Two CNHI newspapers in Oklahoma have received national recognition for distinguished journalism, winning top honors in the annual Society of Professional Journalists editorial excellence contest for work in 2015.
The McAlester News-Capital received SPJ’s Sigma Delta Chi Public Service Award (dailies up to 50,000 circulation) for a series of stories last fall disclosing misuse of tax funds by the superintendent of schools. Persistent reporting and open record requests turned up numerous questionable expenditures and a culture of nepotism showing the superintendent, her husband and her sister-in-law as three of the four highest paid McAlester Public Schools officials. The husband was hired at a salary nearly 50 percent more than his predecessor.
The documented accounts of financial misconduct resulted in the superintendent’s suspension and initiation of termination proceedings. The series also won the public service award in this year’s “Best of CNHI” contest. (Download [PDF] to view the News-Capital entry.)
Photojournalist David Bitton of the Stillwater News Press received SPJ’s Sigma Delta Chi Breaking News Photography Award (dailies up to 100,000 circulation) for his riveting photo of the heartbreaking tragedy that occurred when an out-of-control car slammed into the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade Oct. 24. Four people, including a 2-year-old boy, died and dozens of spectators were injured.
Bitton’s winning photo recorded the chaos and the panic of the scene, and was published in newspapers across the country via AP. David’s several photos of the crash aftermath and other assignments also won him Photographer of the Year honors in this year’s “Best of CNHI” contest. (SPJ winning photo attached.)
The SPJ Sigma Delta Chi Awards are among the nation’s most prestigious honors in journalism. More than 1,600 entries from news outlets across the country entered the national contest that dates to 1932.
Bill Ketter, CNHI senior vice president for news, said it was especially gratifying that the work of CNHI journalists emerged among the best at a time CNHI is focused on fostering the passion and the purpose of top-quality journalism as critical to our success.
"Their work has showcased outstanding journalism as well the critical role of newspapers in our society," said Ketter.
The McAlester News-Capital and Stillwater News Press are CNHI newspapers. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, CNHI is a leading publisher of local news and information. Its newspapers, websites and specialty publications serve communities in 23 states.