Southtown Star’s Matt Marton wins top prize

Matt Marton (right) chats w

ith Kane County Chronicle editor Kathy Gresey and State Rep. Bob Pritchard after Thursday’s NINA awards banquet at NIU.

Matt Marton, a photographer for the Southtown Star, has won NINA’s Excellence in Journalism Award and the accompanying $1,000 prize for his work on the series, “Haiti: Two Years Later.”

The award was presented Thursday night at NINA’s 50th Anniversary Fall Conference, at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center. The Excellence in Journalism competition invited journalists to submit their best piece of work, published between May 1, 2011, and April 30, 2012.

Here are judges’ remarks about Marton’s work:

In February 2012, the Southtown Star send photographer Matt Marton and reporter Donna Vickroy to Haiti. “We wanted to find out where cargo containers full of shoes, bicycles, medical supplies and musical instruments, donated by our readers, ended up,” Marton wrote. “In following the trail of compassion, we hoped to form a bridge, built on communication and understanding, from here to Haiti.”

Marton’s stunning series of photos didn’t just follow that trail of compassion. It stirred it anew in readers. It’s difficult to imagine any reader being confronted with these photos and not feeling changed. This series – both the photos and the words – shines the light of truth and compassion on the people of Haiti, for the benefit of an audience who may have given money, time and/or prayer for them. It’s a sterling example of the type of journalism that newspapers still must find a way to produce – despite budget crunches and staff shortages.

Not insignificant is that this series comes from a newspaper whose newsroom has been gutted by layoffs in recent years. Yet, the Southtown Star saw an opportunity to connect local efforts to an international story that’s fallen from the public eye but is every bit as urgent as it was two years ago. The paper made a significant investment to send these two journalists to Haiti for five days. The journalists stepped into harm’s way at times, witnessed the horror of extreme poverty, and also chronicled hope for better days.

Vickroy’s heroic series of stories was a runner-up, and ordinarily could have won a competition like this. But in this case, judges felt that Marton’s Pulitzer-quality photos were so compelling that they merited singular attention.

Thank you to the Southtown Star for seeing the value and importance of this story. Congratulations to Matt Marton, and thank you for the reminder of why most of us became journalists – to tell stories like this, and to make a difference in the world.

See this series at the Southtown Star website

Matt Marton’s blog

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