Lee Enterprises honored Sentinel reporter Joshua Vaughn Tuesday with a 2016 President’s Award for Excellence in News.
The award is given for outstanding journalism to reporters or staff of the 48 daily newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises, the parent company of The Sentinel.
“The Lee President’s Awards embody the outstanding work produced throughout the year by our company,” Lee President and CEO Kevin Mowbray said. “These winners represent our continued commitment to excellence for the readers, advertisers and communities we serve.”
Vaughn received the award for his monthly Digital Data packages as part of The Sentinel’s ongoing “Closer Look” series that runs every week. In these packages, Vaughn uses data to dig deeper into issues, such as race and crime, overdose deaths, sex offender registration, bail policies and incarceration.
“This is a great honor for the work Josh produces and the effort he puts into these packages each month,” Sentinel Executive Editor Jeff Pratt said. “These Digital Data packages are a shining example of what community newspapers can provide their readers — data-driven, fact-based reporting that helps a community grow.”
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Vaughn’s “Roadblocks to Recovery” overdose deaths package, which also earned him awards from the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors News Excellence Competition, resulted in the state changing its policy that had previously terminated Medicaid enrollment for someone who is jailed. The sex offender registration stories were picked up by the Marshall Project and used in summary by the Collateral Consequences Resource Center.
“I was very surprised,” Vaughn admitted. “It’s always nice to be acknowledged for the work that we do.”
Vaughn, who covers crime and courts for The Sentinel, started collecting data last June to help reporters with stories, then developed a plan to build a monthly package of his own stories looking at crime data for Cumberland County.
“I’m a fan of data because it drills down beyond the political talking points,” he said. “You get an objective view of the way things are.”
That was no more apparent than when he worked on the sex offender registry stories.
“The sex offender package intrigued me because I came in with preconceived notions,” Vaughn said. “The more I researched it, the more those notions were upended.”
The Excellence in News award was also given to the staff of the Arizona Daily Star, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Wisconsin State Journal.