A seven-part series in the Boston Globe about the plight of student-athletes in Boston public schools -- a series that chronicled a pattern of neglect on and off the field and eventually led to action by the city's mayor as well as business and community leaders -- was selected as the inaugural winner of the Award for Excellence in Coverage of Youth Sports, presented by the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.
Bob Hohler, an investigative reporter in the sports department at the Globe, found the city was spending a fraction of what other school systems were on athletics. He found many other things as a result, including: a baseball team practicing in a glass-strewn alley; football teams playing on fields dotted with manhole covers; incompetent coaches; and a class system that existed because of limited support for students who did not attend academically elite schools in the system.
"Taken piecemeal, these may seem like relatively small failings, the sort that can be and were unnoticed for years by the city's leaders and its media," said Boston Globe editor Marty Baron, "but for the students of Boston schools, many of them victims already of urban violence, it is hard to imagine a more telling invitation to anger and a sense of abandonment."
Nearly three dozen media outlets from across the country submitted entries for the award, which was created by the Curley Center to recognize creative, in-depth and innovative coverage of youth and high school sports by broadcast, print and online journalists.
A group of faculty screeners from the College of Communications culled the field of entries to four finalists, which were then sent to external judges. Those judges -- John Curley, the former president, CEO and chairman of Gannett Co. Inc. for whom the Center is named; Kimberly Jones of YES Network; and Jon Saraceno of USA Today -- were unanimous in their selection of Hohler's series. They cited its comprehensive approach, solid writing and impact, because it moved people to action.
"Now the city is trying to show it cares more," Baron said. "As a direct consequence of the Hohler series, more than $7.5 million has been pledged to rebuild school athletics over the next three years, and to create an academic mentoring system for would-be athletes. Businesses, college and local pro teams have all promised to assist, with money and expertise."
The award will be presented Thursday, April 22, during a special event at the Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State's University Park campus.
Hohler, a sports enterprise and investigative reporter for the Globe, previously served as the paper's beat writer for the Boston Red Sox from 2000 through the 2004 championship season. From 1993 to 2000 he was based in the Globe's Washington bureau, where he covered government and politics, including President Clinton's impeachment case.
He joined the Globe in 1987 and covered news throughout New England before the Washington assignment. He has received numerous writing honors, including the 2010 Dick Schaap Excellence in Sports Journalism Award. He received the 2007 Salute to Excellence Award from the National Association of Black Journalists and was cited by the Associated Press Sports Editors in 2005 for the nation's best investigative reporting. His work appeared in "The Best American Sports Writing 2007." He is the author of "I Touch the Future ... The Story of Christa McAuliffe." Before joining the Globe, he worked for New Hampshire papers, the Concord Monitor and Monadnock Ledger.
The Curley Center, created in 2003, explores issues and trends in sports journalism through instruction, programming and research. Four undergraduate courses comprise the core offerings of the Center, and students who take advantage of the courses do so in state-of-the-art classrooms and radio and TV studios. The Center emphasizes internships at newspapers, magazines or electronic media and on-campus cocurricular work at the student-run newspaper, The Daily Collegian, the sports information office or campus radio.
Malcolm Moran, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society, serves as the Center’s director.
Along with facilitating the Award for Excellence in Coverage of Youth Sports as part of its outreach efforts, the Center coordinates on-and off-campus special events with guest speakers, panels and events -- including a seminar at Final Four in April. Also, as part of its research component, the Center conducts regular studies and surveys about issues in sports journalism.