The cornerstone of the project was a special print edition, released across the state, featuring essays highlighting the thoughts, concerns, aspirations and grievances from over 200 women. The essays were featured as the sole content of the print editions of The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and Mobile Press-Register, marking the first time a large newspaper devoted an entire section to only quoting women.
The essay project came on the heels of Alabama lawmakers passing a law to ban abortions in nearly all instances, a law that sparked widespread protests across the state. The award recognizes the reporting efforts around the legislation, as well as video interviews featuring reporter Abbey Crain interviewing women about their own decisions pertaining to abortion.
The award also recognizes investigative reporter Anna Claire Vollers’ work for her months-long reporting on how Alabama treats its mothers, spanning topics from maternal mortality, to breastfeeding in the workplace, to health care access.
In addition to the essays and reporting effort, Alabama Media Group launched Reckon Women, a Facebook group that’s home to hundreds of conversations about how to make life better for women in Alabama and the South.
“This work showed the power of serving an audience by working alongside them to reclaim their own narrative,” said Rebecca Walker Benjamin, senior managing producer at Alabama Media Group. “While the country was talking about Alabama’s women, we instead listened to the women and amplified their voices, revealing new avenues and networks for those stories to be uncovered and reported. We’re proud of the ground we’ve broken through our approach, and continue to build upon it in other areas of coverage.”
In addition to the award for coverage of “Alabama’s War on Women,” a project which included efforts from almost every editor in the company, videographers, multiple reporters and print designers, the Headliner Awards also recognized the 2019 work of Alabama Media Group investigative reporter Connor Sheets.
Sheets, in collaboration with ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, won third place in the Health, medical and science writing division for his work chronicling the struggles of sick and injured inmates left under the weight of medical debt acquired during their time served.
“I’m honored to receive this recognition and grateful to all the people across Alabama who courageously shared their ‘medical bond’ stories with me,” Sheets said. “I’d also like to thank my editors, Challen Stephens and Charlie Ornstein, for guiding this reporting effort, and ProPublica for giving me the opportunity to be a part of its fantastic Local Reporting Network.”
The Headliner Awards were founded in 1934 by the Press Club of Atlantic City. The awards are some of the oldest and largest in the country.