Two Naples Daily News reports in 2011 have won Best of Scripps honors and will be recognized as part of the National Journalism Awards program to be held next month in Detroit.
One was an investigative reporting piece published in August titled "Behind the Closing Curtain." The other was the breaking news coverage last winter of a fight at a school bus stop that ended in the stabbing death of a Palmetto Ridge High School student.
Best of Scripps awards are given each year to honor work done at any of the 13 E.W. Scripps Company newspapers.
The "Behind the Closing Curtain" report was a detailed look at why a Bonita Springs movie theater closed after a short period of time, leaving unpaid bills and uncompensated workers. In following a trail of public records, reporter Matt Clark discovered similar scenarios had played out in dozens of communities across the nation.
Clark, who now works at the San Diego Times-Union, and Allen Bartlett, the editor in charge of investigative reporting at the Daily News, were named as recipients of the award.
The judge stated:
"Investigations into private business often face a handicap because money and motives can be kept private in ways public spending can't. But irresponsibility or potentially criminal speculation by investors is something the public should be aware of, particularly in a country fighting tooth and nail to add jobs and economic growth."
The judge went on to praise Clark and Bartlett's "painstaking walk through bankruptcy fillings, lawsuits and development plans" to show how business plans can go wrong and hurt employees, investors and communities."The level of detail, the effort to track down sources across the country and the writing style used on this story stand out and make it an easy pick," the judge said.The breaking news coverage of last January's stabbing was coordinated by deadline editor Tom Hanson and involved a team of reporters and photographers. Named as Best of Scripps recipients were Ryan Mills, Kate Albers, Steven Beardsley, Tauren Dyson, Allie Garza, Tracy Miguel, Elysa Delcorto, Lexey Swall, Greg Kahn and Manuel Martinez.
The judge said deadline reporting and continuing coverage of the fatal stabbing during an after-school fight was impressive for the range of approaches it took to tell the story.
"The stories gave the reader a sense of how complicated and unexpected the incident was," the judge said. "Hearing unadulterated accounts from the students on the bus was compelling, and put me in the middle of what it must have been like in that community."
"The reporting from so many angles is a testament to the number of reporters and photographers involved, but also acknowledges the quest to dig as deep as possible," the judge added.
Both reporting teams will be recognized April 26 when the Scripps Howard Foundation honors the best work in journalism during 2011.
Established in 1953, the Scripps Howard Foundation's competition recognizes outstanding print, broadcast and online journalism in 15 categories. The Best of Scripps winners are not part of the national competition but are recognized during the annual awards dinner. This year's dinner will be at the Westin Book Cadillac in Detroit.
Phil Lewis is executive editor of the Daily News. His email address is email@example.com.