High School Football Investigation Earns Newsday a Penn State Award

"Hard Knocks" led to immediate and wide-reaching changes.

John Affleck, director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State, calls Newsday’s Oct. 7, 2015 four-part series “Hard Knocks” an example of “classic watchdog journalism.” This year’s trio of judges agreed and as a result, the paper has earned the Center’s Award for Excellence in Coverage of Youth Sports.


From today’s announcement:

Newsday conducted a seven-month investigation for the project. The paper has 116 high schools with football programs in its region and it evaluated concussion reports from 104 schools and gathered helmet inventories from 108. In addition, Newsday interviewed more than 80 people for the project — neurologists, researchers, helmet manufacturers, state athletic officials and school superintendents, as well as coaches, players and parents.

The report, conducted in partnership with News 12, found dozens of schools with low-performing helmets, according to the accepted national rating standard that ranges from one to five stars.

As a result of the investigation, more than a third of Long Island schools with low-performing helmets agreed to immediately take them out of athletic circulation. Jim Baumbach was lead reporter for the project, supported by Laura Albanese, Ann Choi and Timothy Healy. They were edited by Hank Winnicki; the interactive editors were Saba Ali and Mark La Monica; and more than a dozen others contributed to the design, programming, video and photo components.

The award will be presented April 18.