Bridge sweeps online news category in Detroit SPJ contest

Bridge Magazine swept the online general news category in the Society of Professional Journalists Detroit Chapter’s Excellence in Journalism contest for 2012.

In its first year of competition in the contest, Bridge garnered first-, second- and third-place awards for news coverage. Winners were announced April 17 at an event in Troy.

Senior Writer Ron French won first place for his “College Costs” package, which used detailed tuition data to show that Michigan students pay much more for college educations than students at similar institutions in other states.

The SPJ judges, drawn from chapters in the Pacific Northwest, wrote of French’s work:

“French took a data analysis of tuition costs at Michigan public universities and created a compelling series. It's an unflinching, hard-hitting look at a serious public issue affecting everyone in his state. It's highly readable, weaving real people together with the numbers to tell the story. The clarity of the narrative is outstanding.”

Finishing right behind French was Bridge contributor Jeff Alexander, who was honored for  his environmental series, “Land Wars,” which detailed major changes in state policy on public land ownership and regulation.

Fellow Bridge contributor Ted Roelofs won third place with his coverage of how Michigan communities are struggling to pay for – and revamp – fire services in an age of limited dollars and a decreasing number of house fires. The SPJ judges said, “Roelofs' reporting on the state's fire departments is an excellent analytical project.”

French picked up his second award with a second-place finish in investigative reporting for “Michigan’s forgotten 4-year-olds,” an analysis of the state’s preschool program that found 30,000 eligible children were not being served due to a lack of funding and bureaucratic barriers. The SPJ judges said:

“Excellent piece on the children in Michigan who qualify for state-funded preschool but can’t go to school because of a lack of funding. Ron French did a fantastic job of explaining a complicated issue that many people were likely unaware of. His reporting on the state laws and different types of funding mesh well with interviews with the families affected and it paints a bleak picture of the educational future of children who don’t have the advantage of being able to attend preschool. Overall, a very compelling and enjoyable series.

French will be honored in California in May by the national Education Writers Association for the preschool package.

Rounding out the evening, Bridge student fellow Taylor Trammell was honored by the SPJ chapter with a $500 scholarship.

Trammell, who will complete her Bridge fellowship in May, will graduate from Wayne State University this summer.

“The citations from the SPJ note what readers already know – Bridge staffers and contributors are some of the best people in the business,” said Senior Editor Derek Melot. “We are fortunate to have such talent helping us cover the vital public issues confronting Michigan residents.”

Bridge Magazine is sponsored by the Center for Michigan, a nonprofit “think-and-do” tank based in Ann Arbor and dedicated to the task of making “Michigan a better place by encouraging greater understanding and involvement in policy issues among the state’s citizens and making sure their voices are regularly heard.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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