The Courier Journal wins 60+ SPJ Awards

By Kathryn Gregory, Louisville Courier Journal

The Courier Journal won numerous awards Thursday night at the annual Society of Professional Journalists Louisville Pro Chapter 2020 awards ceremony, including Journalist of the Year, awarded to Courier Journal reporter Deborah Yetter for her coverage of child abuse in Kentucky. That same series recognized Deborah’s efforts with the Associated Press presenting her the 2019 Jon Fleischaker Freedom of Information Award for large dailies.

The judges said Yetter’s reporting “is a forceful but compassionate look at the problem that should spur many into action.”

Breaking News reporter Ben Tobin also won big and was named Rookie of the Year. The judges, which are members of the Society of Professional Journalists Pro Chapter in Hawaii, praised Tobin for his detailed reporting on some of the year’s biggest stories, as well as his ability to delicately handle sensitive stories.

Courier Journal editor Richard A. Green thanked the local SPJ chapter for organizing the contest and sharing results in a virtual “show” Thursday night.

“No one in our newsroom is in this business to pursue awards or recognition,” Green said.

“But when peer judges and fellow journalists salute our stories, photos, columns, videos, page designs and digital efforts, we’re all incredibly humbled. I’m very grateful to The Courier Journal staff for all of its tremendous work in 2019. It serves as an incentive to work even harder for the readers we serve and the communities who rely on our journalists more than ever before.”

The Courier Journal won more than 60 awards during the virtual ceremony in categories including Enterprise and Investigative, Continuing Coverage, Politics and Government, Education Reporting, Health Reporting, Sports reporting, Kentucky Derby, Features Writing, Editorial Cartoons, video, picture stories and more.

Each winning entry could consist of up to three stories. The 2020 SPJ award winners, and numerous stories, are listed below:

Journalist of the Year

Deborah Yetter: “Why Kentucky can’t stop hurting – and killing – its children”

Judge’s comment: “Why Kentucky can’t stop hurting – and killing – its children. Kentuckians know it, lawmakers know it. Still, there are record numbers of foster care children. This is the story of the year, written by Deborah Yetter. She weaves the stories of many stuck in or trying to do something about the child welfare system, long known to be among the worst in the nation. The result is a forceful but compassionate look at the problem that should spur many into action.”

Rookie of the Year

Ben Tobin for a body of work produced in 2019.

Judge’s comment: “Ben Tobin displayed an ability to dig out the facts in some of the biggest stories in Kentucky. He did detailed reporting on a controversial pardon by former Gov. Matt Bevin and on a huge fire at the Jim Beam warehouse. That alone would lock in the prize for him, but his report on racial sensitivities from officials of an African American college stemming from a neighboring white college’s development of an athletic complex was handled delicately but to the point. Well done.”

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