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The first-place winner will receive an award of $5,000 and an invitation to speak at the Cronkite School. A second-place award of $1,500 also will be given, and judges additionally may give $500 honorable mention awards at their discretion.
The contest is made possible under a grant from Katherine Schneider, a retired clinical psychologist who also supports the Schneider Family Book Award. That awards program is administered by the American Library Association and honors the best children’s books each year that capture the disability experience for children and adolescents in three age categories.
Schneider, who has been blind since birth, hopes the new award will help journalists improve their coverage of disability issues, moving beyond “inspirational” stories that don’t accurately represent the lives of people with disabilities. “That kind of stuff is remarkable, but that’s not life as most of us live it,” she said.
Kristin Gilger, Cronkite associate dean and NCDJ director, said while there are journalism awards on virtually every other important societal topic, including religion, poverty, injustice, minorities, women and children, government, politics and health care, no comparable award recognizes coverage of disabilities.
“We hope to call attention to the really good work that is being done in this area and to encourage more of it,” Gilger said.
A panel of judges will review entries and select the winners. The judges include Leon Dash, former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Washington Post and current Swanlund Chair Professor of Journalism and director of the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Tim McGuire, former editor and senior vice president of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and current Frank Russell Chair for the Business of Journalism at the Cronkite School; Cyndi Jones, a disability expert and former director of The Center for an Accessible Society; and Jennifer Longdon, a member of the disability community who has chaired the Phoenix Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues and serves on the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council.
NCDJ, which has been housed at the Cronkite School since 2008, offers resources and materials for journalists covering disability issues and topics. For more information on the contest and to apply, go to http://ncdj.org/contest/.