Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Rural Ore. weekly Malheur Enterprise wins Investigative Reporters & Editors award for 'Deadly Decisions' package

The Malheur Enterprise, a rural weekly in Vale, Oregon, with a circulation of 2,000, won a 2017 Investigative Reporters & Editors Award in the Freedom of Information category for its "Deadly Decisions" package about a state hospital's release of a man later arrested for murder. Editor Les Zaitz and his staff beat out packages from bigger publications like ProPublica, the Kansas City Star, and Zaitz's old paper The Oregonian, from which he retired in 2016.

The annual IRE Awards have recognized outstanding investigative reporting since 1979. Investigative Reporters & Editors is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting since its inception in 1975.

Deadly Decisions is a "classic David-meets-Goliath triumph," IRE judges wrote. "The small staff at this weekly newspaper in Oregon won a public records battle with the state agency that sued the newspaper to block release of documents. The newspaper launched a GoFundMe drive to raise money for a lawyer to defend the journalist. In the end, the documents were released after the governor stepped in. The paper's tenacity led a public affirmation of the state's commitment to openness. This work is proof that you don’t need a large staff and deep resources to move the needle on open records."

Deadly Decisions was also the runner-up for a Scripps Howard Award in the Distinguished Service to the First Amendment category.

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