For its print and online coverage of Nashville’s proposed English-only referendum, The City Paper was awarded with a New America Award from The Society of Professional Journalists on Monday.
A second-place award went to City Paper reporter Nate Rau, photographer Matthew Williams and former editor Clint Brewer, who reported and editorialized on the referendum spearheaded by Metro Councilman Eric Crafton between June and December 2008.
According to SPJ, the issue was “of particular interest due to the region’s substantial and growing immigrant population. Though the twice-weekly print paper carried stories, the bulk of the coverage was purposed for the Web. The paper’s enterprising stories and editorials helped shape the citywide debate on the pros and cons of English-only mandates in government.”
This marks the fifth year for the award, which honors public service journalism that exposes an issue of importance to immigrant or ethnic communities in United States. The award will be presented during the annual SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference, Aug. 27-30 in Indianapolis.
“The reason this award is meaningful is because it recognizes the value of online news coverage. That's the direction news is obviously going,” said Rau. “Nashville has a large, diverse population of immigrants and refugees, who deserve more news coverage from local media.”
First place went to The Columbus Dispatch for another immigration-related series — a six-month investigation into the burdens and benefits facing illegal immigrants in Ohio.
Brewer, The City Paper’s former executive editor, is the immediate past president of SPJ. He was part of the team that produced the entry, but his service to SPJ had no influence on the award selection.
“While the City Paper eventually editorialized against the proposal, its news coverage was balanced, unbiased and included reader-submitted comments, many in favor of making English the city's official language,” said Ginny Frizzi, chair of SPJ’s Awards & Honors Committee. “The series exposed an issue of great importance to ethnic communities and the general population.”
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information and details on the New America Award, please visit www.spj.org.