CityBeat Wins National Reporting Award

Nick Swartsell's “That Which Divides Us” recognized for excellence in public service reporting

The Society of Professional Journalists announced the winners of its national Sigma Delta Chi awards today, and CityBeat is among the publications receiving recognition. 


Nick Swartsell’s August 26, 2015 cover story, “That Which Divides Us,” won in the Public Service category for non-daily publications.

That story explored economic segregation in Cincinnati and has helped foster an ongoing conversation around race and economic issues here.

Amid controversy around police shootings of unarmed African Americans and subsequent civil unrest in cities like Baltimore and Chicago, Swartsell delved into the persistent socioeconomic factors that feed into America’s deep problems with race. The site of profound civil unrest in 2001 over the police shooting of Timothy Thomas, Cincinnati is, unfortunately, a prime place in which to examine these tensions. 

Swartsell analyzed 2010 Census and 2011-2014 American Community Survey data on a neighborhood level, even down to the Census tract in some cases, to present a picture of a city starkly segregated by class and race, where tensions bubble up from the deep crevices of inequality separating blacks and whites. The article also incorporated overall median income statistics, infant mortality rates and other data illustrating the negative impacts of economic segregation in a city where the nine lowest-income neighborhoods are predominantly African American and the nine highest-income are predominantly, in many cases more than 90 percent, white.

“That Which Divides Us” traced the history of economic segregation in Cincinnati and comparable cities across the country, exploring federal policies, inaction by city officials and other factors to explain why so many African Americans in Cincinnati grow up and remain in a cycle of poverty, cordoned off in crumbling and over-policed neighborhoods or caught up in the justice system’s revolving doors.

Finally, the article traced signs of hope — new efforts by activists and officials to bring economic opportunities to a city that the Brookings Institute recently ranked 81st in the nation in terms of racially inclusive economic prosperity.

The story was also recognized by national long-form journalism site Longreads.com, which named it a top pick last year.

The Sigma Delta Chi awards highlight the best professional journalism from publications around the country. News outlets including the Associated Press, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times are among the 84 Sigma Delta Chi award winners in various newspaper, magazine, television and radio categories chosen from almost 1,500 entries this year.

The award, established in 1932, is named for the original moniker of the SPJ. The 107-year-old organization is the oldest and one of the largest in the United States representing professional journalists.

This is CityBeat’s first time winning the award. The complete list of winners can be found here

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