McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

July 7, 2014

Newspaper named national winner

McALESTER — The McAlester News-Capital and Oklahoma Watch reprise of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary’s three-day riot on the 40th anniversary of the violence a year ago has been honored in a national journalism contest with first place in the best investigative or in-depth series of stories in the community dailies category.

The National Newspaper Association (NNA) said the stories, published last July 28, were noteworthy for their thorough, informative insights on a subject that’s often described as one of the most destructive riots in U.S. prison history.

“It is always a pleasure to partner with another journalistic group like Oklahoma Watch,” said News-Capital Publisher Amy Johns. “It is an honor to be recognized nationally for the work we do right here in our hometown. As always, I am so proud of my news team. They work hard to shine the light where there is darkness.”

The rampage, which started in the prison’s mess hall, caused three inmate deaths, serious injuries to several guards and convicts, and the destruction of 24 prison buildings. Damage was estimated at $30 million. Nineteen violent deaths and 40 stabbings had occurred in the prison three years prior to the riot.

Judges applauded the anniversary stories for comparing the overcrowding, squalid cells and other issues that caused the riot with today’s reduced inmate population and stricter internal controls over inmate movement.

The series on OSP included four stories by Oklahoma Watch writers Shaun Hittle, Clifton Adcock and Darren Jaworski, and six articles by News-Capital Senior Editor James Beaty. Adcock is a former Quinton resident who previously worked as a reporter at the News-Capital.

In addition to numerous historical file photos,  the series also included new photos by Adcock, Beaty and News-Capital Photojournalist Kevin Harvison.

Known as “Big Mac,” the maximum security prison in the year of the riot housed more than 2,000 inmates in filthy, deteriorated facilities. Today, it contains less than 600 inmates in the rebuilt prison. It remains the site of the state’s death chamber.

The contest judges said the stories showed the changes “ensure a higher level of safety. A great peek into the political picture of it all, as well” on a subject that “has to be near and dear to the hearts of your community members.”

The News-Capital also won honorable mention in two individual award categories of the national contest: MJ Brickey for best serious column, and Matt Goisman for best sports column.

Brickey, the News-Capital’s digital editor, used words to paint a picture about her life as a newsroom journalist.

Goisman, sports writer for the News-Capital, has covered a number of serious subjects in his columns, including the Boston Marathon bombing. He grew up near Boston and has attended more than a dozen marathons, so he offered personal insight into the tragic event.

The contest was judged by retired and practicing community newspaper editors, publishers and journalism professors.

Oklahoma Watch is a Norman-based non-profit organization designed to produce in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state.

NNA is the country’s largest newspaper association, with membership of 2,200 owners, publishers and editors of community dailies and non-dailies. The organization’s mission is to protect, promote and enhance community newspapers.

Articles of the News-Capital and Oklahoma Watch series in the Sunday, July 28, 2013, edition of the News-Capital on the 40th anniversary of the OSP riot included:

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