The Star Tribune of Minneapolis and the Rochester Post-Bulletin were among the winners of the 2009 Frank Premack Public Affairs Journalism Awards, the Minnesota Journalism Center said Saturday.

The Star Tribune and its staff won in the category of breaking news about public affairs. They were recognized for their series on Daniel Hauser, a young cancer patient from Sleepy Eye who with his mother fled the state rather than undergo traditional cancer treatments.

"The story kept interest without resorting to sensationalism and was an extremely fair-minded treatment of many potentially polarizing issues," the judges said in a statement.

They honored the Post-Bulletin and reporter Jay Furst for investigative or analytical reporting, for his two-part series "Panhandlers: Are They Legit?" It examined the degree to which the city's beggars were scam artists or truly people in need.

"Even people outside of the community would find the report interesting and useful," the judges wrote.

The awards, Minnesota's most coveted journalism honors, were established 1976 after the death of Frank Premack, a reporter, city editor and assistant managing editor at the Minneapolis Tribune.

A ceremony will be held April 19 at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The winners receive $250 and the media outlets are awarded a special citation.

The other winners were:

— Excellence breaking news about public affairs in greater Minnesota: The Farmers Independent in Bagley and editor and reporter Tom Burford. His five-part series focused on an abuse of power by the local county attorney who had a man arrested after he tried to prevent his wife, who had Alzheimer's disease, from wandering off and becoming lost.

— Excellence in investigative or analytical reporting about public affairs, among large organizations: The Star Tribune and reporters Glenn Howatt and Pam Louwagie. The reporters investigated the high number of falling deaths that occur in nursing homes every year. They revealed flaws in a state regulatory system, which issued far fewer citations against nursing homes with significant numbers of falls than those in surrounding states did.

— Excellence in opinion journalism, among large organizations: The Star Tribune and Doug Tice. Their Nov. 1 editorial explored the costs of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program following a report about flat-screen TVs being installed at the state's new institution for sexual predators.

— Excellence in opinion journalism, among small organizations: The Mille Lacs Messenger of Isle and Brett Larson. Their opinion piece revealed that the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe tribal government routinely conducts business outside the public eye. Its finances are closed to its own members as well as the general public, breeding disenfranchisement and mistrust among many Band members.

— 2010 Graven Award for special recognition: Lori Sturdevant, the public affairs and political opinion columnist of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Sturdevant won the first ever Premack Public Affairs Journalism Award in 1977 with her colleague Joe Rigert, and was honored again in 2001 in the Opinion Journalism category.

"Her columns and her open willingness to say 'yes' to every community group asking her to address their meetings is but a small part of a career that has consistently held fast to the traditions of great public affairs journalism," said Jim Pumerlo, the Premack board chairman.

— Farr Award: James P. Dolan, president and chief executive of Dolan Media Co., which publishes journals and newspapers in 21 U.S. markets. The board said it selected Dolan for continuing to invest in public affairs journalism at a time when the industry is facing difficulties.


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