Bridge Magazine has been awarded a national journalism award for its series, “Michigan’s forgotten 4-year-olds,” which exposed shortcomings in the state’s preschool program.
The National Education Writers Association awarded Bridge Magazine Senior Writer Ron French first prize for investigative reporting for the series, which revealed how underfunding, logistical hurdles and competition between programs kept 29,000 Michigan 4-year-olds out of free, state-operated preschool that they were eligible to receive. The series helped spark efforts by Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders to increased funding of the Great Start Readiness Program.
"Ron French's work represents the best in investigative reporting -- in effect creating knowledge that wasn't known to anyone until he put the pieces together,” said the EWA judges. “French documents the number of students left out, something no educator did in the state, and shows how transportation problems, school policies and other factors result in some children getting preschool while others don't, leaving them at a disadvantage when they enter kindergarten.”
“This special report now has a real chance to result in positive change for thousands of Michigan’s at-risk children,,” said John Bebow, president of the Center for Michigan and Bridge Magazine. “As Gov. Rick Snyder has said, Bridge Magazine’s reporting and the Center’s related research spurred the his pre-K expansion plan. Great journalism can lead to great change. Especially when the story is told by an artist like Ron French.”
French joined CFM and Bridge in July 2011, after having won more than 40 national and state journalism awards at the Detroit News.
The Children's Leadership Council of Michigan, which is asking the Legislature to approve Snyder's proposal to add $65 million per year over the next two years to early childhood accounts, also praised French's work.
"Ron French's deep look into preschool delivery and funding puts the faces of real ochildren and parents on an important policy issue. His series played a significant role in calling attention to our underinvestment in public preschool in Michigan, which Gov. Rick Snyder has addressed in his executive budget proposal," said Doug Luciani, co-chair of CLC and president of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.