The Times took home a first-place Associated Press award for public service for its October series “Broken Bonds,” highlighting the foster care crisis in Hall County, and a best portfolio award for images by Times photographer Scott Rogers.
Awards were handed out Saturday afternoon at a banquet at Twelve Hotel at Atlantic Station in Atlanta. The Gainesville newspaper competed with large daily papers including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Savannah Morning News, Macon Telegraph, Augusta Chronicle and The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
“A change in categories put The Times in competition with Georgia’s largest newspapers. So to win first place in two of the major categories as the smallest daily in that group shows the caliber of content that our news team is producing for North Georgia,” Times Publisher Charlotte Atkins said. “I am so proud of the work our team produces for our community every day.”
The Broken Bonds series focused on a large gap between the number of foster homes in Hall County and the number of foster children who need homes.
The series also included stories of those affected by the foster care system, including foster care workers, foster parents and former foster children.
Reporter Nick Watson and former reporters Bekah Porter and Jennifer Jacob Brown produced the stories, with video by Savannah King, and it was all led by Metro Editor Shannon Casas, who also contributed a column about her experiences as a new foster parent.
“The Broken Bonds special report on the foster care crisis in Georgia was an outstanding and meaningful project, one which we thought highly enough to submit for Pulitzer Prize consideration,” Atkins said. “To have it earn top honors in the state for public service validates this effort that included many of our news team members. The plight of foster children in our region remains an important issue, and we are committed to continuing our coverage of the challenges and potential improvements in the system.”
An editorial by Editor Keith Albertson, “Plug the foster care gap,” ran with the series and also separately placed second in editorial writing.
Other awards include two for Times photographer Scott Rogers, including best portfolio.
“The Times audiences are long familiar with the compelling images of photographer Scott Rogers as he captures news and life around North Georgia,” Atkins said. “To have his portfolio of photographs tapped as Georgia’s best of the year by the Associated Press is such a worthy honor.”
Rogers also placed third for spot news photo for a photo capturing the arrest of a shooting suspect.
Reporter Joshua Silavent placed third for Freedom of Information for a series of articles about the ouster of Police Chief Brian Kelly.