2023 Features (Large Newsroom) Winners

Peter Thomson, Brian Bergstein, David Scharfenberg, Kelly Horan, Heather Hopp-Bruce & Abbi Matheson, The Boston Globe

About the Winners:

The story unearths the history and legacy of the Sidetrack program, a short-lived effort in the early 1970s to break down racial, cultural and educational barriers between the highly segregated Boston-area communities of Roxbury and Lincoln—one largely Black and economically isolated, the other almost entirely white and wealthy. 

Peter Thomson was one of its 50 or so students, a 7th grader from Lincoln. He lost touch with most of the other students and never knew what kind of long-term impact it had on them. Fifty years later, at a time of fresh social fracturing and racial reckoning in the U.S. in the early 2020s, he decided it was time to try to find out. Within hours of its publication online, the story became the most read story on The Boston Globe’s website, and it stayed in the top 10 for several days. 

“The story of [me] and my classmates’ long-ago experience as junior high schoolers prompted an ongoing reappraisal among its readers of the value of deep, equitable school integration at a time when social fissures in the U.S. can again feel unbridgeable,” Peter said. “And in my still highly segregated hometown of Lincoln it inspired a fresh conversation about the town’s relationship with its larger community and the possible rebirth of something very much like Sidetrack.”

Comments From the Judges:

“This is a very readable story about a very interesting attempt to bridge divides. The writer deserves credit for going beyond his own experiences to include reactions of many of his former classmates. A beautifully told story, enhanced by thoughtful web design.”

“It truly shows the power of education to bring people together and just how important a solid understanding of history is to great journalism. It was well-told, and I appreciated how seriously the reporter took his topic as well as the breadth of his research and reporting. I was engrossed all the way through.”

Photo credits: The Boston Globe/Pat Greenhouse; photo courtesy of Peter Thomson