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Taylor-Tomlin Award Group Photo

2010 Taylor/Tomlin Award for Investigative Journalism honors Post and Courier series "Failing Our Students"

Diette Courrégé, education writer for the Post and Courier, has won the 2010 Taylor/Tomlin Award for Investigative Journalism for her series “Failing Our Students.”

Courrégé’s ongoing series is about the literacy struggles of students in the South Carolina Lowcountry. She spent a year observing the students’ schools, personal lives, and relationships with teachers.

The series drew attention to the number of high school students with barely elementary school reading levels.

The newspaper’s reports have contributed to changes in the way area school districts assess student reading skills, provide assistance and prevent students from being passed from grade to grade without addressing the underlying literacy problem.

 

The competition judges said:

"The reporter was indefatigable and her questions led to the uncovering of a serious issue — that one out of five students going into ninth grade read at a fifth-grade level. Her dedication to the issues raised informed the Charleston community and increased awareness about literacy. Her reporting inspired a community uprising to make literacy a focus."

"The Post and Courier took the issue and showed it in all its colors. It was a rare case of investigative reporting with personality. The reporting brought something to the floor that was being ignored. She did a good job of reporting, going into the classroom and following up with the students for months and months."

The School of Journalism and Mass Communications administers the annual competition, and the South Carolina Press Association coordinates the judging.

“It’s important to recognize the role that in-depth reporting has on shedding a light on things we often want to keep hidden,” said Dr. Carol Pardun, director of the SJMC. “The failure of some of our schools in teaching students to read is one of those dark shadows we’d often rather not investigate. But what could be more important? I’m thankful that we have journalists like Diette who are willing to dig for the deep story.”

Courrégé graduated in 2003 with a degree in mass communications from Louisiana State University, where she was honored as a Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society outstanding senior. She has won two Education Writers Association National Awards for Education Reporting. In 2006, she won the Beat Reporting category second-place prize. In 2008, she won first prize in Newspapers Under 100,000--Series or Group of Articles for her “Sanders-Clyde Elementary” series.

 

Doug Pardue is Courrégé’s mentor. He discusses the significance of her series which began with a story about Ridge Smith, a 16-year old functionally illiterate student in Charleston County's public schools.

The Taylor/Tomlin Award for Investigative Journalism recognizes enterprising, perceptive and beneficial reporting by journalists whose work is published in a South Carolina daily or weekly newspaper or wire service. The award was created in 2005 by South Carolina businessmen Joe E. Taylor Jr., currently state Secretary of Commerce, and Donald R. Tomlin Jr. to honor and stimulate the work of investigative journalists. A $5,000 stipend accompanies the award.

 
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