An investigative series by two Belleville News-Democrat reporters has won a national journalism award for its coverage of the treatment of disabled adults in Illinois.
The series, by George Pawlaczyk and Beth Hundsdorfer, placed first in the 2012 IRE Awards from the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization.
The series, "Hidden Suffering, Hidden Death," was published in 2012.
"This investigation focused a bright light on an outrage in Illinois," the IRE judges said. "The deaths of severely disabled adults being cared for in their own homes were not being investigated by the state agency designed to protect them.
"Phone calls reporting abuse, neglect and horrific living conditions came into a state hotline, but were often ignored -- under the reasoning that they were 'ineligible for services.'
"Facing major roadblocks and government intimidation, George Pawlaczyk and Beth Hundsdorfer persevered to tell heartbreaking tales of Illinois residents who died under terrible circumstances. The stories led to the resignation of the agency's inspector general, and the governor ordered a revamp of the agency."
According to the IRE site, "The IRE Awards recognize outstanding investigative work and help identify the techniques and resources used to complete each story."
The McClatchy Co. is the parent company of the News-Democrat. Three other McClatchy newspapers were named IRE finalists:
* The Kansas City Star was cited for "Many Bullets, Little Blame."
This series uncovered a significant and growing problem in Kansas City: Police routinely shut down investigations into nonfatal shootings because victims wouldn't talk or detectives had trouble finding them again, according to the IRE website.
* The Charlotte, N.C., Observer and The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., were cited for "Prognosis: Profits."
These stories reported that large nonprofit hospitals in North Carolina have pushed up health care costs, paid executives millions and left thousands with bills they struggle to pay, according to the IRE website.
Also in the St. Louis area, KMOV, Channel 4 won the broadcast/video category for small markets for an hour-long documentary by reporter Craig Cheatham about political corruption in East St. Louis. It's called "War Zone: The Destruction of an All-American City."