From a cell in the Purgatory jail 10 months after his arrest, fundamentalist Mormon leader Warren Jeffs is still God’s voice on Earth to thousands of polygamists in this isolated community.
For Jason Szep, Boston bureau chief for Reuters, the idea for his story “began with trying to find out more about Mormonism while covering Mitt Romney from Boston.” The more he dug into it, the more it led him to Utah. Soon, he became “fascinated by this uniquely American religion — its history, rapid expansion and growing relevance in business and politics.”
With reporting on the ground taking just over three days, the series consisted of four in-depth features, two Q&As, a photo slideshow and a video news story.
The judges said, “Where some news organizations submitted material that showed how the Web can be used to enhance print offerings, Reuters’ services showed how the Web can ‘break’ enterprise work.
“The reports were relevant, and enhanced by multimedia offerings. Groundbreaking and thought-provoking.”
The series engendered discussion about Mormonism to international readers online as well as in international newspapers. It also generated plenty of feedback to Reuters.com. One reader wrote to thank Reuters for their honesty: “I found it refreshing that there was frank and straightforward questions and answers. I get so tired of what I call side-shows in religion and politics in the world of news reports and papers.”
To about 10,000 followers in the twin border communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, Jeffs remains a spiritual leader who channels divine revelations and a feared prophet, even 25 miles (40 km) away in Purgatory, a jail in the Utah city of Hurricane where he awaits trial.
Szep said his story “demonstrates that the lines between traditional newspaper media and wire services are blurring. Just as newspapers are producing more real-time news for the Web, wires are doing more of the in-depth, agenda-setting work that was once the sole domain of major newspapers.”