EWA Announces 2019 Winners of Top Education Reporting Prizes
Watch the awards announcement videos below:
The Edwin Gould Foundation 2019 Eddie Prize Presentation Video
The 2019 Ronald Moskowitz Prize for Outstanding Beat Reporting & Fred M Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Reporting Presentations Video
The Education Writers Association announced the winners of the top prizes of the National Awards for Education Reporting today, naming a collaboration between the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica as the best overall education story for 2019, and Sonali Kohli of the Los Angeles Times as the best education beat reporter in the country.
In addition, EWA announced that the Boston Globe won the “Eddie” prize for its examination of how race and class affected the career paths of ”The Valedictorians.”
“These are difficult times, and the inspiring work we honor with these prizes reminds us of the strength and talent of the education journalism community,” said Greg Toppo, president of the EWA Board of Directors. “So many of our members’ stories make a real difference in their communities, and the coverage we are recognizing has truly had a positive impact on people’s lives.”
The Hechinger Grand Prize
This year’s Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting was awarded to Jennifer Smith Richards of the Chicago Tribune, and Jodi S. Cohen and Lakeidra Chavis of ProPublica Illinois, for “The Quiet Rooms,” a painstaking documentation of the surprisingly widespread practice in Illinois schools of putting young students into closed seclusion rooms, often for minor misbehaviors.
The investigative project, a collaboration between the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois, involved sending Freedom of Information Act requests for seclusion reports to 900 school districts in Illinois. The team then built a massive database from the 50,000 pages of documents they received in response. They followed up with 120 interviews of students, families, and school staff affected by the seclusion incidents, as well as with researchers and other experts on child psychology and discipline.
“The reporting here is groundbreaking work, and why people become journalists — to expose wrongdoing and bring it to an end,” said one EWA judge. In fact, after The Quiet Rooms was published, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an emergency order banning schools from secluding children alone in timeout rooms.
The EWA grand prize, named for the late New York Times education editor Fred M. Hechinger, carries an award of $10,000.
Competition for the Hechinger grand prize is limited to the winners of six awards categories in the National Awards for Education Reporting: News, Features, Audio, Visual, Public Service and Investigative. Those category winners are listed here.
Best education beat reporter in the U.S.
Sonali Kohli of the Los Angeles Times was named the best education beat reporter in the country for her compassionate and nuanced coverage of the Los Angeles teachers’ strike and the impact of community violence on local students.
She won EWA’s annual Ronald Moskowitz Prize for Outstanding Beat Reporting, named for the late California education journalist and EWA board member. This prize singles out one of the three winners of the EWA’s beat reporting category prizes — the best beat reporters in small, medium-sized and large newsrooms.
Kohli’s ”storytelling and sourcing on such dynamic topics just blew me away,” said one of EWA judges of this category. ”The teacher strike story humanized what was at stake for families taking a risk to fight for their classrooms. … And (Kohli) didn’t paint a typical picture of how kids are suffering in these tough streets or one of overcoming all odds. She told a truer tale of the complicated ups and downs teenagers face as they try to navigate their world. And she did it with utter grace.”
The Moskowitz prize, honoring a bequest to EWA upon Moskowitz’s death in 2013, comes with a $2,500 cash award.
Winner of The Eddie Prize
A third major award, the Eddie Prize, was awarded to a team from The Boston Globe for The Valedictorians Project.
The Edwin Gould Foundation created the Eddie Prize to recognize outstanding journalism focused on the challenges low-income students face completing college.
The Boston Globe team impressed the judges with its deep and lengthy research — taking more than a year to track down more than 100 valedictorians from 2005 to 2007 to find out how their lives were going more than a decade after graduation. “This series is distinguished by dogged reporting, a deep understanding of the challenges underrepresented students face, and a compassion for the ‘characters’ whose stories it tells,” said one of the Eddie judges.
“The writing is lovely and the online presentation is superb, combining video, photography and simple — yet powerful — statistics. And, most importantly, it makes you care about the students who make up this ‘epidemic of untapped potential,’” the judge added.
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.
A total of 19 winners
On July 21, EWA’s judges named 18 winners for top-notch education journalism in the organization’s seven main categories. The winners of those category awards were eligible for one of the two grand prizes. The Eddie Prize was selected from a separate group of entries. The 19 total winners represent the very best education journalism of 2019, having been culled from a total of more than 400 entries.
The awards competition, an EWA tradition stretching back five decades, was independently judged in three rounds by 87 current and former editors and reporters.