The Texas Observer's "Molly Ivins" Prize Goes to Diane Suchetka of Cleveland Plain Dealer

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Diane Suchetka, a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, won The Texas Observer's Molly National Journalism Prize for her series, "Bernard's Story." Honorable Mention awards were presented to Jennifer Gonnerman for "School of Shock" in Mother Jones and to Ellen Schultz for "The Debt Collector vs. The Widow" in The Wall Street Journal.

Diane Suchetka of The Plain Dealer Wins The MOLLY 2008 National Journalism Prize Honorable Mentions to Jennifer Gonnerman, Mother Jones, and Ellen Schultz, The Wall Street Journal

The MOLLY National Journalism Prize was presented today to Diane Suchetka, whose series, "Bernard's Story," in The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) won the inaugural competition recognizing great American journalism and honoring the memory of Molly Ivins, the legendary columnist and former editor of The Texas Observer.

Honorable Mention awards were presented to Jennifer Gonnerman for "School of Shock" in Mother Jones and to Ellen Schultz for "The Debt Collector vs. The Widow" in The Wall Street Journal.

"Molly would have been tickled that all three winners are women," said Carlton Carl, CEO/Executive Publisher of The Texas Observer, sponsor of The MOLLY. "These terrific reporters exemplify what is good and promising about journalism in our country. The MOLLY competition demonstrates that great journalism, in the tradition of Molly Ivins, is alive in America, and we hope it inspires more. Molly would be proud." The winners represent newspapers and magazines, mainstream and alternative, based on each coast and in middle America.

Suchetka's touching and inspiring series followed Bernard Hll, a young man from inner city Cleveland, as he struggled to earn his high school equivalency degree. The June 13, 2008, edition of The Texas Observer contains an abridged version of her series. The full series, as well as the stories by The MOLLY 2008 Honorable Mention winners, are at http://www.texasobserver.org and on the websites of their publications.

In her troubling expose, "School of Shock," Gonnerman sheds light on the Judge Rotenberg Center, a Massachusetts-based behavior modification program that for 30 years has used an elaborate system of rewards and punishments--including painful electric shocks administered through electrodes attached to the bodies of children as young as 9 years old--in an attempt to socialize troubled teens.

Schultz's fine investigative journalism details how debt collectors, in collusion with banks, are garnishing billions of dollars in Social Security payments to seniors and the disabled to satisfy outstanding debts, even though that money cannot be legally used for such purposes. Social Security is exempt from debt collection, but no one tells people that--not the debt collectors, the banks, or even the Social Security Administration.

The work of these three fine journalists inspired concern and action, as good journalism should.

Suchetka, a reporter for The Plain Dealer since 2004, previously spent 19 years with The Charlotte Observer, where she was part of a team of reporters who won the Society of Professional Journalists' Green Eyeshade Award for a series on the flaws in the administration of the death penalty.

Gonnerman, a contributing writer at Mother Jones and New York Magazine, won the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and the Meyer Berger Award from Columbia University's School of Journalism. Her first book, Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett, was a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award.

Schultz, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, has for the last decade focused on the often hidden ways companies, executives, and financial firms are profiting from aging workers and retirees. Her work has won many awards, including three Polks, two Loebs and a National Press Club award. She was part of a team of Journal reporters which won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting.

The MOLLY prizes were presented at a June 12 dinner in Austin, Texas, at which Dan Rather, the award winning broadcast journalist and managing editor and anchor of Dan Rather Reports on HDNet, was the keynote speaker. Wade Goodwyn, National Correspondent for National Public Radio was the emcee.

Prize presentations were made by Ken Bunting, a friend and former colleague of Molly Ivins who is now Associate Publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The MOLLY Board of Advisors, composed of prominent journalists and scholars, reviewed the entries and selected the competition winners. The competition was stiff among numerous entries that included astoundingly good reporting and writing.

The MOLLY National Journalism Prize, including a $5,000 cash award, was established by The Texas Observer to recognize print or online journalism of exceptional merit that focuses on civil liberties and social justice, and embodying the intelligence, deep thinking and passionate wit that marked the work of the late Molly Ivins. The honorable mention prizes include $1,000 cash awards.

The prizes themselves are beer steins engraved with the name of the recipient and her publication and The MOLLY prize logo, which features a drawing of Molly Ivins as the Statue of Liberty holding the Bill of Rights by Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Ben Sargent of the Austin American-Statesman.

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