Observer Wins Casey Medal

Melissa del Bosque's "Children of the Exodus" earns top prize in national journalism competition.
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This morning we received great news—the Observer has won a 2011 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for Melissa del Bosque’s story “Children of the Exodus“. The prestigious national award, given out by the University of Maryland, honors outstanding coverage of children and families.

Like many great stories, this one started with a nugget of news that hinted at something larger. In late 2008, Melissa came across a brief article in a Mexican newspaper reporting that the United States had deported 90,000 unaccompanied Mexican children in the previous year. She wondered how this could be and what was happening to these children. Two years later—after obtaining a reporting grant from The Nation Institute—Melissa and her husband, photographer Eugenio del Bosque, traveled to the Mexican border towns of Reynosa and Matamoros to find out. What she found was a region terrorized by drug cartels and riddled with violence into which U.S. and Mexican authorities were sending thousands of unaccompanied children. The resulting story—“Children of the Exodus”—was published in November 2010 and recounts the disturbing tales of Mexican children detached from their families and caught between the tough-on-immigration policies in the U.S. and the deadly drug war in Mexico. It’s a stunning story that’s receiving national recognition.

More than 500 journalists from across the country entered work in the award competition. First-place awards were given in 12 writing and multimedia categories

Melissa and Eugenio won first place medal for magazine journalism. Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman of Newsweek were runners up for the story “The Creativity Crisis.” Other winners included reporters from the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times and Palm Beach Post. The medals and the $1,000 award will be handed out at an October ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The contest judges wrote of Melissa’s story: “This important story is the result of unusual initiative, determination and bravery on the part of a journalist. Most Americans probably don’t know that their government deports tens of thousands of unaccompanied Mexican children each year, and even fewer know what happens when those children reach Mexico. The Texas Observer traces the path of deported children to dangerous Mexican border cities, finding that many of them end up on the streets. Others try to reunite with their parents by attempting the hazardous and illegal border crossing, and some are even kidnapped and held for ransom. By taking readers on the hunt through first-person accounts of what she sees and hears, the writer enables us to feel the atmosphere of fear, incompetence, desperation and duplicity.”

The story, which was edited by Michael May, has also recently been honored by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and by the Texas Institute of Letters.

Congratulations to Melissa and Eugenio on a terrific honor. We couldn’t be prouder.

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