Washington Post journalists honored for articles on shooting, food stamps, tax liens

Washington Post reporters who told stories about the aftermath of a school shooting and the toll of poverty and who investigated the District’s flawed administration of tax liens have won awards from the American Society of News Editors, the organization announced Thursday.

Debbie Cenziper, Michael Sallah and Steven Rich won the local accountability award for the series “Homes for the Taking,” which delved into the often-nightmarish way the District handles tax liens. Their articles showed how companies bought liens, charged homeowners extra fees and seized the homes when the owners could not pay. One 95-year-old woman lost her house over a tax debt of $44.79.

“The team wove together the hard-edged analysis with deft storytelling about the families affected by this longstanding practice,” the judges said in a statement announcing the winners.

As a result of the articles, U.S. senators called on the government to investigate tax-lien programs. District officials asked for broad reforms and canceled many tax liens sold last year, while a lawsuit was filed trying to stop the practice.

The Post’s Eli Saslow won an award recognizing stories not written on deadline for his narrative, lyrical looks at the impact of food stamps on one town and how a family faced the aftermath the school shooting in Newtownm, Conn.

His moving storytelling “demonstrated how powerful great narrative writing can be,” the judges said.

Saslow, who won a George Polk Award last month for his stories about American families relying on the federal food stamp program, was a co-winner in his category along with three journalists from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Their award is named for Deborah Howell, a former Washington Post ombudsman who died in 2010.

The two awards won by The Post were matched by the pair awarded to the Boston Globe. Journalists from ProPublica, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Memphis Commercial Appeal were among the other winners.

The Post also had finalists in two other categories: The local staff in the breaking-news category for coverage of the Navy Yard shooting and Michael S. Williamson in the photojournalism category for images exploring hunger in America.

Judges representing news organizations, universities and other organizations across the country selected the winners from more than 330 entries completed last year.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.

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