Dallas Observer writers -- an eclectic bunch themselves -- recently won honors from various organizations for reporting on issues ranging from thuggishness in education to slumlords, criminal injustice, and hurricane victims.
Observer columnist Jim Schutze won the Texas State Teachers Association's School Bell Award for education reporting for "Da thug," a November 18 column that criticized Dallas schools Superintendent Waldemar "Bill" Rojas for his heavy-handed dealings with school trustees as he pushed to win approval of a contract for private management of several district schools. Schutze was a winner in the single news or feature story category.
Schutze also won a 2000 Unity Award for political reporting. The Unity Awards in Media, sponsored by Lincoln University of Jefferson City, Missouri, honor outstanding reporting on issues concerning minorities.
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Schutze won for his January 7, 1999, story "The wrong man," about the case of Nickiolas Jolly, a young black man jailed for 14 months awaiting trial on capital murder charges despite evidence obtained early on that he was innocent. The charges against him were eventually dropped. This is the second consecutive year that Schutze has won a Unity Award.
Staff writer Thomas Korosec won a State Bar of Texas Gavel Award for his June 3 story, "How the slumlord beats the city every time," which revealed how lawyers for one of the city's most notorious landlords routinely outwit city attorneys and code enforcers, allowing repeated code violations to go unpunished. The Gavel Awards recognize reporting that explains the legal system or exposes its shortcomings.
Korosec also was named a finalist in the 1999 IRE Awards, which are given by Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. for outstanding investigative work. Korosec was recognized in the local circulation weekly division for his November 18 story "Anatomy of a smear," which detailed how the Dallas Police Department concocted a trumped-up bribery investigation of an assistant city attorney to deflect criticism of how the department's officers and city inspectors handle code violations. The story was a follow-up to "How the slumlord beats the city every time."
Finally, former Observer staff writer Juliana Barbassa was one of several finalists for the Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award, which is given by Ball State University of Muncie, Indiana, in recognition of excellence in writing in print journalism. Barbassa was a finalist for her May 27 article "Children of the storm," about Central American children who were displaced by Hurricane Mitch and their journeys to Texas in search of a new life.