2022 Features (Small Newsroom) Winner

Gail Cornwall, The Hechinger Report

About the Winner:

Gail Cornwall’s story about a K-8 school in San Francisco that created a homeless shelter for local families in its gym is a testament to reporting persistence, and of the power of storytelling to effect change.

Her story drew on five reporting visits to the shelter, and on conversations with families who’d once lived there and had since moved out. It’s a powerful, poignant piece. The people who spoke to Cornwall opened up about their experiences, and the details are heartbreaking.

Before moving to the shelter, one mom had developed a urinary tract infection from trying to avoid using the bathroom in her shared apartment. Her first-grade son was showing up to class hungry and tired. He threw objects, tried to leave the classroom and hit other students. After moving into the shelter, his demeanor shifted. He was calmer, and he began to learn how to read.

Comments From the Judges:

“A poignant, revelatory read. I’m so glad the reporter was persistent enough to pursue and execute this well-told, just-the-right-length, story. It’s a perfect mix of character-driven prose and meaty, data-driven reporting. The trust carefully built between the reporter and people who had relied on the shelter was evident. A truly lovely read that clearly had huge impact. I’d love to know if other school districts have since taken on similar projects.”

“This was fantastic storytelling, showcasing strong reporting and excellent writing. The reporter seamlessly weaved in descriptive details, research, stats, history around policies affecting funding for homeless students, and anecdotes from several families who experienced homelessness and stayed at the school shelter. I love that this story covers a really heartbreaking topic – homeless students – by highlighting a unique, effective program.”