Examination of L.A. County foster care system wins DFMie

Reporter Ben Baeder and photojournalist Sarah Reingewirtz won the March DFMie for the Los Angeles News Group for their look at racial disparity in the L.A. County foster care system.

Executive Editor Michael Anastasi explained in his nomination:

To quote from the lead of Ben’s story: “Eight out of every 100 children in Los Angeles County are black. And 29 out of every 100 children in foster care are black. That jump in proportion, which is common statewide, is one of the most controversial discussions in the child welfare community.”

Ben’s story put a spotlight squarely on an issue that is a political hot potato as he fearlessly tackled a topic notoriously difficult to grasp because of its complex nuances and emotions it brings forth from those involved. Meanwhile, Sarah’s photos humanized this journalism in a way that words could not. The moments she captured were extraordinary.

Judges praised the project:

Ben obviously put a lot of effort into the story and took a topic most people don’t want to think about, much less discuss. As a callous old crime and court reporter, it takes a lot to reach me on an emotional level. Ben did that with his thought-provoking piece. It is one of the best and most disturbing stories I’ve read recently.

Another judge:

Ben’s story reminds me why I  got into journalism in the first place: highlight significant breakdown in a system, back it up with facts, human stories and faces, and hopefully, in the end, make a difference. This story has all the elements of dogged community journalism,  with a wealth of compelling facts gleaned from experts and research reports. To me, those facts are laid out in nice readable way, without boggling the mind. It is also a subject of deep complexity that, presented as it is, makes for full understanding. The photographs add a wonderful dimension that, as excellent photos like these normally do, display the humanity of it all.

This is part of the announcement of the March DFMie for the Los Angeles News Group cluster of Digital First Media.

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