LAWRENCE — Eric Adler of the Kansas City Star and the staff of The Ottawa Herald are the winners of the 2013 Burton W. Marvin Kansas News Enterprise Award.
The award, given since 1974 by the William Allen White Foundation, is named in honor of the foundation’s first director and a former dean of the University of Kansas School of Journalism & Mass Communications. It will be presented today, Feb. 7, during William Allen White Day activities at KU.
“The Burton W. Marvin Kansas News Enterprise Award recognizes the best of Kansas journalism,” said Ann M. Brill, KU’s dean of journalism. “This year’s winners have demonstrated both compassion and clarity in the face of a heart-wrenching issue and the relentless professionalism that makes journalism an essential public service. We honor these journalists who have served their communities and the broader culture.”
The Kansas City Star’s reporting by Eric Adler receives the award for the four-day series “Denise’s Decision,” which explored the emotionally devastating issues that caregivers face through one woman’s struggle to deal with her husband’s early-onset dementia.
“Adler’s articles about a woman’s agonizing decision to place her husband in nursing care mix solid reporting with meticulous writing and expert storytelling,” the judges said. “He takes on a subject matter that would challenge any reporter, but Adler’s grace and care make the result look easy. The articles’ relevance will only grow as American society ages and a growing number of people grapple with the personal and financial consequences of placing a loved one in nursing care.”
The Ottawa Herald’s team is honored for its series “Unsealing sheriff’s secrets: A fight for readers’ right to know.” The series, published over six weeks, exposed the small-town intrigue of a popular sheriff’s arrest amid a shroud of secrecy. The team of Bobby Burch, Doug Carder, Tommy Felts, Jeanny Sharp and Matt Bristow worked to overcome the clear wishes of prosecutors and law enforcement officials to resolve the matter without explaining it to the public.
“The Herald staff refused to give up on a story about a sheriff’s deceitful behavior that public officials tried to hide,” the judges said. “The newspaper went to court on grounds that the public had a right to know, and it won. The series of stories it produced held government officials accountable and helped its readers understand the extent to which a sheriff usurped the public trust. It’s a case of enterprise reporting in its purist sense.”
KU’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications observes William Allen White Day each year in February to coincide with his birthday. This year, the White Foundation trustees selected Paul Steiger, founder of ProPublica and editor of reporters who have won 18 Pulitzer Prizes, to receive the William Allen White National Citation, presented annually since 1950 to journalists who exhibit excellence and exemplify White’s ideals. White (1868-1944) was an influential Kansas newspaper editor and publisher who achieved national acclaim as a champion of middle America and won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1923.