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WBUR has named Sarah Aida Gonzalez of public radio station WNYC in New York City the winner of this year's Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize. The prize is named for the late NPR senior news analyst and veteran Washington journalist Daniel Schorr who died in 2010. Schorr was a firm believer in supporting talented young journalists as they rose through the ranks of public radio.
The $5,000 Schorr Prize — sponsored by WBUR and Boston University, and funded by Jim and Nancy Bildner — salutes a new generation of public radio journalists under the age of 35, seeking to inspire them to stretch the boundaries of the medium.
Gonzalez’s winning entry, “Kids in Prison: Racial Disparities, Longer Sentences and a Better Way," examines why black teenagers in New Jersey are tried as adults more than any other racial or ethnic group, resulting in harsher treatment and longer sentences. Reporter Sarah Gonzalez embarked on the five-part series after anecdotally hearing that prosecutors chose to try black and Latino kids as adults, but rarely white kids who had committed the same kind of crimes. After months of being told the data did not exist at the state or local level, she obtained court data that conclusively showed racial disparities.
“Sarah took a timely and important subject — the practice of trying and incarcerating juveniles in the adult criminal justice system — and turned it into a gripping, revelatory and ambitious series,” said Bill Keller, Editor-in-Chief of The Marshall Project and former New York Times Executive Editor, who served as the prize’s finalist judge. “She combined original data reporting (unearthing the startling fact that 90 percent of the teenagers waived into the adult system in New Jersey are black or brown) with real-life stories and sophisticated analysis. To find a jurisdiction that does not imprison kids together with adult offenders, she traveled to Germany, where young people up to age 24 are confined in conditions designed to leave their humanity intact. The series was skillfully produced, and remarkably un-preachy.”
Gonzalez was a reporter with the WNYC Data News Team for the series. She is now the youth and families reporter for WNYC. Her investigative and feature reporting has been honored with national awards by the Education Writer’s Association, SPJ Sigma Delta Chi, the Online News Association and PRNDI, and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. She will be honored at the 15th Annual WBUR Gala on Monday, May 15, at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Gonzalez was selected the prize winner from nearly 40 submissions. The four finalists this year included Emily Guerin (Inside Energy, currently KPCC); Rebecca Hersher (NPR); Lulu Miller (NPR); and Lauren Rosenthal (NCPR).
In addition to Keller, the judging panel included Bruce Auster (NPR National Collaborations Editor); Michelle Johnson (Professor of Multi Media Journalism, Boston University); Rekha Murthy (Independent Media Consultant); David Brower (Program Director, North Carolina Public Radio); and Ben Calhoun (VP of Content & Programming, WBEZ).
Past Schorr Prize winners include WAMU Reporter Patrick Madden (2015); WFPL Reporter Devin Katayama, now a reporter for KQED, San Francisco (2014); WBEZ producer Becky Vevea (2013); KUNC reporter Grace Hood (2012); NPR host David Greene (2011); NPR reporter Ailsa Chang (2010); reporter Chana Joffe-Walt, who covers global economics for NPR’s multimedia project “Planet Money” (2009); former NPR defense correspondent Guy Raz, now the host of the “TED Radio Hour” (2008); and NPR investigative correspondent Laura Sullivan (2007).