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|Nelson, Sentinel named Pulitzer Finalist|
Concordia Sentinel editor Stanley Nelson was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the Local Reporting category on April 18 and accepted the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism on April 20 in Eugene, Ore.
The awards were in recognition of Nelson's work at the Sentinel in reporting on the 1964 murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris as well as other unsolved Civil Rights-era murders. Nelson began reporting on the Morris murder in 2007. He has written more than 150 articles on the Morris case as well as other unsolved civil rights era murders.
The Concordia Sentinel in Ferriday/Vidalia is a sister newspaper of The Franklin Sun and The Ouachita Citizen. The newspapers are owned and operated by the Hanna family.
The Pulitzer for Local Reporting was awarded to the Chicago Sun-Times. The Sentinel and the Las Vegas Sun were finalists for the award.
The Payne Awards for Ethics in Journalism recognizes journalists "who demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to ethical conduct, even when faced with economic, personal or political pressure." Besides Nelson and the Sentinel, The New York Times was a co-winner of the award.
The Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting, according to the Pulitzer Prize Board, is for "a distinguished example of reporting on significant issues of local concern, demonstrating originality and community expertise, using any available journalistic tool including text reporting, videos, databases, multimedia or interactive presentations or any combination of those formats, in print or online or both."
Chicago Sun-Times reporters Frank Main, Mark Konkol and John J. Kim received the award for their "immersive documentation of violence in Chicago neighborhoods, probing the lives of victims, criminals and detectives as a widespread code of silence impedes solutions."
Nelson was cited by the Pulitzer jury as a Local Reporting finalist "for his courageous and determined efforts to unravel a long forgotten Ku Klux Klan murder during the Civil Rights era."
The other finalist in this category was the Las Vegas Sun's Marshall Allen and Alex Richards "for their compelling reports on patients who suffered preventable injuries and other harm during hospital care, taking advantage of print and digital tools to drive home their findings."
Debbie Hiott, who chaired the Pulitzer jury for the Local Reporting category, told reporter Mallary Jean Tenore of The Poynter Institute last week that she was impressed that the Sentinel could find the resources to write such an in-depth series.
"We call newspapers the first draft of history," Hiott said. "In this case, that first draft was never made, so [Nelson] went back and made sure people knew what really happened. The fact that he kept digging — that was impressive."
The Pulitzer was established by legendary journalist and publisher Joseph Pulitzer. Columbia University in New York City administers the award.
According to the university, more than 1,100 journalism entries were made by Feb. 1. In March, 77 editors, publishers, writers and educators met at the School of Journalism where they judged the entries in the 14 journalism categories.
Additionally, awards are given for fiction, drama, history, biography or autobiography, poetry and general non-fiction.
Only 21 awards are normally made annually. Nominated Finalists are selected by the Nominating Juries for each category as finalists in the competition. The Pulitzer Prize Board generally selects the Pulitzer Prize Winners from the three nominated finalists in each category.
At the University of Oregon in Eugene, Ore., where the Payne Awards were presented last week, the judges recognized "the huge social, economic and political pressures on a small-town paper in the South to keep a racially motivated killing in the past. There was great personal risk — even death threats. There was no doubt a direct economic impact, both lost subscriptions and personal expense. This is as pure a definition of journalistic courage as one could craft in 2011. For Stanley Nelson to start down the tunnel and follow it for four years required a degree of ethical fortitude that is rare and should be celebrated."
The New York Times received the Payne Award for its handling of controversial material released by Julian Assange on the whistle-blowing WikiLeaks website in 2010, including classified government documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as U.S. State Department diplomatic cables. The Payne judges cited Executive Editor Bill Keller and The Times for the paper's deliberate and thoughtful process in treating Assange as a source, rather than a partner; in maintaining the paper's journalistic independence while consulting with the U.S. government before publishing sensitive information; and in explaining its process to the public.
"The value of journalism is determined by the degree to which the work informs communities large and small," said Tim Gleason, Edwin L. Artzt Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon.
"While it's true that technology gives all of us a platform to publish, what really defines journalism are the standards by which ethical journalists inform the public — standards such as editorial autonomy, accountability, compassion, and truth telling. This year's Payne Award winners exemplify a passionate commitment to the journalist's obligation to seek and report the truth."
Ancil Payne, a legend in Seattle, Wash., broadcasting, established the Payne Awards at the School of Journalism and Communication in 1999 to reward performance that inspires public trust in the media. Payne, who died in October 2004, was former CEO of KING Broadcasting; under his leadership, the company developed a national reputation for its commitment to ethical journalism.
On April 8, Nelson was named the first recipient of the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication's Courage and Justice Award.
He was presented the award at the school's annual Board of Visitors banquet April 8 for "his commitment and courage in the pursuit of justice for Frank Morris of Ferriday, an African-American businessman murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964."
The Manship School nominated Nelson and the Sentinel for the Pulitzer Prize and for the Payne Award.