Baltimore Sun wins awards for coverage of Columbia mall shooting, police brutality

Baltimore Sun wins national awards for coverage of Columbia Mall shootings, police brutality.

The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday won national awards for its breaking news coverage of the Columbia mall shootings and an investigative series on police brutality.

The reporting on the January 2014 shooting deaths of two store employees at The Mall in Columbia earned the Baltimore Sun Media Group a first-place National Headliner Award from the Press Club of Atlantic City. Runners up in the category were the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Associated Press, both for their coverage of the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

Sun reporter Mark Puente's series, "Undue Force," won the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award for reporting on racial or religious hatred, intolerance or discrimination in the U.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, as well as second place in the Headliner Award's investigative category.

Sun reporter Andrea McDaniels' series "Collateral Damage was among those named Tuesday as winners of the James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism. The three part series chronicled the impact of violence on Baltimore residents, and previously won first in the public health category of the Association of Health Care Journalists' Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. The series also received an honorable mention from the Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, awarded by Columbia's journalism school, and is a finalist for the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation journalism award, which will be announced in June.

Also on Tuesday, TV and media critic David Zurawik was named a finalist in the best commentary category of the Mirror Awards, presented by Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for media reporting. He was singled out for the column "Biggest stories of 2014 didn't need traditional news outlets," which described how raw video and social media are challenging legacy media. The winner will be named in June.

In its coverage of the mall shootings, The Sun provided extensive online and print coverage. It published more than two dozen articles accompanied by videos, graphics and photo galleries in the days following the attack. Reporters profiled the victims and the shooter, investigated the motive and the purchase of the gun, and explored the community's reaction.

The Tobenkin Award juror's citation said that Puente "uncovered a shocking pattern of abuse in his investigation of the Baltimore Police Department. He showed that dozens of city residents have been beaten in the course of questionable arrests. He also found that since 2011, the city has paid more than $5.7 million in more than a hundred civil suits alleging brutality and police misconduct. His reporting triggered change. Baltimore officials have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and have released a reform plan.

"The power of this series is not just the sheer number of violations uncovered, but the stories behind them -- the faces, voices and detailed accounts in each incident. This called for almost impossible-to-get interviews and meticulous scrutiny of records and video footage. In short, it required a reporter with tremendous persistence and dedication. Puente made these experiences real to readers and to those in power as well."

The series was previously named a finalist in the Investigative Reporters & Editors contest.

Five days after the first part of the investigation was published, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts announced that he had asked the Justice Department to help reform the agency. That collaborative review is continuing.

Other Baltimore media outlets were recognized as well. WBAL Radio won the National Headliner best of show award in the radio category for its story, "Pimlico Preakness Jockeys of Tomorrow" and second place in the newscast category. WBAL-TV won broadcast awards for its 5 p.m. newscast, its website and its coverage of the 26th Street collapse and science reporting.

The Sun's awards Tuesday followed national recognition for other coverage:

• "Painful Lessons," an investigation by reporters Erica L. Green, Luke Broadwater and former reporter Scott Calvert into workers' compensation claims by hundreds of city educators hurt by students won the Education Writers Association's first-place award for investigative reporting.

• Kevin Kallaugher, better known as KAL, won the 2015 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning, for his work in The Sun and The Economist.

• The Associated Press Sports Editors contest awarded Top 10 recognition to the sports department for an Orioles special section, to reporter Childs Walker for his coverage of horse racing and to reporter Justin Fenton for an article on Ray Rice's arrest in Atlantic City, N.J. In addition, The Sun's sports website received an honorable mention.

• The Society of News Design recognized the online presentations of "Undue Force" and "Painful Lessons" with Awards of Excellence. Among those involved in creating the presentations were Adam Marton, Kalani Gordon, Greg Kohn and Emma Patti Harris.

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