Reporter Impact: May-June 2008

The Chicago Reporter captured the top prize–”and three awards altogether–”at the Chicago Headline Club’s 31st annual Peter Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, held April 25 at the InterContinental Hotel downtown. The Chicago Headline Club, a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, presented the 2008 Watchdog Award for Excellence in Public Interest Reporting to Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, Rui Kaneya and Tram Nguyen for the series “Missed Signals.”

The project appeared in the November/December 2007 issue of the Reporter and was a joint effort with ColorLines. The work featured a nationwide analysis of fatal police shootings and an exhaustive examination of 20 Chicago police officers sued for their involvement in 17 fatal shootings of civilians. The Reporter found that nine of those 20 officers had been sued previously for misconduct but received little or no disciplinary action. One officer had been sued six times before his involvement in a fatal shooting.

“The report raises serious issues about whether the police department is doing enough to identify and weed out bad cops,” according to the Chicago Headline Club’s Web site.

Key findings were published within weeks of numerous protests in August 2007 on Chicago’s West Side–”the site of several fatal police shootings last summer. The investigation also sparked a December hearing before the Chicago City Council’s Police and Fire Committee. The Rev. Robin Hood said he had failed to get 29th Ward Alderman Isaac Carothers, who heads the committee, to hold the hearing until he shared the Reporter’s findings with the alderman.

“[Carothers] read some of it and got quite nervous and knew that he was going to do something about having a hearing because it wasn’t going to go away,” Hood said.

In addition to the Watchdog Award, the Reporter captured two Lisagors. Since 1999, the Reporter has won 22 Lisagor awards. Kimbriell Kelly and Alden Loury won this year’s Lisagor for business reporting in a trade or specialty magazine, newspaper or newsletter for their work on the “High Price of Homeownership.” The Reporter’s investigation revealed that the Chicago metro area led the nation in highcost loans and was home to wide racial disparities in highcost lending. The project sparked two investigations from the governor’s and attorney general’s offices. In March, citing the Reporter’s investigation, Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed subpoenas against Wells Fargo Financial Illinois and Countrywide Home Loans, the nation’s leader in high-cost loans. This award marks the third year in a row that Kelly and the Reporter have captured a business reporting Lisagor.

Also, Kelly, Kelly Lowenstein and Angelica Herrera captured the Lisagor for in-depth reporting in a trade or specialty magazine, newspaper or newsletter for the Reporter’s three-part series on immigration. The series was produced as part of Chicago Matters: Beyond Borders. Judges called the series “an impressive body of work.”

On May 8, Kelly Lowenstein and Kaneya were also honored with a Meritorious Achievement Award for “Missed Signals” in the print category of the 2008 Herman Kogan Awards. The Chicago Bar Association presents the Kogan Awards each year to honor local journalists for their reporting on the law, the legal system and individuals or groups concerned with the administration of justice.

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