February 2015 | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

February 2015

Sidney’s Picks: Scott Walker Likens Union Workers to ISIS

Photo credit: 

Gateway Technical College, Creative Commons.

The best of the week’s news

  • What kind of man joins the “Men’s Rights” movement? Admit it, you’re curious.

Homan Square: Chicago’s Black Site

Photo credit: 

Westside Chicago, by Ian Freimuth, Creative Commons.

The Chicago Police Department operates a “black site” on the West Side of Chicago, Spencer Ackerman reports:

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights. [Guardian]

Ackerman learned that at least one man has been found unresponsive in a Homan Square interview room and later declared dead. 

Sidney’s Picks: What Rudy Giuliani Knows About Love

Photo credit: 

Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News

Steven Greenhouse on Keeping the Labor Beat Alive

Photo credit: 

James Estrin, via In These Times.

Hillman Prize- and Sidney Award-winner Steven Greenhouse talks to Micah Uetricht of In These Times about his celebrated career as a labor reporter, his retirement from the New York Times, and future of the labor beat.

Hillman Judge Ta-Nehisi Coates Wins Polk Award

Sidney Hillman Judge Ta-Nehisi Coates has won a 2014 George Polk Award for his magnificent Atlantic cover story, “The Case for Reparations.”

Till Death Do Us Parta ground-breaking series on domestic violence by the Post and Courier of Charleston, won a Sidney Award in September of 2014 and a Polk Award last night.

Past Sidney-winner John Carlos Frey and our friends at the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute also took home a Polk Award last night:  

The award for television reporting went to Marisa Venegas and Solly Granatstein, executive producers, and John Carlos Frey, correspondent, for a joint production by the Investigative Fund, the Weather Channel, Telemundo and Efran Films titled “Muriendo por Cruzar (Dying to Cross),” on the plight of migrants in the Texas desert. [NYT]

The Polk Awards honor special achievements in journalism. They are named after CBS correspondent James Polk who was murdered while covering a civil war in Greece in 1948. The judges place a premium on rigorous investigation and real-world results. 

Congratulations to all the winners! 

Sidney’s Picks: Florida’s Migrants Living in Squalor

Photo credit: 

Duane Schoon, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News

  • More than half of all migrant labor camps in Florida received an “unsatisfactory” rating from the Department of Health, according to a major investigation by Watchdog Sarasota. 
  • The Nation releases a new eBook on Bill DeBlasio and inequality by Eric Alterman.

Santa Ana Combats Domestic Violence

Photo credit: 

Hibr, Creative Commons.

The Voice of OC has a three-part series on the domestic violence crisis facing Santa Ana, California.

Santa Ana has the highest rate of domestic violence of any major city in the state. The Santa Ana police recieve domestic violence calls at an annual rate of 9.1/1000 residents. That’s almost double the rate for Los Angeles.  

Santa Ana is a diverse city that is home to many immigrants. Activists note that victims whose immigration status is uncertain are often reluctant to report domestic violence out of fear of deportation. 

The Orange County Family Justice Center offers multiple services to domestic violence. Victims can get help with legal issues, social services, and counselling, all under the same roof. The center is at the forefront of a movement to meet the needs of DV survivors in a more comprehensive way. 

Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting Wins February Sidney for Exposing No-Jail Jailers

Photo credit: 

Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons.

R.G. Dunlop and Jacob Ryan of Louisville Public Media’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting win the February Sidney Award for exposing an outrageous system of patronage with their story “Only in Kentucky: Jailers Without Jails.”

Kentucky has 41 counties with no county jail, but the state constitution requires all counties to have an elected county jailer. So, 41 county jailers get paid, often hansomely, to do little or nothing. The highest earner among them pulls down $69,000 a year, but she has no office, no schedule, and no official duties of any kind.

Read our Backstory interview with R.G. Dunlop about the reporting that went into this remarkable story and the impact that the coverage is having on Kentucky politics. 

Sidney’s Picks: Subway DNA

Photo credit: 

Micah Baldwin, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News

  • Credible fear: Tens of thousands of families flee violence in Central America, languish in U.S. detention.
  • Salute a sanitation worker: Only .2% of the DNA in the New York City subway is human.
  • On Tuesday, Feb 10, join director Marc Levin for a sneak preview of his new documentary, Freeway: Crack in The System, at the IFC Center in New York.

Sidney-Winning Story Goes on to Win National Magazine Award

Amanda Hess took home a 2015 National Magazine Award last night for “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on The Internet,” a deeply personal and deeply-reported account of the threats that female journalists encounter online and the powerlessness of law enforcement to stop them.

The Sidney Hillman Foundation recognized Hess’s piece with the October 2014 Sidney Award. Here’s our Backstory interview with Hess about the making of her award-winning story. 

The Sidneys have been a bellweather for National Magazine Awards before. Steve Brill won a March 2013 Sidney Award for “Bitter Pill,” which went on to win a National Magazine Award in 2014.