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Berkeley, California – Today, the Center for Investigative Reporting’s California Watch won the Scripps Howard Award for public service for its 19-month series “On Shaky Ground,” which uncovered serious problems with how California protects children and teachers from the threat of a major earthquake.
The Roy W. Howard Award for Public Service honors news organizations whose journalism makes a difference.
“It is an honor and a privilege to receive national recognition from Scripps Howard, especially considering that our California Watch team didn’t even exist until the fall of 2009,” said Mark Katches, Editorial Director of Center for Investigative Reporting. “We are deeply proud that our series will better prepare California’s school children, teachers and staff for the next big quake – and that schools will be made safer because of our work.”
The “On Shaky Ground” investigation detailed a staggering regulatory failure in California, finding that thousands of school buildings were being occupied even though they did not meet seismic safety requirements. In addition, California Watch found that bad inspectors were missing major defects or falsifying reports while being rewarded with more work, and the state was making it practically impossible for schools to get much-needed seismic repair money.
Reporter Corey G. Johnson started his reporting for the series in August 2009. “On Shaky Ground” appeared in more than 150 news outlets across the state, including many of California’s largest daily newspapers. The main text stories were translated into Spanish, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese and radio stories were produced. Erica Perez, Kendall Taggart and Agustin Armendariz joined Johnson in reporting the series.
In addition to the print stories, California Watch compiled a first-of-its-kind interactive database featuring every public K-12 school in the state, providing parents with a resource to see if their child attends school near seismic hazards, or if schools have seismically unsafe buildings. California Watch also deployed a series of creative tactics to further communicate the story, including creating and distributing 36,000 coloring books in five languages for school children; assembling safety packets with whistles and ID cards and handing them out at community events across the state; and building an iPhone app that enables users to pinpoint quake faults near their location.
“This series is an example of deep investigative reporting told on multiple platforms. It is validation of our evolving model of journalism and reflects the varied and unique skills of our staff,” said Robert J. Rosenthal, executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting.
As part of the investigation, California Watch detailed systemic regulatory shortcomings before the next big quake that led to swift and far-reaching reforms that may help California avert future tragedies. For example, regulators vowed to adopt every safety recommendation contained in a December audit that confirmed weak state oversight had put children in harm’s way and within weeks of a state audit that state lawmakers ordered days after the “On Shaky Ground” series, new state standards were created making it possible for 7,000 schools with known seismic hazards to tap a $200 million repair fund.
Katches added, “Quality investigative journalism has an impact and with this series, the impact was felt immediately.”
Click here for a full list of the 2011 Scripps Howard Awards.
About the Center for Investigative Reporting and California Watch
The Center for Investigative Reporting is the nation's oldest nonprofit investigative news organization. CIR reports have reached the public through television, print, radio and the web, appearing in outlets such as 60 Minutes, PBS Frontline, NPR, The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Politico and U.S. News & World Report. CIR stories have received numerous journalism awards including the Alfred I. du Pont-Columbia University Silver Baton, George Polk Award, Emmy Award, Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, and a National Magazine Award for Reporting Excellence. In 2012, CIR received the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. CIR reports have sparked federal legislation, policy change at all levels of government, public interest lawsuits, reforms in corporate practices and a major United Nations resolution. CIR founded California Watch to help create a new model for regional investigative and high-impact reporting. For more information, visit www.cironline.org.
California Watch, the largest investigative journalism team operating in the state, was launched in 2009 by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Investigative Reporting. Areas of coverage include education, health and welfare, public safety, the environment and the influence of money on the political and regulatory process. California Watch received a National Headliner Award in 2011 for “Best Online Only Journalism Site.” In 2010, California Watch was awarded a general excellence award from the Online News Association, and its staff also was named “Journalists of the Year” by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. For more information, visit californiawatch.org.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Lisa Cohen, 310-395-2544