MarylandReporter.com was honored Tuesday night by the Washington chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for a package of stories that uncovered the failure of one state agency to spend $38 million on people with developmental disabilities, even while thousands waited for services.
The stories by Len Lazarick and Glynis Kazanjian were based on a tip from an insider that the Developmental Disabilities Administration’s failure to spend the money was covered up internally, and $25 million eventually had to be returned to the state’s general fund. The stories were the winner of the “Online General News” category of the SPJ chapter’s annual Dateline Awards contest.
“A well-researched package shows the power of the press in uncovering wrong-doing and showing readers what they need to know,” said the comments from the judges. “It is presented clearly and comprehensively. Well done.”
The three stories were published in November and December 2011, shortly after the disabilities community had finally won passage of an increase in the alcohol tax that was supposed to take care of the thousands of disabled on the waiting list for care. Nobody knew that the agency had left millions unspent.
The three stories were: “Agency left $38 million unspent on disabled people needing care,” “Caregivers are angry over unspent disabilities funding” and “Health officials pledge to make up for blunder on disabilities aid.”
The initial story was picked up by radio and TV stations and other publications. At least a dozen other publications and news websites used the story.
The award for MarylandReporter.com was among 70 given out in 39 categories covering, print, TV, radio and online journalism at a dinner at the National Press Club in Washington. The entries were judged by members of SPJ’s three professional chapters in Ohio.
At the awards ceremony, the capital’s SPJ chapter also inducted four long-time journalists into its Hall of Fame: Carl Kasell of National Public Radio; Brian Lamb, founder of C-SPAN; Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post; and Sander Vanocur, former correspondent for NBC and ABC News.
MarylandReporter.com is a news website covering state government and politics. Founded by Lazarick in September 2009, it is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, supported by foundation grants, sponsors and individual donors.
Maryland Reporter has won previous awards from SPJ and from CapitolBeat, the national organization of statehouse reporters and editors.