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Shining a Light on Homelessness

Written by Catherine Hinrichsen, Center for Strategic Communications
April 23, 2014

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) announced its winners of the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi awards, and in the Public Service in Magazine Journalism  regional/local category, the winner is... South Sound Magazine, based in Tacoma, Wash. The magazine was honored for its in-depth report "The State of Family Homelessness in Pierce County," which was produced by Seattle University Journalism Fellow Jeff Burlingame. 

Burlingame developed this reporting project through the Seattle University Journalism Fellowships on Family Homelessness program, established in 2010, in the Center for Strategic Communications. His team spent more than a year researching, compiling and producing the report, which appeared as the cover story "Bridging the Gap" in the August/September 2013 issue. 

"South Sound took a risk in publishing this series," said Professor Barry Mitzman, director of the Center for Strategic Communications and the Journalism Fellows project. "But the immediate positive response from readers reinforced their decision, and this recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists confirms that the series was the gold standard in public service journalism. We're very proud of Jeff and the South Sound team, and we're grateful to the Gates Foundation for funding the Fellowships, which produced numerous outstanding reporting projects like this."

The series follows the lives of several Pierce County families. They include a single mom whose son is a student in the groundbreaking McCarver Elementary School program; a young mother of two who fled an abusive relationship into homelessness; and a military veteran from Iraq and Afghanistan who represents a new generation of veterans battling PTSD, unemployment and other challenges as they reintegrate into civilian life. 

The Sigma Delta Chi awards recognize the nation's outstanding professional journalism. Judges chose winners from 1,800 entries for work produced in 2013. According to SPJ, the Public Service category is judged not only on the quality of the article, but on evidence of courage and initiative in overcoming opposition, effectiveness of presentation and results earned. 

The South Sound team and all the other winners, including teams from organizations such as the Boston Globe , The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, will be honored at the award ceremony in Washington, D.C. on June 20.