KU News Release

Feb. 11, 2011
Contact: Jennifer Kinnard, William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, 785-864-7644

Wichita Eagle, Ottawa Herald win Burton W. Marvin Kansas News Enterprise Award

LAWRENCE — The Wichita Eagle and the Ottawa Herald have been named winners of the 2010 Burton W. Marvin Kansas News Enterprise Award.

Given since 1974 by the William Allen White Foundation, the Burton 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 KU’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications. The award was presented today during William Allen White Day activities at KU.

“We are again happy to honor quality journalism in Kansas,” said Ann Brill, dean of the journalism school. “The winners this year represent the impact that great storytelling can have in a community.”

The Wichita Eagle won the award for “Promise Not to Tell.” The three-part series examined the story of 19-year-old twins Kellie and Kathie Henderson, who were raped and assaulted from the ages of 3 to 13 by their older brothers and father before being rescued by neighbors Shelly and Jim Vasey and police in 2005.

Rarely do newspapers print the names of sexual assault victims, but after several interviews, the girls — now young women — gave Wichita Eagle reporter Roy Wenzl and his editor permission to use their names and photographs. The result was a compelling three-part series that exposed the widespread sexual abuse of children and encouraged victims to receive help. The series questioned long-held beliefs by the justice system and media that secrecy should rule in handling child sexual abuse.

Wenzl spent more than 100 hours of interviews in developing the series. According to the award judges, he and his editors clearly reflected their commitment to serve the public and demonstrated initiative in acting on that commitment.

Jean Hays, deputy editor/news, reported that response to the series was overwhelmingly positive. About 45 women wrote wrenching letters to the Eagle saying that the same things had happened to them or to members of their families. Jean Hogan, Wichita regional director of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, told the Eagle that several people had reported cases of abuse because of the series.

Read the series online at the Wichita Eagle's website.

In the community category, the Ottawa Herald won for “School Cuts,” a five-part series that examined many of the cost-cutting changes potentially being considered by the four local school districts.

Herald staff explained the options for each district to deal with state budget cuts in winter and spring 2010. They examined in-depth what the cuts would mean to each district and what might be lost. According to the judges, the coverage reflected the Herald’s initiative and commitment to persistently and effectively gather information that had significance to the newspaper’s readership.

The six-member Herald news staff took time from the routine to develop an important five-part explanation of what was happening to their schools. The judges noted the series showed good planning and professional execution. School district budget discussions followed the series and tough choices were made, but there were no surprises for parents, students and taxpayers. An informed community moved forward.

Contributors to the winning series included Tommy Felts, managing editor; Vickie Moss, reporter; Jenalea Myers, news editor; Meagan Patton-Paulson, society editor; Courtney Servaes, reporter; and Elliot J. Sutherland, photographer.

Read the series online at the Ottawa Herald's website.

KU observes William Allen White Day annually in February to coincide with White’s birthday. This year, the White Foundation trustees chose John S. Carroll, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor, to receive the citation, presented annually since 1950 to journalists who exemplify the ideals of William Allen White. KU’s journalism school is named in White’s honor. White (1868-1944) was a nationally influential Kansas editor and publisher.

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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