News Outlet/Beacon Journal BOE package wins AP journalism award

News Outlet interns, staff and faculty meet weekly to discuss progress on joint reporting projects. A recent effort looking at the Ohio Board of Education recently won best explanatory journalism honors from the Associated Press. Jessica Mowchan/TheNewsOutlet.org

Monday, May 19, 2014

News Outlet interns, staff and faculty meet weekly to discuss progress on joint reporting projects. A recent effort looking at the Ohio Board of Education recently won best explanatory journalism honors from the Associated Press. Jessica Mowchan/TheNewsOutlet.org

News Outlet interns, staff and faculty meet weekly to discuss progress on joint reporting projects. A recent effort looking at the Ohio Board of Education recently won best explanatory journalism honors from the Associated Press. Jessica Mowchan/TheNewsOutlet.org

The News Outlet, based at Youngstown State University, has once again earned state honors for the journalistic work done by its staff of student reporters.

Editors and writers from across the state gathered May 19 at the Easton Hilton, Columbus, for the 2013 Ohio Associated Press Media Editor’s Newspaper Awards.

The Akron Beacon Journal and The News Outlet earned second place for Best Explanatory Reporting for a package looking at the Ohio Board of Education in Division V. This division includes the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cincinnati Inquirer, the Columbus Post Dispatch and the Toledo Blade. The judges were media peers from other states.

“This was the full package looking at a governing body, its members and how it governs. The use of The News Outlet agencies and staff only enhances the breadth of this effort. And it got results,” the judges wrote.

The Cleveland Press Club has also chosen the state school board package for an award, which will be announced during a banquet June 6.

Previously, AP recognized The News Outlet with first-place awards for projects on fracking and the Mahoning River that appeared in the Youngstown Vindicator, a Division IV paper.

“This latest award from the Associated Press is another validation of the concept of this tremendous collaboration,” said Dr. Alyssa Lenhoff, co-director of The News Outlet and director of the journalism program at YSU. “We are extremely proud of the students, staff and media professionals, who worked together to help make this project so successful, and we are also grateful to our generous funders.”

“We are really pleased that our students’ hard work has been recognized by this award, said Dr. Timothy Francisco, co-director of The News Outlet. “Current and recently graduated YSU students are making their mark as serious thoughtful journalists and we could not be more proud.”

The YSU interns who worked on the project were Karen Bell, Harry Evans, Natalia Fenton, Matt Hawout, Max Kalik, Rachael Kerr, Ashley Morris, Jessica Mowchan, Dustin Livesay, Lee Murray and Shee Wai Wong. The University of Akron intern was Rachel Salyer. Dr. Val Pipps is the News Outlet advisor for The University of Akron. YSU News Outlet staff includes Mary Sweetwood, coordinator; Christine Davidson, electronic news director; and Andrew Bush, tech manager.

In Fall 2013, two Akron Beacon Journal editorial staffers asked The News Outlet to work on the collaboration. Doug Oplinger, ABJ’s managing editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, would work as an advisor on the project. The lead writer would be Doug Livingston, the education writer for ABJ, a journalism graduate of Youngstown State University and former managing editor for The News Outlet.

Dr. Alyssa Lenhoff speaks to student interns of The News Outlet during a weekly meeting discussing progress on a State Board of Education package. That package recently won an Associated Press award for best explanatory journalism. Pictured (from left) are Karen Bell, Lenhoff, Natalia Fenton and Shee Wai Wong. Jessica Mowchan/TheNewsOutlet.org

Dr. Alyssa Lenhoff speaks to student interns of The News Outlet during a weekly meeting discussing progress on a State Board of Education package. That package recently won an Associated Press award for best explanatory journalism. Pictured (from left) are Karen Bell, Lenhoff, Natalia Fenton and Shee Wai Wong. Jessica Mowchan/TheNewsOutlet.org

The News Outlet interns had to scour candidate contribution spreadsheets, disclosure forms, submit Freedom of Information Act requests, transcribe TV and radio interviews, and read newspaper stories for background on the board members. Following The News Outlet model, they also had to work with faculty and media professionals.

The resulting package ran for three days in mid-November 2013 in not only the Akron Beacon Journal and The Youngstown Vindicator, which are media partners with The News Outlet, but also in the Canton Repository, the Dayton Daily News, the Columbus Dispatch. Radio partners, including WYSU and Rubber City Radio, also ran stories about the investigation.

By early December, an elected member of the school board, Bryan C. Williams, resigned because of ethics issues addressed in those stories, and an appointed member, C. Todd Jones, is under scrutiny over possible conflicts of interests.

During the Spring 2014 semester, The News Outlet and the Akron Beacon Journal again teamed up, this time to look at the school choice movement in the state. The package, which ran in late March, ran in The Beacon Journal, The Vindicator, The Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch. The first story in the package revealed only one in four of the nearly 300 schools contacted by The News Outlet interns provided basic information about their school, and that school board members have little control over public money.

After the package ran, Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, and Rep. John Patrick Carney, D-Columbus, joined forces to introduce legislation to address the issue.

“Charters are supposed to follow the same public records and sunshine laws as traditional public schools,” said Schiavoni, who is the Democratic leader in the Senate. “But these reports have exposed problems with transparency and accountability that cannot be ignored. These changes are urgently needed to ensure our school children receive the education they deserve and that tax dollars are not wasted.”

The News Outlet, along with The Akron Beacon Journal, will continue to look at the state of Ohio’s schools during the Fall 2014 semester.

Read the award-winning Board of Education package here: Link
The package on Ohio charter schools is available here: Link