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ProPublica and PBS Frontline, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Milwaukee PBS win top prizes in 2019 Schneider Disability Reporting Competition

The National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication announced the winners of the 2019 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability, the only journalism contest devoted exclusively to the coverage of people with disabilities and disability issues.

Journalists working in digital, print and broadcast media from around the world competed for awards and cash prizes totaling $17,000.

First place in the large media market category was awarded to Right to Fail, Living Apart, Coming Undone, an in-depth investigation by ProPublica and PBS Frontline in collaboration with The New York Times. The series, written by Joaquin Sapien of ProPublica and Tom Jennings of PBS Frontline, examined the efforts of New York City to let those with severe mental illnesses live on their own. Reporters obtained about 7,000 pages of records from hospitals, psychiatrists, social agencies and housing programs to reveal how an ambitious housing program left many vulnerable residents in danger. In response to the investigation, a New York federal judge ordered expanded oversight of the housing program.

“’Living Apart, Coming Undone’ was an extraordinarily well-reported story about good intentions — moving mentally ill New Yorkers out of institutions into their own apartments — gone horribly wrong. The story and the photos made the human pain obvious,” said contest judge Jerry Ceppos, former newspaper executive and dean of the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Sapien and Jennings will receive $5,000 and an invitation to the Cronkite School to give a public lecture on Dec. 2, 2019.

Second place in the large media market category was awarded to Trapped: Abuse and neglect in private care entered by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. WNYC-FM reporter and Aftereffect host Audrey Quinn’s reporting revealed a history of abuse, neglect and client deaths at facilities run by Bellwether Behavioral Health, the largest group home provider in the state of New Jersey. The award-winning episode showed how even as state after state cut ties with Bellwether, New Jersey continued to send nearly 400 of its most vulnerable citizens and $67 million a year in Medicaid to the troubled company. After the investigation, New Jersey ended its relationship with Bellwether. Quinn will receive $2,000.

Third place in the large media market category was awarded to Unfit by Radiolab. Produced by Matt Kielty, Pat Walters and Lulu Miller, the episodes explore how people with disabilities were targeted for sterilization during the early 20th century as a form of eugenic genocide, but laws permitting forced sterilization have quietly stayed on the books. While the language is now different — swapping terms like “feebleminded” for “mentally incapacitated” — there are still 23 states that allow for a person with intellectual disabilities to be sterilized against their will if a court decides it is in their “best interest.” The podcast episode reached millions of listeners and hit the top 10 on the iTunes charts. Creators of “Unfit” will receive $1,000.

Honorable mention in the large media market category was awarded to The parents said it was a special needs bed. The state said it was a cage by Mary Jo Pitzl of The Arizona Republic. This story exposed the confusion – and potential harm – that happens when bureaucracies can’t see past their rule books to understand the intricacies of the fragile populations they are charged to protect. Pitzl explored the Wadsacks’ ordeal to win approval for caregivers to use a specialty bed for their developmentally disabled daughter and how the interpretation of a rule took years to untangle. Pitzl will receive $500.

In addition to Ceppos, the judges for the large media market category were Tony Coelho, a former six-term U.S. congressman from California and the primary sponsor of the Americans With Disabilities Act; Daniel Burke, CNN religion editor; and Amy Silverman, a Phoenix-based writer, editor and teacher.

First place in the small media market category was awarded to You’re Not Alone, a collaborative documentary between the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Milwaukee PBS. The program followed the lives of four young people from Wisconsin as they navigated mental health challenges. The documentary was built on USA Today Network reporter Rory Linnane’s “Kids in Crisis” series. The film encourages young people to seek help for mental health challenges, while calling for greater support from adults and health systems. The final product included a suicide prevention toolkit at jsonline.com/yourenotalone. The film premiered at a Milwaukee high school where 11 local mental health organizations staffed resource tables and offered on-site counseling for an audience of more than 200.

“You’re Not Alone” was beautifully produced and stunning visually. Having the young people speak their truth in their own words was powerful. There is no doubt in my mind that the result of this work is living up to its name, providing strength to those with disabilities (and) reassuring them that you are not alone,” said contest judge Susannah Frame, chief investigative reporter for KING 5 Television in Seattle.  Liannane will receive $5,000 and is invited to the Cronkite School to give a public lecture on Dec. 2, 2019.

Second place in the small media market category was awarded to The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, for We dined with wheelchair users at 4 of Charleston’s top lunch spots. Here’s what they experienced. Food critic Hanna Raskin had not fully considered the obstacles posed by physical barriers until a group of wheelchair users invited her to a meeting. The diners were concerned about not being able to fully enjoy the city’s celebrated food scene. Raskin proposed that the group visit four celebrated local restaurants at random while she documented their experiences. The end result was a piece highlighting numerous accessibility issues. The restaurant owners were swift to respond, pledging to address the issues. Raskin will receive $2,000.

Third place in the small media market category was awarded to Criminalizing disability by Ed Williams, a reporter for Searchlight New Mexico. Williams asked why so many of the state’s special education students ended up in police custody. In collaboration with the local ABC news affiliate, Williams interviewed more than 300 parents, including the mother of Sebastian Montaño, a smart, promising but behaviorally challenged youngster who never received legally required services for his autism. The New Mexico state Legislature conducted hearings and directed the Legislative Education Study Committee to investigate. Williams will receive $1,000.

Honorable mention in the small media market category was awarded to Fighting for Personal Attendants at the Texas State Capitol by investigative reporter Edgar Walters of The Texas Tribune. When Walters learned that Texas lawmakers planned to spend $23 million on a negligible pay raise for personal attendants, he connected with advocate Susie Angel, a woman living with cerebral palsy. His piece explored Angel’s quest for additional funding for her personal attendant who allows her to live independently and has become a close friend. Walters will receive $500.

In addition to Frame, the judges for the small media market awards were Jennifer LaFleur, data editor for American University Investigative Reporting Workshop; Susan LoTempio, NCDJ Advisory Board member and former newspaper editor; and Leon Dash, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who is a professor of journalism at the University of Illinois.

The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability was established in 2013 with the support of Schneider, a retired clinical psychologist who has been blind since birth and who also supports the national Schneider Family Book Awards. The reporting contest is administered by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at the Cronkite School.

Arizona legislator Jennifer Longdon delivers personal story, gun reform plea in Washington

Jen Longdon delivers speech to congress
State Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, didn’t need to tell congressional lawmakers Thursday about the harm firearms can do: She showed them, when she rolled her wheelchair into a House hearing on the costs of gun violence.

State Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, was one of eight legislators, advocates and medical professionals who shared sobering stories about the costs of gun violence at a congressional hearing last week in an effort to urge members of the House Ways and Means committee to take legislative action on gun control.

Longdon is paralyzed from the chest down, and her ex-fiancé lives with brain trauma and blindness, after they were struck by five stray bullets as bystanders during a 2004 shooting.

Click here to continue reading Megan U. Boyanton’s story on Cronkite News / Arizona PBS about Longdon’s participation in the hearing, which took place as Democrats press for action on gun-control bills in the wake of mass shootings that took dozens of lives in August.

Disability rights leader Marca Bristo dies at 66

Marca Bristo headshot
Marca Bristo founded and led Access Living, a non-profit that advocates for legislation and policies that ensure fair housing and accessible transportation for people with disabilities. Image: a recent headshot of Marca Bristo. (Photo: accessliving.org)

Marca Bristo, one of the most influential advocates for people with disabilities in the U.S., died on Sunday morning after a long battle with cancer. She was 66.

After becoming paralyzed in a diving accident at 23, Bristo dedicated her life to disability rights advocacy and worked tirelessly to secure legal protections and improve quality of life measures for people with disabilities.

Among her many achievements, Bristo played a significant role in getting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed. She also founded Access Living in Chicago, a nonprofit that promoted independent living, and in 1993 she was appointed by President Clinton to lead the National Council on Disability. She provided strategic leadership to the organization in that role until 2002.

Click here to read Marca Bristo’s full obituary in the New York Times.

“Disability Angle” Helps Reporters Discover Better Stories

Media coverage of people with disabilities is regularly criticized as being too shallow, too stereotypical and too rare.

The National Center on Disability and Journalism is trying to change that with a new series of posts for journalists that offer story ideas and story angles for a wide range of disability coverage.

The series was created by Susan LoTempio, a journalist with a long career writing about, lecturing on and living with disability. She was an editor at The Buffalo News, and wrote a popular “Diversity at Work” column for the Poynter Institute that focused on disability. She is now a member of the NCDJ Advisory Board.

Her new project consists of a series of short posts that will be offered regularly through social media and archived on the NCDJ website. The posts will cover topics from education and health to politics, housing and transportation, all designed to help reporters do a better job of covering this important and growing segment of the country.

Follow us on Twitter @ASUNCDJ or on Facebook.

 

Susan LoTempio
Susan LoTempio, NCDJ Advisory Board Member

Who bears the cost of Flagstaff’s minimum wage increase? Caregivers, for one.

 For now, the impact of the state’s reimbursement law on the city’s finances is uncertain. Image: a photo of a piggy bank surrounded by loose coins.

For now, the impact of the state’s reimbursement law on the city’s finances is uncertain. Image: a photo of a piggy bank surrounded by loose coins. [Photo: Pixabay]
Under a law that took effect today, the state of Arizona can charge the city Flagstaff for added costs to state contracts that will occur as a result of the city’s newly-implemented minimum wage increase. Many care providers cannot shoulder this added cost, however, as they already struggle to pay their employees due to insufficient state funding for their services. Unable to pay more than minimum wage, many companies cannot keep a steady workforce of caregivers. And with fewer providers, there will be fewer opportunities for people with disabilities.

Click here to read this Cronkite News article online.

 

Disability studies program makes its debut at ASU

A poster at ASU publicizes the school's new disability studies program. The poster depicts a light bulb against a black background with the text, "Disability Studies, BA."
A poster at ASU publicizes the school’s new disability studies program. The poster depicts a light bulb against a black background with the text, “Disability Studies, BA.”

Starting this fall, students enrolled in the New College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at Arizona State University can earn a bachelor’s degree in disability studies. The new academic program, which has been seven years in the making, is the first disability studies program of its kind in Arizona.

Theresa Devine, an associate professor at ASU, is spearheading the new program and also played a major role in developing and designing its curriculum. According to the program website, the disability studies major will prepare students “to address injustices, exclusions and misapprehensions regarding disabilities through advocacy and self-advocacy, education, knowledge of the law, and historical awareness.”

Click here to read more about the new disability studies program at Arizona State University.

How to Accurately and Inclusively Cover Mass Shootings

The image depicts a paper gun range shooting target with several bullet holes. (Image: Wikimedia)
The image depicts a paper gun range shooting target with several bullet holes. (Image: Wikimedia)

In response to the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) has released a guide to help journalists “accurately and inclusively cover mass shootings.”

A full section of the NAHJ guide is dedicated to helping journalists cover gun violence without stigmatizing mental illness, or implying that a shooter’s mental illness caused or contributed to the violence. Among other recommendations, the NAHJ guide tells journalists that it is “inexcusable to mention the mental health issues the alleged killer might have been dealing with in an attempt to dismantle the reasoning behind this crime against humanity.” Additionally, the guide acknowledges that traumatic stories like the shooting in El Paso can be painful to cover and reminds reporters that it is always okay to reach out for help.

Click here to access How to Accurately and Inclusively Cover Mass Shootings on the NAHJ website.

U.S. Department of Transportation clarifies rules regarding air travel and service animals

DOT releases new guidelines for Service Dogs on flights
Image: A service dog walks with its owner through an airport terminal. (Photo: DoD News | Flickr)

Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released a Final Statement of Enforcement Priorities Regarding Service Animals that clarifies rules governing service animals on flights for passengers, airlines, and other stakeholders involved in commercial air travel. The statement also specifies the department’s enforcement priorities, clarifies service animal species limitations, and lists the specific situations in which it is required for handlers to provide official documentation to the airline before boarding.

Access a summary of the new rules and enforcement priorities on the Department of Transportation website.

Navigating education options when your kid has a disability

Photo of the headline of the NYT Parenting article by Amy Silverman
A screenshot of Amy Silverman’s essay in NYT Parenting on choosing a school best suited for her daughter.

The New York Times Parenting section recently featured an essay by NCDJ Board member and journalist Amy Silverman, who elucidates the challenges parents face when it comes to choosing the right school for kids with disabilities. Silverman discusses what it was like to transition her daughter Sophie, who has Down syndrome, into a local elementary school and describes navigating red tape and school administrators to ensure Sophie would receive support services suited to her needs.

The article also mentions that it is important for parents of children with disabilities to understand the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and provides a link to an overview of the federal law.

You can read Silverman’s essay in the New York Times online by clicking here.

NCDJ Releases Disability Language Style Guide in Spanish

NCDJ NCDJ, National Center on Disability and Journalism, Disability Language Style Guide, Spanish
NCDJ Releases Disability Language Style Guide in Spanish

The National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University has released its popular disability language style guide in Spanish.

The NCDJ, which is headquartered at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, provides guidance and support for journalists and communications professionals as they write about and report on disability issues and people with disabilities.

The style guide was recently updated to contain nearly 200 words and terms commonly used when referring to people with disabilities.

“The guide is used around the world but until now has been available primarily in English,” said NCDJ Executive Director Kristin Gilger, the senior associate dean at the Cronkite School. “The new Spanish-language version will make it possible for us to reach far more people with advice on disability-related language choices.”

She said the guide is not prescriptive. Instead, recommendations are intended to help communications professionals avoid offensive language while also being clear and accurate.

The Spanish translation of the guide was made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which provides support for NCDJ programs and services.

In addition to the style guide, the center administers an annual contest recognizing the best reporting on disability in the country and provides training and resources for journalists, public relations professionals, educators and others concerned about how people with disability are portrayed.

Both the English and Spanish versions of the disability language style guide are available in downloadable format at https://ncdj.org/style-guide/.