Three teams have won top honors in the State Bar of Michigan's 40th Annual Wade H. McCree Jr. Awards for the Advancement of Justice.
SBM President Brian Einhorn will present the McCree Awards at the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on April 13 at the James B. Henry Center for Executive Development in East Lansing. The McCree Awards are given each year to foster greater public understanding of the inherent values of the legal and judicial system.
The first McCree Award will go to WXYZ-TV's investigative journalism team, including Ross Jones, Randy Lundquist, Ann Mullen, Ramon Rosario, and Johnny Sartin. Their series of reports called "Guilty and Gone" looked into the serious problem of felons in Wayne County running and hiding for years after being arrested and convicted of violent crimes. Over one 120-day stretch during the WXYZ investigation, judges continued the bond of 77 guilty men and women, who skipped their sentencing dates and remained free. In one case, a man who was convicted of sexually assaulting his 12-year-old daughter for nearly two years fled while he was out on bond, even though state law says he should have been kept in jail to await sentencing. In another case, a man who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for armed robbery, was released for six more weeks, and on the day of his sentencing he shot and killed a 30-year-old husband and father. One judge is facing disciplinary charges before the Michigan Supreme Court, and legislators from Wayne County are pushing for changes to state law to keep violent offenders from escaping their prison sentences.
The second McCree Award goes to Detroit Free Press Reporter Jim Schaefer, for an experimental live blog project that ran during the entire six months of the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial. The blog utilized a variety of multimedia tools to not only inform readers of what was happening live as it happened all day, each day during the trial, but also created a community of hundreds of concerned citizens who began interacting with Schaefer and other Free Press staffers, and actually began improving the blog by contributing questions and information for each other. In the process, they became inspired by the blog to learn much more about how the legal system works. This group, that dubbed itself "Bloggerville," actually gathered together in person after the trial ended to share their experiences and raise money for charity. On a regular basis, the blog had up to 18,000 unique daily visitors. On verdict day, the blog got more than four million page views from desktop computers, the mobile website, and through the Free Press mobile apps. That day, over 674,000 unique visitors learned of the verdict through the blog.
The third McCree Award will go to a team of MLive Media Group journalists, including John Barnes, Fritz Klug, Scott Levin, John Agar and Gus Burns, who put together a series that analyzed 10 years of serious crime and police manpower reports, and discovered something unexpected. Even as police ranks dwindled across the state, Michigan's people had never been safer. The analysis covered more than 500 departments and 2.3 million reported crimes in Michigan. The MLive team created a database that let readers compare their local crime and police trends to those in other communities across the state. The team then ran statewide scaled stories in the series in all eight of MLive's newspapers and on their digital sites. Sidebars with specific data to local communities ran exclusively in their respective newspapers and sites.
The Wade H. McCree Jr. Awards for the Advancement of Justice are named for one of the most venerable lawyers and judges in Michigan's history. During his remarkable career, Wade H. McCree Jr. served as a federal judge, University of Michigan law professor, and solicitor general of the United States. For more information about the awards, visit SBM McCree Awards.