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The Herald-Tribune and Sun Sentinel Win 2014 John Jay College/H.F. Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Awards

Jeremy Travis, President of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, today announced that J.David McSwane of the Herald-Tribune and Megan O’Matz and John Maines of the Sun Sentinel are the winners of the John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim 2013-2014  Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Awards.

“We are proud to salute the reporters from the Herald Tribune and the  Sun Sentinel for their impressive work and their contributions to the national dialogue on crime,” said President Travis.  “They exemplify the crucial role the media plays—and must continue to play—in examining our criminal justice system at every level.”

The prizes, administered by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ), recognize print and online justice reporting that has had a noteworthy impact on public policy or debate during the year. They will be presented on February 10th  at an awards dinner in New York City, held in conjunction with the 9th annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America.  

At the awards dinner, the CMCJ will also honor Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black, on which the hit Netflix series is based, with its 2014 Justice Trailblazer award, in recognition of her contribution to bringing the public’s attention to life inside the U.S. penal system.

J. David McSwane
, of the Herald -Tribune, won the 2013- 2014 John Jay Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (single-story category) for “The Stolen Ones,” a powerful expose of child sex-trafficking rings in Florida. The 44-page expose is “what great American investigative journalism is all about,” commented Joe Domanick, one of the six John Jay prize jurors, adding that it illustrated “the tragic human cost of crime in America, and what happens when the response to it is siloed, disorganized and utterly ineffective.”  In his acceptance letter, McSwane also thanked Scott Carroll, the editor on the project, for his trust in developing a “difficult story” and photographer Dan Wagner.

Megan O’Matz and John Maines of the  Sun Sentinel’s investigative team won the 2013-2014 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (series category) for their two-part series on how local police make millions from drug busts.  The series, “Cops, Cash, Cocaine,” documented how narcotics police paid informants to draw drug dealers to the city of Sunrise, FL, and used the proceeds from drug busts to pay police officers overtime and buy guns, cars and other items for the department.  Juror Gloria Browne-Marshall called it a “riveting news story written in spell-binding prose.”  

The Sun Sentinel  stories were  “in the highest tradition of muckraking, enterprise journalism — a revelation of callous governmental corruption and abuse of power so stunning that it undermined the very legitimacy of our criminal justice system, found and pursued by two reporters determined to hold the powerful accountable,” added Domanick.   

Runner-up in the single-entry category was awarded to Beth Schwartzapfel, whose article, “Who Shot Valerie Finley?,” published in the  Boston Review with support from the Nation Institute Investigative Fund, examined the case of Rodney Stanberry, an Alabama man who is most likely innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.  Joaquin Sapien of  ProPublica was the runner-up in the series category for  “Out of Order: When Prosecutors Cross the Line,” which investigated allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in New York City.

“The high quality of our entries made this year’s contest for the best U.S. crime journalism one of our most competitive to date,” said CMCJ Director Stephen Handelman. 

“It’s worth noting that the winners come from smaller news outlets, which demonstrates that even in tough times for the industry, editors’ commitment to tough, hard-hitting journalism is not just confined to the mainstream press.”

This year’s Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Awards, presented annually by the John Jay College Center on Media, Crime and Justice, recognize work published by U.S.-based print and online journalists between November 2012 and October 2013.  The prize comes with a cash award of $1,000 in each category and a plaque.  Runners-up receive a certificate of Honorable Mention.

The distinguished panel of six judges for the 2013-2014  awards included  Robert Kolker, contributing editor for New York Magazine and a John Jay/HF Guggenheim prizewinner; Cindy Chang, reporter  at The Los Angeles Times and a John Jay/HF Guggenheim prizewinner; Alexa Capeloto, assistant professor of journalism at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former Enterprise Editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune; Joe Domanick, veteran Los Angeles-based crime author and reporter, and Associate Director at the CMCJ;  Ted Gest, president, Criminal Justice Journalists; and Gloria Browne-Marshall, John Jay professor, former civil rights attorney, prizewinning playwright and author of numerous books.

The award is supported by a grant from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, a private grant-making foundation that supports research on violence.

READ the single winner here.

READ the series winner here.