Mirror takes top honors in education, health reporting

Photo by Brad.K | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Arizona Mirror journalists were honored with four awards in the prestigious Arizona Press Club annual journalism contest, including two first place awards.

“This recognition is a testament to the great journalism the Mirror is producing, and I’m proud to be a part of this exceptional team of journalists,” said Mirror Editor in Chief Jim Small. “For us to win these distinguished awards for just a few months of our work speaks volumes about the importance of the stories we’re telling and the voices we’re giving a platform to.”

The contest judged work published during 2018. The Mirror launched operations on Sept. 25, 2018.

Laura Gómez was awarded first place in the community education reporting category for her  in-depth coverage of a teenage girl who fled persecution in El Salvador and sought asylum in Arizona so she could seek an American education, only to have a Glendale public school turn her away because of discriminatory enrollment practices.

Judge Paul Socolar, a veteran education reporter and founder of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, wrote that Gómez’s reporting, photos and video essay “give a strong sense of the daunting educational and life challenges facing a young Salvadoran woman” seeking a better life who instead ran into “a school’s not-so-subtle discrimination against immigrant and refugee students.”

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy won first place for community health reporting for his examination of how changes to the dental industry are subjecting patients to high-pressure sales tactics for procedures they may not need.

Judge Mike Hixenbaugh, a medical reporter for the Houston Chronicle, wrote that MacDonald-Evoy’s reporting was “by far the most fascinating story in the category.”

“You mean to tell me my dental hygienist might be trying to upsell me on treatments to get a bump in commission? Like most great journalism, this story left me outraged,” he added.

Gómez also won second place in the community immigration reporting for a story about the experiences of migrants in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s notorious hieleras (Spanish for iceboxes) – cold, concrete rooms used as holding cells – and the medical issues that arise from their use.

Judge Michael Rodriguez, the deputy editor of The Monitor in McAllen, Texas, called it “great work.”

“Speaking to migrant families over the course of several weeks to get a sense of their treatment and to understand their plight, not to mention hearing from the volunteers and groups who provide assistance, helped illustrate their struggles quite candidly,” Rodriguez wrote.

MacDonald-Evoy also was awarded third place in the community investigative category for his reporting on an infamous Tempe landlord who has a reputation for evicting and suing tenants, many of whom are students at Arizona State University.

Judge Beth Reinhard, a reporter on The Washington Post’s investigative team, praised the story for giving “an important voice to the powerless battling for decent housing.”

DISCLOSURE: Arizona Mirror Editor in Chief Jim Small and Associate Editor Jeremy Duda are members of the Arizona Press Club board of directors. In accordance with the organization’s rules, neither were involved in the selection of judges for any categories the Arizona Mirror entered.


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