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Knight Ridder honored for stories on veterans' issues

WASHINGTON—A series of stories on veterans' issues by the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau was among three winners of the Philip Meyer Awards, which recognize the best use of sophisticated social science research methods and computer-assisted reporting techniques.

The series, "Discharged and Dishonored," showed how disabled veterans were being harmed by the bureaucratic inefficiencies of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was written by Chris Adams and Alison Young of Knight Ridder's investigative team. The main story in the ongoing series ran in Knight Ridder papers in March 2005.

Among other things, the stories analyzed veterans' satisfaction survey data, the VA's own database of 3.4 million claims and other sources to discover that more than 13,700 veterans died waiting for their claims to be resolved and that as many as 572,000 veterans may be missing out on their rightful disability payments. In addition, the series revealed that veterans in some states are far more likely to get high payments than those with the same disabilities in other states.

Much of the data used by the reporters was released only after Knight Ridder sued the VA in federal court.

The Knight Ridder entry won second place in the contest, which is sponsored in part by Investigative Reporters and Editors, a major journalism organization, and its National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, as well as the Knight Chair in Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

First place went to The Oregonian, of Portland, for "Unnecessary Epidemic," a series of articles on methamphetamine abuse. Third place went to the St. Petersburg Times for "Vanishing Wetlands," which demonstrated that 84,000 acres of Florida wetlands have been destroyed by development since 1990.

The awards are in honor of Philip Meyer, the Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a reporter, he pioneered the use of in-depth research methods in journalism.

To read Knight Ridder's investigation, go to:

http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/news/special(underscore)packages/veterans

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(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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PHOTOS of Chris Adams and Alison Young available from KRT Direct.

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