Providence Journal wins 2004 Dart Award

03/03/04

Series honored for focus on victim

The Providence Journal has won this year's $10,000 Dart Award for Excellence in Reporting on Victims of Violence for a study of the effects of a rape of a teenager on a small Rhode Island community.

The story, "Rape in a Small Town," published June 8, 2003, was written by Kate Bramson, edited by Mimi Burkhardt, and photographed by Bob Thayer (online).

News coverage of a high-profile rape often ends with a courtroom verdict. But for Kate Bramson, that's when the reporting began. After watching a teenage boy led away in handcuffs, Journal executive editor Joel P. Rawson writes, "Bramson left the court that day knowing there was a bigger story to be told."

The story details a year and a half in the life of Laura, a girl who was raped by a popular classmate during her sophomore year at Burrillville High School. Bramson's report shows the lingering effects of rape in a small community.

Even after her attacker had been found guilty and sentenced, Laura continued to face harassment and bullying by peers who blamed her for dividing the community and derailing the future of her attacker. And throughout the process she found herself under intense scrutiny: some said she cried too much; others said she shouldn't be attending school events, or playing soccer.

Victims are often blamed for the assaults against them, but news reports seldom explore this dynamic. By focusing on the impact of the rape on the victim, her family, and the community, the Journal team has broken new ground in the coverage of cases such as these.

The Journal also served readers by publishing a sidebar that listed sources for key details cited in the story, and chronicling five-and-a-half months of contacts with Laura, her family, and other sources.

Dart Award judges awarded an honorable mention to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for a portrayal of a man left to care for his infant son after his wife committed suicide while suffering severe post-partum depression.

The story, "The Ones She Left Behind," published Jan. 16, 2003, was written by Carol Smith and photographed by Renee Byer (online).

Smith and Byer visited Thomas Soukakos periodically for 10 months as he grieved the death of his wife, Carol, while raising his son, Alexander. The report tells Soukakos' story in compelling detail, while placing it in the context of the evolving clinical understanding of postpartum depression.

The disorder, which affects between 10 and 20 percent of new mothers, is rarely examined in-depth by news media.

Three finalists were also named:

  • The Baltimore Sun for "Undeniable Proof," the story of a woman who was raped at age 18 and her 19-year struggle for justice. Judges praised the article, written by Allison Klein and photographed by Amy Davis, for its strong writing and good use of detail.

  • The Daytona Beach News-Journal for "Donna's Story," which chronicles the process of recovery for six children who lost their mother to murder. The story was produced by staff writer Derek Catron and team members Kelly Markowitz, Denise Oˇ¦Toole, Craig Litten and Virginia Smith. Judges noted the strong character development of the victim and the survivors through both writing and photographs.

  • The Denver Post for "Betrayal in the Ranks." Written by Miles Moffeit and Amy Herdy, the series reports on individual survivors of rape and domestic violence in the military. Judges commended the editorial decision to devote serious attention to this topic.

The Dart Center will present the award on April 14 in New York City. The special presentation -- marking the 11th Annual Dart Award -- will include the panel discussion, "The Ethics of Violence,"in the City University of New York Graduate Center Recital Hall at 6:30 p.m. The panel, to be moderated by NBC correspondent John Hockenberry, will feature Mary Anne Golon, picture editor, Time magazine; Abderrahim Foukara, UN Correspondent, Al Jazeera; Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, psychiatrist and author; David Gelber, executive producer at CBS.

This year's judges were David T. Cullen, a 2002 Dart Ochberg Fellow and award-winning Colorado freelance journalist; Michelle Guido, a nationally acclaimed women's issues writer for the San Jose Mercury News; Saed Hindash, photographer at the Newark Star-Ledger and co-winner of the 2002 Dart Award; Lori S. Robinson, freelance journalist and author of "I will Survive: The African-American Guide to Healing From Sexual Assault and Abuse," and Barbara Rothbaum, president-elect of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies and associate editor of The Journal of Traumatic Stress.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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