Inaugural America’s Promise Journalism Awards Honor Journalists for Exemplary Coverage of Children and Youth Issues

USA Today and WNYC Honored for Stories about Pollution in Schools and Foster Care Youth


WASHINGTON, D.C.—America’s Promise Alliance (the Alliance) last night announced the winners of the first America’s Promise Journalism Awards. Brad Heath and Blake Morrison of USA Today were honored with the ‘America’s Promise Journalism Award for Action’ for “The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America’s Schools,” an in-depth investigative report on the effect industrial pollution outside of schools has on young students. New York Public Radio’s WNYC Radio Rookies were honored with the ‘America’s Promise Journalism Award for Awareness’ for a series called, “Growing Up in the System,” a first-hand look at the lives of different youth within the foster care system.

In partnership with the Journalism Center on Children & Families, the Alliance created these awards to laud the efforts of journalists working to help raise national awareness about the needs of young people and those that inspire communities to act on behalf of youth.  

 “America’s Promise Alliance is thrilled to recognize these inspiring pieces of journalism,” said Marguerite Kondracke, president and CEO of the Alliance. “The increased awareness of what life is like as a young person in foster care, and the legislative changes that resulted from ‘The Smokestack Effect,’ will undoubtedly lead to better outcomes for young people throughout the country," she added. “We’re thrilled to be supporting journalists as they raise awareness of critical issues facing children and youth.”

The Alliance’s award recipients were selected from the pool of winners of the 2009 annual Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism, which have been presented by the Journalism Center on Children & Families since 1994. The Alliance’s distinguished panel of judges selected one award recipient from each of two categories: Awareness and Action. Awareness entries were judged based on whether the submission provided a fresh take on an existing issue, or highlighted a topic little-known to readers. The Action Award was given to a piece that inspired action on behalf of young people that led directly to community-wide change. Each recipient received a $5,000 honorarium from the Alliance in addition to receiving the Casey Medal and its $1,000 prize.  The Journalism Awards are sponsored by Alliance Board Member Jin Roy Ryu, and were inspired by Tim Russert, a distinguished Alliance Board Member who was a tireless advocate for the nation’s young people.  Judges were:

  • Morton Kondracke, executive editor and columnist, Roll Call; commentator, Fox News Channel.
  • Martin McOmber, director of media relations, Casey Family Programs.
  • Glenn Means, member, America’s Promise Alliance Youth Partnership Team; student, Morehead State University in Kentucky.
  • Andrea Mitchell, correspondent, NBC Chief Foreign Affairs; host, MSNBC's “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”
  • Julia Sewell, member, America’s Promise Alliance Youth Partnership Team; student, Augsburg College in Minneapolis.
  • Colleen Wilber, vice president of media relations, America’s Promise Alliance.

About America’s Promise Alliance
America’s Promise Alliance is the nation’s largest partnership organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth. Through the collective power of our partner network, we raise awareness, support communities and engage in nonpartisan advocacy to ensure that young people receive more of the fundamental resources they need to graduate high school prepared for college, work and life.  Building on the legacy of our Founding Chairman General Colin Powell, the Alliance believes the success of our young people is grounded in the Five Promises—caring adults; safe places; a healthy start; an effective education; and opportunities to help others. For more information about America’s Promise Alliance, visit

About the Journalism Center on Children & Families
The Journalism Center on Children & Families (JCCF) is a national nonprofit resource and training center committed to media coverage of children, youth and families, particularly the disadvantaged. Journalists come to JCCF for balanced sources, story ideas, unbiased information and the inspiration to cover critical social issues that impact families and communities. Since 1993, over 14,000 journalists have turned to the center for training, vetted sources, resources and story ideas on children and families. For more information about JCCF, visit