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Kansas City Star, Cowley Courier Traveler win Burton W. Marvin Kansas News Enterprise Award

Monday, July 2, 2018

LAWRENCE — Journalists from the Kansas City Star and the Cowley Courier Traveler are recipients of this year’s Burton W. Marvin Kansas News Enterprise Award from the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.

Each year during William Allen White Day events, the William Allen White Foundation presents the award to journalists at a newspaper circulated in Kansas who have demonstrated enterprise in developing and writing a significant news story. Because of the strength of the entries, the award committee this year chose two winners:

Kansas City Star

(Laura Bauer, Judy L. Thomas, Max Londberg, Kelsey Ryan, Bryan Lowry, Andy Marso, Steve Vockrodt, Hunter Woodall, Chick Howland, Jill Toyoshiba, Neil Nakahodo and Leah Becerra)
Months of reporting by The Star showed how Kansas officials had erected a wall of secrecy around the workings of state government. Legislators obscured the origins of legislation, used arcane procedures to stifle debate, and refused to record committee votes. The state's child welfare agency hid details of children's deaths and misled legislators. Workers in various state agencies were punished for disclosing information. The governor's office hid details of controversial budget documents. Those were just a few examples of  how Kansas had become "one of the most secretive state governments in the nation," The Star investigation concluded.
The series, which was announced this week as a finalist in the Pulitzer Prize public service category,  spurred changes almost immediately. The speaker of the Kansas House ended the practice of anonymous legislation, legislators proposed 32 bills to make state government more open, the new leader of  the Department for Children and Families promised a "new transparent agency," and the governor put forth four executive orders to improve availability of information to the public. One reader summed up the significance of the series perfectly: "This is the type of reporting the media needs to do to keep people informed of their government and public agencies."

Cowley Courier Traveler

(Cody Griesel, David A. Seaton and John Shelman)
The Traveler's reporting on government plans to test chemical and biological materials demonstrates the power of a local newspaper to lead a community to action. Following up on a legal notice, The Traveler reported in early November that Homeland Security planned airborne chemical testing at a former Indian school campus in northern Oklahoma. Residents of Arkansas City and nearby Newkirk, Okla., sprang into action, flooding community meetings, staging protests, gathering signatures on petitions and making complaints to local, state and national lawmakers. Federal officials said the release of chemicals would pose no danger, but by late December, they suspended the planned chemical tests. 
The award is named in honor of Burton W. Marvin, former dean of the journalism school and the first director of the William Allen White Foundation. The award, to be presented Friday, April 27, will wrap up the school’s William Allen White Day events, which this year commemorate the 150th birth year of William Allen White.

Julie Adam

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