Knight Ridder wins journalism honors

WASHINGTON—The Knight Ridder Washington bureau won a top award in the Scripps Howard Foundation's National Journalism Awards for its report on the poor treatment of America's veterans, while a Knight Ridder paper in Biloxi, Miss., won an award for its Hurricane Katrina editorials.

Both citations were among 12 newspaper awards announced Friday. The National Journalism Awards, among the most prestigious in the profession, also recognize electronic and college journalism.

Knight Ridder Washington bureau reporters Chris Adams and Alison Young won for outstanding Washington reporting and will be given the Raymond Clapper Award. The award committee judges said the investigation, "Discharged and Dishonored," showed that the Department of Veterans Affairs "is failing miserably in its service to America's veterans."

Key to the investigation was Knight Ridder's decision to sue in federal court to force open VA data and documents. The judges said that "aggressive legal action forced release of records that told the story of missing pensions, veterans not getting educational benefits and disability payments, thousands of errors and misinformation by VA staff."

The veterans stories ran in more than 30 Knight Ridder papers, beginning in 2004 and continuing into 2005. The award carries a $10,000 prize. The Washington Post's Dana Priest was named as a finalist in the category.

In the editorial writing category, Tony Biffle of Knight Ridder's The Sun Herald in Mississippi won for being "a voice for his community ... and expressing its rage at official inaction and indifference" after Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast town. He will receive the $10,000 Walker Stone Award.

The Los Angeles Times won four of the Scripps Howard awards, including the top investigative writing prize, as well as awards for editorial cartooning, photojournalism and commentary.