Metro-East News

BND’s Violation of Trust series wins top awards in Illinois AP contest

Belleville News-Democrat City Editor Gary Dotson, left, and reporters Beth Hundsdorfer and George Pawlaczyk.
Belleville News-Democrat City Editor Gary Dotson, left, and reporters Beth Hundsdorfer and George Pawlaczyk.

The Belleville News-Democrat’s Violation of Trust series by reporters George Pawlaczyk and Beth Hundsdorfer has won the Best Investigative Series and the Sweepstakes Award in the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors Association’s annual editorial contest.

The Sweepstakes Award is for the top editorial news story.

The awards were presented Thursday in Springfield at the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors awards luncheon.

The series took an in-depth look at how sexual assault cases are pursued by authorities across Southern Illinois — and how seldom the victims of those assaults find justice.

The judges’ wrote of the series: “A 14-month investigation with ground-breaking data and exhaustive interviews with police, prosecutors, victims and alleged perpetrators. Really ground-breaking work on the inability of law enforcement and the courts to arrest and prosecute sex criminals. A very fair collection of investigative reports with all sides getting their say. The Belleville News-Democrat team made an extraordinary commitment. The result is journalism of the highest order.”

The judges also wrote: “This series was astonishing — not only because of the depth of the reporting, but also because of the subject matter. The writing demonstrated impact in two important ways — strong human element that was emotionally evocative and also fine watchdog reporting that brought to light a troubling revelation that creates a community call for action. It is compassionate and important and this series is bound to make a difference.”

Second place in the Investigative Reporting category went to the Chicago Tribune for a report on the College of DuPage, and third place went to the Chicago Sun-Times for “Cinespace Investigation.”

Other BND winners were:

▪  Tim Vizer, second place, sports feature photo, “Winning, Losing.”

▪  George Pawlaczyk, third place, enterprise story, “Parks Write-in Votes.”

▪  Norm Sanders, second place, best use of social media by an individual.

▪  Zia Nizami, first place, mobile visual, “Keeping the Freeburg Midget Mascot.”

▪  Steve Nagy, third place, mobile visual, “Flooding in Alton.”

Twenty-nine daily newspapers submitted 918 entries in the contest, which featured news and sports stories, features, editorials, columns, graphics and photos from 2015.

The Associated Press is a not-for-profit news cooperative representing 1,400 newspapers and 5,000 broadcast stations in the United States.