People walk through downtown Southport on March 23, 2019. The down town backs up to the Cape Fear River near to where it spills into the Atlantic Ocean. The Brunswick County town boasts a variety of shops and restaurants with a population of roughly 3,730 in 2017. Melissa Sue Gerrits / Carolina Public Press

CPP wins firsts in public service journalism, investigative reporting and general excellence

Carolina Public Press received 14 awards at the N.C. Press Association’s annual awards banquet Thursday evening in Raleigh, including first place in public service reporting, first place in investigative reporting, first place in news enterprise reporting and one of the night’s top prizes, first place in general excellence among online-only publications.

Lead Investigative Reporter Kate Martin, left, and Managing Editor Frank Taylor accepted 14 awards from the NC Press Association on Thursday night for Carolina Public Press. The awards included first place in investigative reporting, first place in public interest reporting, first place in business reporting and one of the night’s top prizes, first place for general excellence. Lisa Lopez / Carolina Public Press

A big winner was a Carolina Public Press-led collaborative investigative journalism project, “Seeking Conviction: Justice elusive for sexual assault survivors in NC,” project and related follow-up reporting on the prosecution of sexual assault in North Carolina. Eleven news organizations collaborated to investigate the various issues facing prosecuting cases in North Carolina, work first published in March 2019 that revealed that and that helped propel the unanimous passage of legislation reforming consent laws across the state.

“Seeking Conviction” partners included The Fayetteville Observer, Herald-Sun, Hickory Daily Record, News & Observer, News & Record, North Carolina Health News, Winston-Salem Journal, WLOS News 13, and WUNC North Carolina public radio.

“We are grateful for the expansive and unique investigative reporting collaboration we were able to develop with news organizations in North Carolina, and we share these awards with the more than 30 people who made this possible,” said Carolina Public Press Executive Director Angie Newsome.

“But we’re not done. We’re still developing ideas and systems to keep working together to investigate the critical issues facing North Carolinians across the state.”

With CPP competing in the online-only division, “Seeking Conviction” won first place for Public Service and first place for Investigative Reporting. The series was initially investigated and framed by CPP lead investigative reporter Kate Martin and Managing Editor Frank Taylor, with additional reporting by CPP contributing writers Imari Scarbrough, Rebecca Andrews and Maria Grandy and photography from CPP contributor Colby Rabon.

Other partners in the collaboration provided interviews with sources in their communities or topical areas that were woven throughout the series. These organizations also contributed photos and infographics.

Claiming first place Thursday in News Enterprise Reporting was Martin’s “Seeking Conviction” follow-up story from June 2019 on long delays in sexual assault prosecutions.

Also from “Seeking Conviction,” CPP contributing illustrator Mariano Santillan won second place for his depiction of defiant sexual assault survivors of North Carolina. Martin and Scarbrough took third place in News Feature Writing for a “Seeking Conviction” side story on how the state has worked to reduce the backlog of rape kit analyses.

NC Abuse Disparities
Illustration by Mariano Santillan / Carolina Public Press

Other writing awards

CPP also won first place for General News Reporting for Martin’s and Taylor’s months-long coverage of the domestic violence case against former N.C. Rep. Cody Henson of Transylvania County. Henson eventually resigned last year after accepting a guilty plea.

A first place in Business Writing went to CPP contributing writer Neil Cotiaux, who has been covering HCA Healthcare’s acquisition of Mission Health, the largest hospital company in Western North Carolina. Cotiaux won for his August 2019 article on the deal’s impact on multiple local health foundations.

Taylor received third place for Election/Political Reporting for a September 2019 story explaining a court ruling on gerrymandering.

CPP Capital Bureau Chief Kirk Ross won third place for City, County Government Reporting for a July 2019 article on the state takeover of the Wayne County town of Eureka due to problems with its financial ability to manage its wastewater treatment system.

food insecurity in Western North Carolina
Amara Touzel, 5, eats with the rest of the Touzel family as they attend a Thursday dinner at the Giving Spoon in Bryson City. This photo was part of a package that won second place for General News Photography at the N.C. Press Association awards announced Thursday in the online-only division. Matt Rose / Carolina Public Press

Visual journalism awards

Taylor won first place for Photo Illustration for an image of shredded paper created to accompany articles about suspicious massive document shredding at a Cherokee County agency that had been ordered to preserve documents amid a state criminal probe and a federal civil suit.

CPP contributing photographer Melissa Sue Gerrits won second place for feature photography for March 2019 images of Brunswick County’s economic rebound after Hurricane Florence.

CPP contributing photographer Matt Rose won second place for general news photography for June 2019 images of a Thursday meal at the Giving Spoon of Bryson City, which accompanied CPP’s yearlong in-depth series “Faces of Hunger,” looking at communities across the state.

CPP was recognized for the news site’s Appearance and Design with a second-place award.

Image of shredded documents
The Cherokee County Department of Social Services paid a contractor to shred a massive amount of documents in 2018, at the same time as a criminal investigation into unlawful child seizures. This image of shredded paper created to depict the massive amount of shredding for a July 2019 article won first place for Photo Illustration at the N.C. Press Association awards announced Thursday in the online-only division. Photo illustration by Frank Taylor / Carolina Public Press

Time of growth

Commenting on the organization’s awards this year, Managing Editor Taylor noted that it’s been a time of dramatic growth for the organization.

“After several years as a Western North Carolina regional publication, CPP expanded to statewide coverage in early 2018,” Taylor said.

“Due to the way the contest year falls, from October to September, this was the first cycle in which we had an entire year as a statewide organization. Over the last year, we have also greatly increased the volume of content on our site each week.

“We were honored to receive seven awards in each of the last two contests, but we were appreciative of the broader recognition of our hard work as the awards count doubled this time,” Taylor said.

Executive Director Newsome founded Carolina Public Press in 2011 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan online news organization providing in-depth and investigative reporting on public interest issues in Western North Carolina. Exactly two years ago, the organization announced its statewide expansion.

Carolina Public Press remains based in Asheville, but has staff, board of directors and contributing writers located across the state. It is an independent 501(c)(3) not-for-profit nonpartisan news organization dedicated to nonpartisan, in-depth and investigative news built upon the facts and context North Carolinians need to know.

Our award-winning, breakthrough journalism dismantles barriers and shines a light on the critical overlooked and under-reported issues facing our state’s 10.2 million residents.

You can strengthen independent, in-depth and investigative news for all of North Carolina

Carolina Public Press is transforming from a regionally focused nonprofit news organization to the go-to independent, in-depth and investigative news arm for North Carolina. You are critical to this transformation — and the future of investigative and public interest reporting for all North Carolinians.

Unlike many others, we aren’t owned by umbrella organizations or corporations. We are an independent and nonpartisan 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, founded and operated in North Carolina. And we haven’t put up a paywall — we believe that fact-based, context-rich watchdog journalism is a vital public service. But we need your help. Carolina Public Press’ in-depth, investigative and public interest journalism takes a lot of money, persistence and hard work to produce. We are here because we believe in and are dedicated to the future of North Carolina.

So, if you value independent, in-depth and investigative reporting in the public interest for North Carolina, please take a moment to make a tax-deductible contribution. It only takes a minute and makes a huge difference. Thank you!

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