2007 Philip Meyer Award winners

The awards were presented Feb. 29, 2008, at the 2008 CAR Conference in Houston.

The contest, for work published or broadcast between October 2006 and October 2007, attracted entries from across the country. Stories are available to IRE members through the IRE Resource Center. Click on a story link below or contact us at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org.

First Place

The Dallas Morning News for “Faking the Grade,” a three-day series that uncovered strong evidence of cheating on standardized tests by more than 50,000 students in Texas public and charter schools. Reporters Joshua Benton and Holly Hacker followed up on the paper’s groundbreaking 2004 investigation of cheating at the district and school level by analyzing a huge public records database of the scores and answers of hundreds of thousands of individual students taking the tests over a two-year period. The series prompted the state to announce stricter controls over test-taking conditions in Texas schools, and to adopt the cheat-detection statistical methods used by the paper.

Second Place

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for “A Matter of Life and Death,” a four-day package of stories that documented how Georgia has failed to follow through on capital punishment reforms promised after the U.S. Supreme court ruled in 1972 that the state’s application of the death penalty was “arbitrary and capricious.” Reporters Bill Rankin, Heather Vogell, Sonji Jacobs and database specialist Megan Clarke led a team that hand-built a database of more than 2,300 murder convictions since 1995 by traveling to more than 100 of the state’s 159 county courthouses and researcher Alice Wertheim created a database of all Georgia Supreme Court death penalty decisions since 1982. They analyzed this data with multiple regression analysis to demonstrate wide variations in application of the death penalty by demographics and geography, prompting the Legislature to consider changes in the capital punishment laws and the state’s chief justice to take steps to improve its review of such cases.

Third Place

The Kansas City Star for “Insurance: Service or Shenanigans,” a three-day series of stories and follow-ups that used a national consumer complaints database of nearly 35 million records to rate more than 2,400 insurance companies by complaint ratios. Reporters Mike Casey, Mark Morris and David Klepper spent nearly a year gathering and analyzing the national data along with more than 10,000 pages of records to demonstrate how responsiveness to consumer concerns varied widely by company, geography and type of coverage. Since the project ran, state and national legislators have called for a number of measures to address problems documented in the paper’s analysis.