2004 MRE Journalism Contest winners announced

MRE announces first journalism contest winners

WASHINGTON – Articles and television reports about the war in Iraq – the men of Charlie Company, the strategy behind the U.S. invasion, war casualties and preparations for battle – dominated the winning entries of the Military Reporters and Editors first journalism contest.

MRE President Dave Moniz announced the winners Aug. 6. Winners of first place and distinguished reporting awards will be honored at the organization’s third annual conference in November in Washington. The date and location of the conference will be announced in coming weeks.

Ron Martz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution took first place honors for overseas print reporting in a publication of more than 100,000 circulation for a series of stories called Charlie Company’s War.

National Journal magazine’s James Kitfield took top honors for his stories about the strategy behind the war’s tactics and operations in the print reporting category for publications with less than 100,000 circulation.

Domestic print honors for large publications went to the Associated Press for its Troop Toll Capsules, the series of obituaries chronicled the lives and deaths of the men and women who died in Iraq and Kuwait.

Lee Davidson of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News garnered domestic print honors for smaller publications with his articles about problems with U.S. military readiness.

WRAL-TV of Raliegh, N.C., took the only award for broadcast journalism with reports by Julia Lewis and photographer Chad Flowers about the preparations for war by the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg.

Winning entries of the 2004 MRE awards

Print overseas reporting, circulation greater than 100,000 First prize: “Charlie Company’s war” by Ron Martz, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ron Martz, the first embedded reporter into Baghdad with Charlie Company, wrote vividly and clearly of the dramatic battles he witnessed and stuck with the story into Baghdad and back home, following Charlie Company through new assignments, recuperation from wounds and difficulties with families. His story about nearly being killed when two soldiers sitting next to him was gripping — a stellar example of how to share with readers a searing personal experience.

  • Distinguished reporting: “Floating hospital a welcome berth for war wounded” by Chris Tomlinson, The Associated Press — The longest continuously embedded reporter in Iraq, Chris Tomlinson spent four months chronicling Attack Company. One of his most memorable stories followed the war through the eyes of one infantry officer, showing the courage and carnage of the battlefield as well as the effects of the war on both the soldiers and the citizens of Iraq.

Print overseas reporting, circulation less than 100,000 First prize: James Kitfield, National Journal magazine

Kitfield’s stories provided not only the details and images of how the war was fought but went beyond to explain how decisions — in Washington as well as in Iraq — affected the way the war was fought He gave readers incredibly insightful context, explaining the strategy behind the tactics and operations, and he did so in elegant and riveting prose.

  • Distinguished reporting: Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor — Embedded with the Third Infantry Division, Tyson not only brought readers the battles in vivid writing and detailed reporting, she took them inside the hearts and minds of the soldiers as they talked about their families and their will to survive and see those loved ones again.
  • Distinguished reporting: “How are troops coping on the ground in Iraq” by Jon Anderson, Terry Boyd, Lisa Burgess, Scott Burgess, Sandra Jontz, Steve Liewer, Marni McEntree, Peter Photikoe, Ward Sanderson and Scott Schonauer of Stars and Stripes — Through surveys of thousands of soldiers in Iraq as well as follow-up articles, this team was able to quantify the morale of U.S. troops rather than simply providing a series of anecdotal stories on conditions and morale.

Print domestic reporting, circulation greater than 100,000 First prize: “Troop Toll Capsules: 2003” by the Associated Press (Project editor Paula Froke)

This remarkable series of obituaries on young men and women killed in Iraq and Kuwait in 2003 is pithy, poignant and sometimes painful to read. There is no cliché here in saying that it serves to “put a face” on those who died serving their country. Whether they graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with aspirations to teach physics at college or came from the Hopi Tribe in Arizona with the desire to return to the Southwest to help fellow Native Americans after a tour of duty, we briefly glimpse into the lives of beautiful people who lived all too briefly. This is a sad, but beautiful, package.

  • Distinguished reporting: “A Final Transfer” by Matthew Dolan, The Virginian-Pilot
  • Distinguished reporting: “Sink or Swim” by Mark Scheffler, Chicago Tribune Magazine

Print domestic reporting, circulation less than 100,000 First prize: Lee Davidson, Deseret Morning News

In the months leading to war with Iraq, Lee Davidson broke exclusive accounts of serious problems with U.S. military readiness to fight an enemy thought to be armed with biological and chemical weapons. Davidson reported that an Army study had found that up to two-thirds of Army gas masks and 90 percent of army chemical detectors could malfunction, and that the military had made no preparations for chem/biological protections for the civilian contractors it needed in the field to maintain vital offensive and defensive systems. Davidson also uncovered significant and widespread security problems at the key Hill Air Force Base in Utah. When military censors blacked out most of the information about problems at Hill in documents he obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, Davidson appealed to the secretary of the Air Force, who released most of the information he sought.

  • Distinguished reporting: Pam Zubeck, The Gazette — For outstanding coverage of the sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy
  • Distinguished reporting: “Fast forward: Army leaders are pushing hard to reshape force-now” by Sean Naylor, Army Times

For exclusive reports on sweeping changes in Army structure Broadcast overseas reporting, local First place: “Waiting for war: Stories of the 82nd Airborne Division,” by Julia Lewis (photographer Chad Flowers) of WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C.

Julia and Chad produced a series of reports in the spring of 2003 that eloquently captured the stories of the men and women of the 82nd in Kuwait while they were getting ready for deployment to Iraq. The 82nd is based at Fort Bragg, N.C., so the stories about its soldiers were important local news in Raleigh. It was impressive for a local television station to support this project. One story focused on a baptism ceremony for the soldiers who “wanted to get their lives in order.” Another featured two brothers sharing training exercises. Another showed the faces of war, the men and women, ages 18, 19 and 20, who would soon join the battle zone. As Lewis said in her entry submission, “My job was to bring the story of the average soldier home to our viewers in North Carolina because ultimately, war is about people.” She and her photographer mastered that goal.