of Directors. “We are proud to honor the finalists and winner of the Eddie Prize – standouts in a field featuring many impressive entries.”

Scott Widmeyer, a member of the EWA Awards Board and secretary of the EWA Board of Directors, noted that beat reporting was a priority for Moskowitz, who enjoyed a long career as an education reporter, editor, and columnist in Houston and San Francisco, including at the San Francisco Chronicle. “We’re delighted to debut this new prize by honoring an especially talented, hard-working young reporter,” said Widmeyer.

In total, EWA’s judges honored journalists with 19 awards, including 16 category winners. All category winners are eligible for the Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting. The Moskowitz Prize is picked from the winners of four beat-reporting categories. The Eddie Prize was drawn from a separate pool of entries.

The category winners were announced Sunday, May 1, at an EWA banquet. See the list of 16 category winners, including judges’ comments.

EWA’s corps of judges lauded today’s prize recipients.

“This package is a truly exemplary piece of journalism,” wrote one judge about the Tampa Bay Times series. “I was awed by the dogged reporting, the sheer volume of interviews and data crunching, and the courageous analysis that put the blame exactly where it needed to be,” said another. “This is the type of long-effort journalism that too many papers are unwilling to invest in, and it ought to be rewarded, not just for that, but also for the quality of the work and the impact,” added a third judge.

About “Higher-Ed Hustle,” one judge wrote, “As I was reading through these articles, I kept thinking of the movie ‘Spotlight,’ and how investigative journalism like this is still so needed. Very, very well done.” Another judge extolled, “Astoundingly great job. The depth and quality of the research are superb. It has such a sweep of personal, political and educational.”

Judges said of Wall’s beat coverage, “I felt that I was in the schools that Patrick Wall visited and he also explained complicated public issues in a very understandable and attractive manner.” Another judge wrote, “Beat reporting at its best. Wall writes with precision and passion about a very complex and sprawling organizations. He knows how to combine breaking news with deep analysis and he brings his stories to life with superb storytelling. Every city needs a reporter – and beat reporting coverage – like this.”

The awards competition, an EWA tradition stretching back five decades, was independently judged across five rounds by 60 current and former editors and reporters. The EWA Awards Board selected the prize-winners, choosing from short lists picked by judges of previous rounds.

See the list of award judges.