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2009 Philip Meyer Journalism Award winners announced

Three major investigative reports that used social science research methods as key parts of their probes were named today as winners of the 2009 Philip Meyer Journalism Award.

USA Today took first place with "The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America's Schools." Reporters Blake Morrison and Brad Heath spearheaded a project that examined the levels of air pollution at schools across the country and identified thousands of schools where the air was far more toxic than in other nearby neighborhoods.

In second place is The Seattle Times with "MRSA: Culture of Resistance." Reporters Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong exposed a huge increase in Washington hospitals of the cases of the drug resistant germ MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphloccus aureus) - and the state inspection system that allowed it to happen.

In third place is The Chicago Tribune with "Compromised Care." A team that included reporters David Jackson, Gary Marx and Sam Roe, and Web applications and data management by Brian Boyer, Joe Germuska and Ryan Mark revealed failures to protect elderly patients in Illinois nursing homes that have been used increasingly to house mentally ill younger residents, including murderers and sex offenders.

And receiving honorable mention is the Arizona Republic with "Perfectly Legal." Robert Anglen, Ryan Konig, Andrew Long and David Fritze used social network analysis tools to examine a system in which 22 charities and dozens of affiliates moved millions of dollars among themselves while often performing little charitable work.

The Meyer Award recognizes the best uses of social science methods in journalism. The awards will be presented on March 13 in Phoenix at the 2010 CAR Conference. The first-place winner will receive $500; second and third will receive $300 and $200 respectively.

The award is administered by the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (a joint program of Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Missouri School of Journalism) and the Knight Chair in Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

The Meyer Award is in honor of Philip Meyer, professor emeritus and former Knight Chair of Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Meyer is the author of “Precision Journalism,” the seminal 1973 book and subsequent editions that encouraged journalists to incorporate social science methods in the pursuit of better journalism. As a reporter, he also pioneered the use of survey research for Knight-Ridder newspapers while exploring the causes of race riots in the 1960s.

The judges for the Philip Meyer Award for Precision Journalism were:

  • Ira Chinoy, professor of journalism at the Merrill School of Journalism of the University of Maryland and a former database editor of The Washington Post.
  • Sarah Cohen, Knight Chair in Computational Journalism at Duke University and a former database editor of The Washington Post.
  • Steve Doig: Knight Chair in Computer-Assisted Reporting at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication of Arizona State University and a former research editor of The Miami Herald.
  • Brant Houston, Knight Chair in Investigative Reporting at the University of Illinois and the former executive director of Investigative Reporters & Editors.
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