LAWRENCE — Journalists from the Lawrence Journal-World, the Hutchinson News and the Salina Journal are recipients of this year’s Burton W. Marvin News Enterprise Award from the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.
Each year during William Allen White Day events, the School of Journalism presents the award to a journalist at a newspaper circulated in Kansas who has demonstrated enterprise in developing and writing a significant news story. With strong entries submitted this year, judges decided to honor two deserving enterprise projects:
Chad Lawhorn of the Journal-World, who was chosen for his coverage of Rock Chalk Park, a multimillion-dollar recreation center built in west Lawrence. Over several months, Lawhorn raised questions that city officials failed to ask or disclose about the costs of a no-bid contract and the quality of work on the recreation center. He relied on public records, interviews and a keen understanding of the workings of city government as he shed light on undisclosed costs of the project and the way loans and related interest costs were handled. His reporting put continued pressure on city officials to work more transparently. The city manager issued an apology for how a $1 million payment was handled, the City Commission agreed to an audit of costs, and two city commissioners who supported the recreation center project ultimately lost their bids for re-election.
Amy Bickel and Kathy Hanks from the Hutchinson News and Tim Unruh from the Salina Journal for their series on water supplies in western Kansas. In a model of teamwork, Bickel, Hanks and Unruh explored the catastrophic decline of water supplies in western Kansas. Water is a key issue in Kansas now and in the future. Its availability or lack thereof will determine the sustainability of agriculture and livestock in western Kansas, the viability of many communities and the financial stability of the state. The team’s reporting, accompanied by excellent graphics and photographs, demonstrated the failed policies and attitudes of denial that have led to water shortages as well as the effect those shortages have had on life, relationships and jobs. Ultimately, it showed how residents of western Kansas are coping and how some have been working toward solutions.
The award is named in honor of Burton W. Marvin, former dean of the journalism school and the first director of the White Foundation. The award, to be presented Friday, April 24, will cap off the school’s William Allen White Day events, which include honoring NBC News Correspondent Bob Dotson with the William Allen White Foundation National Citation Award. The public is invited to the National Citation ceremony at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 23, in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union.
Since graduating from the KU School of Journalism in 1968, Dotson has crisscrossed the United States more than 4 million miles in a quest to share the stories of ordinary people. His long-running “American Story with Bob Dotson” on the “Today” show has won more than 100 awards, including eight Emmys and 11 nominations. Dotson’s third book, “American Story, a Lifetime Search for Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things,” is a New York Times best-seller.
KU School of Journalism students Tomas Hoppough and Hank Cavagnaro produced this profile of Dotson.