2011 MRE Journalism Contest winners announced

The Military Reporters & Editors Association announced the winners to its annual journalism contest.

The Times wins first place in the Online Interactive category of the Military Reporters & Editors journalism contest. The judges said of “A Year at War”: You’ll come away with a much more profound understanding of war and the humans who fight it, and an almost immediate friendship with the men and women at battle, and their spouses, children, family and friends back home.” More winners are after the jump.

As the wars continue in Iraq and Afghanistan, this year’s Military Reporters & Editors journalism contest winners spent their time investigating issues surrounding the conflicts, rather than constructing big-picture strategy pieces or descriptions of a particular battle.

Each story and photo reminds us that war ripples outward, and our judges – from Medill – used words like “extraordinarily touching,” “offbeat” and “clarifying” to describe the 2010 winning entries. One judge, in describing the New York Times interactive story-telling winner, summed up a theme of this year’s winning journalists: “a sensitively executed microcosm of the larger story at hand.”

They will be presented at this year’s MRE conference Nov. 18 in Washington, D.C.

Online Interactive
– Winner: “A Year at War,” New York Times, James Dao and Damon Winter.
Judges said the project “follows the children of ‘miners, lawyers and fast-food workers’ as they go off to war, and its videos, photos and audio will make your heart hurt, pride swell, eyes tear, pulse race and head shake. You’ll come away with a much more profound understanding of war and the humans who fight it, and an almost immediate friendship with the men and women at battle, and their spouses, children, family and friends back home.”

Online Interactive Honorable Mention: “The Battle Rattle Blog,” Military Times, Dan Lamothe and Tom Brown.
The entries chronicled the six weeks Lamothe and Brown spent with the Marines in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The judges said the series was “often quirky and offbeat, sometimes insightful and poignant, sometimes scary, always interesting and illuminating, these posts give a non-traditional view of the day-to-day life of a Marine in a hostile land.” The series includes a piece about a Marine with a tattoo of Sarah Palin on his behind, a video of a firefight and a memorial service in the combat zone.

Television, small market
– Winner: “Who Killed Doc,” KSTP-TV (ABC), Mark Albert, Jim O’Connell, Jared Bergerson, Lindsay Radford, John Mason and Mike Maybay
The station followed the case of a sailor who died in Iraq while taking a shower. Led by reporter Mark Albert, the news team found commanders had ignored safety warnings, botched investigations and failed to protect service members. The series led to changes in military policy, a reissuing of the sailor’s erroneous death certificate and an apology to the sailor’s family from the Navy.

Photography, Large Market
— Winner: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Justin Merriman
Merriman’s photos showed the differences of two military missions: Iraq andHaiti.

Photography, Small Market
— Winner: “River City,” John Cantlie
Cantlie’s photo-documentary looks at people at war in Afghanistan. He spent five months on the front lines chronicling the conflict in Afghanistan from the viewpoint of both Americans and Afghans.

Print, Foreign Coverage, Small Market
– National Journal, James Kitfield
Kitfield looked at the “turmoil and consequences” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His coverage included following medevac crews from Iraq to the United States, as well as targeted killings in Pakistan by drones and hit squads. “Kitfield gives readers a clarifying understanding of the issues,” the judges said.

Print, Foreign Coverage, Large Market
– The New York Times, James Dao
Dao and photographer Damon Winter documented a year-long deployment from both the war zone and home, and “took a fresh look at what the conflict means to those fighting and to those who love them.” The judges said, “The written stories gave readers scope, while the photography and video combinations added a large measure of quiet feeling and dignity to the story.”

Print, Domestic Coverage, Small Market
– Winner: National Journal, James Kitfield
The judges said Kitfield “provided his readers with penetrating analysis based on deep reporting on topics ranging from the future of defense spending, doomsday weapons and the shift in global power from a Western alliance to china.

– Honorable Mention: National Journal, Sydney Freedberg Jr.
The judges said Freedberg’s “range of reporting, from coverage of the air war in Afghanistan to analysis of the new Army tank systems, shows flair in writing while holding military strategies up for close, incisive analysis.”

Print, Domestic Coverage, Large Market
– Winner: “Medicating the Military,” Military Times, Andrew Tilghman, Brendan McGarry and Karen Jowers
Military Times used database analysis and “old-fashioned investigative reporting” to show military doctors prescribed psychiatric drugs for off-label or other unapproved uses while deaths by accidental overdoses had tripled in military families. “After their stories, the Army released a report acknowledging that such medications may be a factor in the Army’s suicide epidemic.”

– Honorable Mention: Star Tribune, Mark Brunswick
The judges said, “Brunswick’s compelling coverage of an Army veteran’s fight to get his insurance benefits after losing a leg in Iraq is a stunning example of how one reporter’s coverage of the effects of war on the homefront can ruffle feathers and cause a stalled bureaucracy to do its job.” The veteran received a $50,000 insurance payment after the story came out.

Judges were: Medill Professor Ellen Shearer, co-director of the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative; Medill lecturer Timothy McNulty, co-director of Medill National Security Journalism Initiative; Medill lecturer Josh Meyer, director of education and outreach, Medill National Security Journalism Initiative; Medill Assistant Professor Scott Anderson, interactive web producer, Medill National Security Journalism Initiative