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WITF: 2017 Overall Excellence Entry

Written by Tim Lambert, WITF Multimedia News Director | Feb 3, 2018 12:27 PM

A year after playing a key role in President Donald Trump's election, Pennsylvania again found itself in the midst of issues playing out on the national stage -- from immigration to pipeline protests to the future of the Affordable Care Act to redistricting. 

Like all newsrooms, we reported on every day developments. But we also devoted resources to dig deeper. WITF worked to find the proper context, perspectives and underreported elements in each story, while staying true to the facts.  Examples include how our journalists relentlessly fact-checked Immigration and Customs Enforcement's data on Pennsylvania, told the story of some of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the commonwealth and delved into the impact of racial incidents in one county. 

WITF also brought very personal stories to our listeners. At a time when the Trump Administration was cracking down on immigration, we detailed how one Syrian family discovered some hope after resettling in central Pennsylvania. One reporter spent six months chronicling whether a teenager going through the juvenile justice system could change her ways. Another spent time at a central Pennsylvania Islamic Center where concerned citiziens helped provide extra security measures during the holiday of Ramadan. We detailed the challenges of dealing with the Affordable Care Act through the voices of people from different backgrounds. WITF's work outlined what was behind a growing protest movement over the natural gas pipeline boom in Pennsylvania and why one state official referred to it as a "jihad."

At the heart of our work is a goal of strenghthening our communities by connecting our communities. 

"The following stories have been edited.*


Track 1:

In November 2016, Brandi Keifer was placed on probation in Cumberland County Juvenile Court at the age of 17. For six months, WITF's Tim Lambert chronicled her journey from that day in court until the end of May 2017 to find out if the juvenile justice system made a difference in her life.  

Track 2:

The largest winter storm to hit ever central Pennsylvania during the month of March dropped more than a foot of snow on parts of the region. WITF's journalists covered the state's response and how communities dealt with the storm. 

Track 3:

The 101st annual Pennsylvania Farm Show is a celebration of the state's agriculture industry. Visitors slurp milkshakes. Ducklings slide down slides. Families camp out with their prize goats, cows and pigs. And if you look closely, you'll see the event also plays host to a rarer breed: politicians. WITF's Katie Meyer looked at how the farm show floor is prime politicking territory for Pennsylvania's state and federal lawmakers -- and they take advantage of it. 

Track 4:

For the second year in a row, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and the GOP-controlled legislature found themselves in difficult budget negotations. The resulting impasse extended beyond the June 30th deadline.  WITF's Katie Meyer tracked the debate until a deal was done some four months later.

Track 5:

Some mosques and Islamic community centers throughout Pennsylvania took extra security measures during the holiday of Ramadan - in most cases, engaging police or private security during evening services. WITF's Keystone Crossroads reporter Emily Previti visited Lancaster County, where a handful of people took it upon themselves to keep an eye on things.

Track 6:

In early 207, refugee resettlement was slated to stop in the U.S. for four months under President Donald Trump's second executive order on immigration. Resettlement activity had already started slowing down in some Pennsylvania cities, though. WITF's Keystone Crossroads reporter Emily Previti checked in with one family that recently arrived in Lancaster County.

 Track 7:

A crackdown by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) occured in central Pennsylvania in the first few months of the Trump Administration. While the agency was silent about its operations, WITF's Keystone Crossroads reporter Emily Previti looked at where raids were happening. ICE also began issuing weekly reports calling out local law enforcement agencies for declining detainer requests. Emily's reporting was the first in the state to detail how these reports were filled with errors and basically meaningless.

Track 8:

As the future of the Affordable Care Act re-emerged as a topic of debate in early 2017, WITF's Transforming Health project focused on the true impact, not the political rhetoric. Reporter Ben Allen spoke with dozens of people to get a sense of how the ACA has affected their lives. He produced a five-part series stemming from those conversations.

Track 9:

President Donald Trump proposed cutting $2.6 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency - or about a third of its budget. Such move would have meant state environmental agencies would have had to do more work -- with less money. WITF's StateImpact Pennsylvania report Marie Cusick detailed how the DEP is already strapped.

Track 10:

Pennsylvania was cited as the second most gerrymandered state in the country. WITF's Katie Meyer and Emily Previti profiled four congressional districts that have drawn scrutiny, as part of our  'Over the Line?' series. 

Track 11:

York County is one community where racial tension flared around the 2016 presidential election. A succession of high-profile incidents included racially-charged social media content posted by elected officials, and a viral video showing a high school student saying "white power" after President Trump's victory.  WITF's Keystone Crossroads reporter Emily Previti produced a three-part series "Grappling with Racial Tension in York," looking at the ways York is unique, but also widely representative.

Track 12:

New natural gas pipeline projects have generated fierce public opposition. Criticism is nothing new. But questions over the regulatory oversight of pipelines are gaining new attention as more projects get built-- particularly in Pennsylvania, due to its proximity to the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation. WITF's StateImpact Pennsylvania reporter Marie Cusick chronicled the controversy around the nation's growing network of natural gas pipelines.

Track 13:

On most days in the state Capitol, a clock that tracks the state's unfunded pension liabilities sits quietly outside the building's cafeteria, its numbers constantly ticking upwards. WITF's Katie Meyer reported as a new legislative session began, a small group of loyal pension reform advocates hauled out the clock and implored lawmakers to deal with mounting debts.

Track 14:

The Vietnam War. In central Pennsylvania, many supported America's involvement. Many others did not. At the end of the war, veterans, activists and refugees all had one thing in common -- they all had a story to tell. WITF gathered their memories and weaved them into a 52-minute radio documentary. Tim Lambert also profiled a Vietnam veteran who is still struggling to come to terms with the war -- decades after the last U.S. troops left the country.

Track 15:

The WITF Music series profiles musicians and bands from central Pennsylvania. They stop by our performance studio to play and chat with WITF's Joe Ulrich about music, songrwriting, life and whatever else comes up. 

Track 16:

This WITF newscast aired on November 24, 2017. It features the following stories: 1. A look at a report from a ratings agency that gauges how a tweak to a state law is impacting how existing casinos pay taxes to host counties and municipalities. 2. A report on an annual pay boost for state lawmakers. 3. A look at a new study detailing how when a parent is on Medicaid, their child is more likely to have an annual physical exam.

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