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University Relations

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Feb. 10, 2006
Contact: Jennifer Kinnard, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, (785) 864-7644.

Two Kansas news organizations share Burton Marvin enterprise award

LAWRENCE — The Wichita Eagle and the Ottawa Herald have been named winners of the 2005 Burton W. Marvin Kansas News Enterprise Award.

Given since 1974 by the William Allen White Foundation, the Marvin award recognizes outstanding reporting by newspapers in Kansas. The award is named in honor of the foundation’s first director and a former dean of the KU School of Journalism. The award was presented Feb. 10 during William Allen White Day activities at the University of Kansas.

“We are proud of the rich history in Kansas of excellence in investigative reporting,” said Ann Brill, dean of the journalism school. “It is an honor for the school to be associated with this prestigious award. We congratulate the Wichita Eagle and the Ottawa Herald.”

The Wichita Eagle had one of three outstanding entries by metropolitan newspapers. It was selected for its comprehensive coverage of the arrest and trial of the notorious BTK killer in Wichita. In the face of serious coverage limitations on the part of virtually every official agency, the Eagle developed effective storytelling in a full range of stories covering every angle of the biggest story in Kansas in 2005.

The Eagle’s resourcefulness in detailing the arrest and conviction of Dennis Rader for the 10 BTK murders earned top evaluations from the judges in each of the five criteria for entries: commitment to serve the public and initiative in acting on that commitment; good planning and professional execution; persistence and effectiveness in gathering information; accurate, fair and well-written; and significance to the newspaper’s readership.

The Eagle simply owned the BTK story, thanks in part to sources developed over the years who still communicated with the newspaper’s reporters despite bans on comments by city and county employees. The Eagle also had to cope with the fact that the judge sealed nearly all of the documents in the case, and the district attorney’s office had pressured the victims’ families not to talk to reporters.

In more than one instance, the Eagle had been a conduit to the police when the BTK killer had sent information to the newspaper. Virtually everyone in the newsroom touched this coverage in one way or another.

The impressive range of coverage was in the finest tradition of the Kansas News Enterprise Award.

Outstanding entries also came from the Topeka Capital-Journal and the Kansas City Star.

The Capital-Journal sent a team of reporters throughout Kansas to evaluate the hot-button issue in the state — K-12 education. They interviewed students, educators and parents in more than half of the state’s 105 counties, and the Capital-Journal prepared a 36-page tabloid section that examined all 300 Kansas school districts.

The Star worked with cities in suburban Kansas and Missouri as well as academics to determine how to measure the quality of life in Kansas City suburbs. The result was a comprehensive review of each city’s strengths and weaknesses and a series of stories on how each community measured up.

Among community-newspaper submissions, the Ottawa Herald was honored for its story detailing what was behind the sudden retirement of an Ottawa educator. Reporter Vickie Moss and editor/publisher Jeanny Sharp worked together to persuade victims of sexual harassment to go on the record. It was a sad story but an important one, and it reflected outstanding initiative on a difficult story — ably reported by a staff that made the most of its limited resources.

The School of Journalism observes William Allen White Day annually in February. This year the White Foundation trustees chose Gordon Parks, noted Kansas photojournalist, author and filmmaker, to receive the citation, presented annually since 1950 to journalists who exemplify the ideals of William Allen White. KU’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications is named in honor of the nationally influential Kansas editor and publisher who died in 1944.

For more information, contact Jennifer Kinnard, communications coordinator for the journalism school, at jkinnard@ku.edu or (785) 864-7644.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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