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Winners announced for Excellence in Disability Reporting awards

The National Center on Disability and Journalism (NCDJ) today announced the winners of the 2023 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award and the Gary Corcoran Student Prize for Excellence in Reporting on Disability.

The Schneider and Corcoran prizes are the only national professional and student journalism contests devoted exclusively to the coverage of people with disabilities and disability issues.

First place in the Schneider Award Large Media category goes to Beth Hundsdorfer of Capitol News Illinois and Molly Parker of Lee Enterprises Midwest for “Culture of Cruelty,” an investigative series produced as part of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network. Their work uncovered abuse, neglect and misconduct at state-run facilities in Illinois that are supposed to care for people with mental and developmental disabilities.

Placing second in the Large Media category is former New York Times reporter Amanda Morris for her innovative look at how American Sign Language has been transformed by video technology and social media. Morris, now a disability reporter at The Washington Post, is a child of deaf adults who uses hearing aids and learned ASL at home. She conducted many of the interviews for the piece in sign language.

Third place in the Large Media category goes to Christine Herman for her Side Effects Public Media story, produced in audio and text, examining the barriers families face in finding appropriate mental health care for children and teens. The piece was co-published by the Center for Public Integrity as part of its collaboration with The Carter Center and newsrooms across the U.S. to enhance mental health care coverage.

The judges awarded an honorable mention to Romita Saluja, an independent journalist based in Delhi, for her piece about the prevalence of pelvic organ prolapse in rural India, where stigma and patriarchal attitudes make accessing care an immense challenge.

In the Schneider Award Small Media category, first place honors go to Caroline Ghisolfi, Tony Plohetski and Nicole Foy of the Austin American-Statesman for “Disabled & Abandoned,” which found that Texas’ system of care for people with disabilities is beset by crisis and violence. Like other NCDJ contest winners, the Statesman took steps to ensure the reporting was accessible to people with disabilities. Graphics were made accessible to colorblind readers, videos included closed captioning, and stories included a listening option.

Illustrator John Greiner placed second in the Small Media category for his comic series “Tales to Demystify: Not Welcome Here.” Published by Signal Cleveland, the series looks at accessible housing in Cleveland, Ohio, and explores what makes a home accessible for someone who uses a wheelchair or a walker.

Placing third in this category is Jennifer Dixon of the Detroit Free Press for “Rights & Wrongs,” which reveals how psychiatric hospitals and community mental health agencies in Michigan are allowed to investigate themselves when someone complains that rights have been violated.

The Corcoran Award recognizes student journalists covering issues related to disability. This year’s first place prize goes to Meagan Gillmore, a graduate student at Carleton University in Ottawa. Her winning entry, published in Toronto-based The Walrus, looks at criticism among people with disabilities over assisted dying laws in Canada.

Second place goes to Julia Métraux for a piece that stemmed from a climate change course she took at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. The story, published in the Richmond Pulse, examines the effect of climate change on people with lupus.

Placing third are Erin Gretzinger, Christy Klein and Erin McGroarty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a story that explores past, present and future efforts, as well as challenges, to serve people with disabilities in Wisconsin.

The 2023 NCDJ contests garnered almost 200 entries from around the globe, including from journalists in Brazil, Uganda and Pakistan.

“This work is an extraordinary testament to the growing global commitment to prioritize and improve coverage of people with disabilities,” said Pauline Arrillaga, executive director of the National Center on Disability and Journalism and executive editor of Carnegie-Knight News21, both housed at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Judges for this year’s awards included Kathryn Bertine, an author, athlete and documentary filmmaker; Kristin Gilger, former executive director of NCDJ and emeritus faculty at the Cronkite School; Jennifer LaFleur, assistant professor of data journalism at UC Berkeley; Sara Luterman, caregiving reporter at The 19th; Jonathan Poet, deputy health and science editor at The Associated Press; Sada Reed, assistant professor at the Cronkite School; and Karina Sturm, a multimedia journalist and filmmaker from Germany.

Winners are invited to discuss their work during a Nov. 9  ceremony in the First Amendment Forum at the Cronkite School in downtown Phoenix. The event, which is open to the public, also will be live streamed.​​

NCDJ Names New Executive Director

Pauline Arrillaga has been named executive director of the National Center on Disability and Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Arriillaga, executive editor of the Carnegie-Knight News21 program at the Cronkite School, will take over for Kristin Gilger, who has led the NCDJ since 2008 and is retiring this summer. Arrillaga joined the Cronkite School in 2019 as a professor of practice to launch and direct the  Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Southwest Health Reporting Initiative. She moved to News21 in December to lead the award-winning program, which brings top journalism students from across the country to report and produce in-depth, multimedia projects for major media outlets. Previously, Arrillaga spent 27 years at The Associated Press – most recently as U.S. enterprise editor.

In addition, Cronkite Professor Nicole Macias will oversee the NCDJ’s international journalism awards programs, which recognize excellence in disability reporting.

See the full announcement here.