Non-Deadline Reporting (Affiliated)
WINNER: STAFF, LOS ANGELES TIMES
“Mexico Under Siege”
Thousands of civilians have been killed indiscriminately. Kidnapping, torture and brutality are rampant. The population in key combat zones lives in terror, and the president has said his country is at war.
This is not Afghanistan or pre-surge Iraq. This is happening on our southern doorstep. The Mexican government is at war with ruthless drug cartels, and the repercussions are being felt across the border.
For much of 2008, Times reporters and photographers traveled to the deadly landscape of the drug war in Mexico and the United States. Their work demonstrated that the war on drugs is not just a policy metaphor.
… all around are signs of social fraying. Menacing notes appear outside schools warning of harm unless teachers hand over their year-end bonuses. The city’s most respected crime reporter, Armando Rodriguez, of the El Diario newspaper, is dead, sprayed by gunfire two weeks earlier as he sat in his car in front of his home. His 8-year-old daughter, sitting next to him, somehow survives.
The “Mexico Under Siege” landing page, latimes.com/siege, conveys the essentials of the story at a glance, with a running tally of the body count associated with what President Felipe Calderon characterizes as a war. Users can access an archive of more than 70 stories, sortable by keyword, byline, date and location. The multimedia package showcases dozens of photo galleries and video clips. An interactive map helps readers learn casualty counts by area, and they can browse profiles of key players in the cartels.
The site is constantly refreshed as text and visual reporting continues, including a continuously updated video Q&A with reporters and editors of the series as they respond to questions from readers.
No corner is off limits. The Mexican army has turned a water park called Las Anitas into a camp for its drug war troops. We try to visit on our last day in Juarez. Atop the colorful water slides, helmeted soldiers now stand guard. You can’t go in.
All over town, people ask who really rules Juarez. Reyes, the mayor, says the government “has to retake control of the streets.” The unspoken admission is that they are already lost.
More online: http://tinyurl.com/5e4bw5
Non-Deadline Reporting (Independent)
WINNER: STAFF, WEBMD
“Autism: Searching for Answers”
The concern [about autism and vaccines] is difficult to suppress for a number of reasons. Parents are bombarded with information that can take a life of its own online. The concepts around scientific testing are difficult to understand, making it tough to separate good science from bad. Until scientists can prove exactly what causes autism, it’s difficult to definitively disprove anything.
Judges said that WebMD’s package on autism “is the choice this year because of a combination of traits of excellence. It is a thoroughly researched, well-written package on a topic of interest, scrutiny and controversy. The stories have the additional credibility, as is the practice of WebMD, of having undergone technical edit by a medical professional. However, the reports are approachable, with clear prose and concise explanations so that they are serving their target readership.”
Valarie Basheda, WebMD’s associate director of the features section, coordinated and edited the project. “We took an in-depth look at the three issues in autism that seem to have the most controversy: vaccines, causes and treatment,” she said. “To get at the more personal side, we featured the story of Gabe, a boy with autism who found hope through an early treatment program, and Temple Grandin, a scientist with Asperger’s syndrome, who grew up in the 1950s. We rounded out the special with helpful tips and resources for parents and links to news stories and to message boards for readers to talk about the issues.”
Judges said, “WebMD really took advantage of the online medium. The related stories are linked and easily navigated. The information is presented in the form most easily absorbed: words, images, charts and video. And best of all, WebMD reaches out to its community to continue the conversation.”
Basheda added: “We believe that this comprehensive, well-researched special brought together the key topics about autism and gave readers a deeper understanding of the issues involved, the latest thinking from medical researchers, and ideas about where to go for more help. With so much misinformation available online, we pride ourselves on helping readers separate myths from facts, on giving them accurate, medically reviewed information, and letting them know when there’s no clear answer.”
More online: http://tinyurl.com/loe3w4