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ASNE honors Bell coverage, Davidson photos

February 16, 2011 |  5:01 pm

Times Editor Russ Stanton announced the following awards in a note to the newsroom:

Congratulations to "Team Bell" and photographer Barbara Davidson on well-earned recognition from the American Society of News Editors.

Team Bell won the ASNE Distinguished Writing Award for Local Accountability Reporting for exposing exorbitant salaries and flagrant financial abuses in the city of Bell. Barbara won in the Community Service Photojournalism category for her moving portraits of victims of gang violence.

The Los Angeles Times was the only news organization to win more than one award.

The judges cited our Bell entry, "Breach of Faith," for its "relentless reporting on the shockingly exorbitant salaries paid to officials of the small suburban city of Bell, Calif., and on those officials' arrogant disregard for the public welfare."

Team Bell, as you know, began with Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives and quickly expanded to include about one-quarter of the Metro staff. The coverage, which is now in its eighth month, has led to the arrest of eight current and former officials, millions of dollars in tax refunds and tough new disclosure requirements for California cities.

Barbara's project, "Victims of Gang Violence," ran over three days in December. It produced a stunning series of images charting the suffering and perseverance of innocent people caught up in gang violence.

The ASNE judges praised her "absorbing examination of the effects of gang violence on the innocent: those wounded or killed because of a quarrel in which they had no part, victims lying in hospital beds or relatives and friends standing by their loved ones' coffins or sitting all alone asking, 'Why?' Though Davidson's wrenching photographs cannot answer their question, they are a masterful reminder that gang violence is not just hoodlum against hoodlum but a very real threat to those who would have no part of it but are not given a choice."

In addition, Christopher Goffard was a finalist in the Non-Deadline Writing category for "Four Walls and a Bed," his gripping series on L.A’s hard-core homeless.

ASNE officials said the 2010 contest was one of the most competitive in recent memory, with a 30% increase in the number of entries from last year. The awards will be presented at the organization’s convention in San Diego in April.