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Milwaukee newspaper investigation wins APME awards

Tuesday - 7/1/2014, 4:20pm  ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's investigation of delays in newborn screening programs captured top honors in the annual Associated Press Media Editors' Journalism Excellence Awards.

The newspaper's "Deadly Delays" project won in three categories -- Public Service, First Amendment and the Al Neuharth Award for Innovation in Investigative Journalism.

"APME salutes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and all of this year's winners for the exemplary journalism being produced in newsrooms around the country," APME President Debra Adams Simmons said. "We are proud to celebrate journalism that changes lives. The news industry's commitment to solid public service journalism, defense of the First Amendment and digital storytelling is as strong as ever."

The 2013 APME contest recognized news organizations in seven categories and AP staff members in separate judging.

"This is journalism with an exclamation mark," the judges wrote in selecting the Journal Sentinel's project for the 44th annual Public Service Best of Show award. "What started as a data-driven project evolved into a momentous report filled with human dimension and a need for action." The award, sponsored by the APME Foundation, carries a $1,500 prize.

The newspaper also won the Tom Curley First Amendment Sweepstakes Award for the project, which analyzed data nationwide on screening programs designed to detect rare diseases in newborns and found delays at hospitals in testing the results, putting infants at risk. The award, sponsored by the APME Foundation, carries a $1,000 prize.

"This is investigative journalism at its best, practiced by masters of the genre," said the judges in the First Amendment category.

The Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the Virgin Islands Daily News won Public Service awards in their circulation categories.

The Gazette was honored in the 40,000 to 149,000 circulation category for its reporting on how wounded combat veterans lose benefits after being discharged by the Army for minor offenses. "Powerful and beautifully told," the judges said. "It stands up by every measure of journalism excellence we apply."

The Daily News was recognized in the small circulation category for "EMS in Chaos," a three-part series that revealed poor management in the Emergency Medical Service division on St. Thomas island.

"Once again the Virgin Islands' staff shines with its tenacity and reporting," said the judges, who noted the paper also won the Public Service award for its circulation category last year. It also won the Tom Curley First Amendment Sweepstakes award last year.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Colorado Springs Gazette were also honored in the Al Neuharth Award for Innovation in Investigative Journalism. Each will receive $2,500. The award is sponsored by the Gannett Foundation.

Other winners in the First Amendment category were the Herald-Tribune of Sarasota, Florida, in the medium circulation category for its "Breaking the Banks" project about the failure of community banks and how local bankers shaped the crisis, and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, in the small circulation category, for a series of stories and editorials on the University of Wyoming's attempt to keep secret the hiring process for a new president.

Finalists in the Innovator of the Year contest were: Sarasota Herald-Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. They will compete at APME's joint conference with the American Society of News Editors Sept. 15-17 in Chicago. The winner will be judged by conference attendees and receive $1,000. The award is sponsored by GateHouse Media Inc.

USA Today was the winner of a new category, "Best Mobile Platform," for its mobile app.

APME also announced award winners in two other innovation categories as well as Digital Storytelling and International Perspective. Awards will be presented at the awards luncheon Sept. 16 during the ASNE-APME conference.

Judges did not participate in discussions or vote on categories involving their own news organizations' entries.

APME is an association of editors and content leaders at newspapers, broadcast outlets and digital newsrooms as well as journalism educators and student leaders in the United States and Canada. APME works closely with The Associated Press to foster journalism excellence.

Here are the award winners:

44th Annual Public Service:

--Winner of Public Service Best of Show and $1,500: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Deadly Delays."

Over 149,000 circulation:

--Winner: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Deadly Delays."

--Honorable mention: The Washington Post, "Homes for the Taking," which revealed abuses by investors and the loss of hundreds of properties in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods, often over tax debts of just a few hundred dollars.

40,000 to 149,000 circulation:

--Winner: The Gazette, Colorado Springs, "Other Than Honorable."

Honorable mention: Herald-Tribune, Sarasota, Florida, "Breaking the Banks."

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