Society of Professional Journalists Recognizes Public Insight Network Source

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Sunshine Award Honors Important Contributions in Pursuit of Open Government

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reporter Steven Cuevas says that Padilla is an example of the valuable information the Public Insight Network can bring to journalistic efforts to cover the news, calling her a 'true citizen journalist.'

The Society of Professional Journalists has bestowed its coveted Sunshine Award on California resident Charlene Padilla for contributions to Southern California Public Radio KPCC’s coverage of a 2009 riot at Chino State Prison. Padilla made her contributions to KPCC’s coverage through American Public Media’s Public Insight Network, a resource for journalists with more than 96,000 individual sources participating around the country.

The Public Insight Network, funded in part by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is the industry leading platform for journalistic audience engagement, giving individuals a direct channel for sharing their knowledge, experience and insights with reporters around the country.

KPCC reporter Steven Cuevas says that Padilla is an example of the valuable information the Public Insight Network can bring to journalistic efforts to cover the news, calling her a “true citizen journalist.” In announcing the award, the Society of Professional Journalists noted that, although not a trained journalist, “Padilla’s qualities of true investigative journalism showed dogged determination, exhaustive documentation and research. As a mother and concerned Californian, she worked to expose and correct substandard conditions in a state prison.”

Shortly after the riot, Padilla received a letter from her son, incarcerated at Chino, which described conditions that the media was not reporting on. After learning her son’s story she began corresponding with inmates to understand more, and volunteered her information to KPCC reporter Cuevas and Sharon McNary, public insight analyst for KPCC. Padilla was a primary source in KPCC’s resulting three-part series, providing dozens of hand-written letters from inmates describing substandard conditions that were posted on kpcc.org. McNary recalls Padilla’s perseverance in finding witnesses to the Chino riot, saying, "She had already been writing to people inside the prison to get more details, and she began also sending our questions and asking correspondents if she could share their words with KPCC.”

KPCC has been a Public Insight Network partner since mid-2009, using the tool to improve the depth and breadth of its news coverage. The Chino story is among dozens of stories aired by KPCC in the past year – including several award-winning reports - that have used the Public Insight Network.

Founded in 2003, American Public Media’s Public Insight Network has more than 96,000 sources around the country who have signed up through websites, social networking, blogs, serious games, email surveys, virtual forums and face-to-face interactions. Demographic information and insights are stored in a secure, searchable database. Participating journalists search the database for knowledgeable sources, or use it to test hunches, identify trends and support production of major projects. In the last year alone, Public Insight Network sources informed or unearthed more than 700 stories for Minnesota Public Radio News and American Public Media programs such as Marketplace.

To learn more about the Public Insight Network, visit PublicInsightNetwork.org.

For more information or interview requests, please contact Jacqueline Cartier at jcartier(at)americanpublicmedia(dot)org or 651-290-1113.

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