Shadid Ethics Award honors Chicago Tribune staff

March 31, 2015

Three Chicago Tribune reporters and a photographer are recipients of the 2015 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics. Their revelations about serious abuses in Illinois’ juvenile justice system brought about reforms and led to the resignation of the director of the state Department of Children and Family Services.

Reporters David Jackson, Gary Marx and Duaa Eldeib, along with photographer Anthony Souffle, conducted a one-year investigation to produce a five-part multimedia series revealing that hundreds of Illinois wards were assaulted and raped by their peers each year in understaffed and violent institutions.

The Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison makes the award annually to recognize and promote high ethical standards among journalists. The honor carries a $1,000 prize and will be presented April 10 at the center’s annual ethics conference in Madison.

“While their investigative work was outstanding, the judges were most impressed with the care taken by these journalists to protect the privacy and best interests of the victims whose stories they told,” says the head of the judging committee, Professor Emeritus Jack Mitchell.

Reporters assured all interview subjects that they could determine what, if any, of the stories they told would be published. In one example, a girl they interviewed on video had second thoughts about her compelling story just before publication, and the reporters honored her request to withhold it and thanked her for what she had taught them.

James E. Burgess Professor of Journalism Ethics Robert Drechsel, who directs the ethics center, says that ethical journalism entails seeking truth while minimizing harm and said this series did both.

The award is named for Anthony Shadid, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison who died in 2012 while on a reporting assignment for the New York Times. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for his courageous and insightful foreign correspondence. He had been a member of the ethics center’s advisory board and was a strong supporter of public interest journalism and the importance of discussion of journalism ethics.

The April 10 conference on the UW–Madison campus will address ethics and sports journalism. The event is open to the public. Registration is open through April 3.

The Tribune entry prevailed over four other strong finalists for the award, including:

  • Fox 31 Television in Denver for the decisions it made about reporting on Medicaid “super utilizers;”
  • The Pittsburgh Tribune Review for pursuit of an apparent cover-up of the killing of civilians by an American in Iraq;
  • Pro Publica for placing raw Medicare data in context in its “Treatment Trackers” project, and;
  • The Tulsa World for its aggressive, yet sensitive, coverage of a botched execution by the state of Oklahoma.

—Dave Wilcox