Winners of special Kansas Press Association Awards have been announced, and they include Wichita Business Journal editor Bill Roy, who was recipient of the 2021 Clyde M. Reed Jr. Master Editor award.
Roy will be honored along with other special award winners and the newest inductees into the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame at the President’s Gala Oct. 9 at the Meridian Center in Newton.
Other honorees include:
• Jean Hays, long-time news staffer at the Wichita Eagle, winner of the Gaston Outstanding Mentor Award.
• Dion Lefler and Chance Swaim, reporters for the Wichita Eagle, winners of the Victor Murdock Award for their series, “Anatomy of a Smear.”
• The Kansas City Star, winner of the Boyd Community Service Award.
Roy, a graduate of Kansas State University and editor of the Wichita Business Journal since 2003, came there after stints in broadcast media in Wichita.
“Without question, the best things Bill brought with him to the Wichita Business Journal were a natural ability to train, lead and grow our newsroom staff, tremendous news judgment on what made a good business story, and the integrity to always do the right thing,” said John Ek, the newspaper’s market president and publisher.
Roy also has a weekly podcast that passed the 200-episode mark recently.
Despite being diagnosed with ALS in 2019, Roy has continued to lead the newsroom.
Gaston Outstanding Mentor Award
Hays, a native of Arkansas City and graduate of Wichita State University, retired from the Wichita Eagle in May after 43 years as a reporter and editor.
As the investigations editor, she recently worked with a team of reporters investigating Wichita’s water system, warning readers that Wichita’s only water treatment plant could fail at any time.
A follow-up story detailing how the mayor steered a $524 million contract for a new water plant to his friends led to the mayor’s election defeat and a Polk award.
She is married to Jim Cross, who recently retired from the U.S. Attorney’s office. Their daughter, Rachel, is a policy analyst with the Public Interest Research Group in Boston.
Swaim, a colleague at the Eagle, said, “An investigative reporter needs an investigative editor, someone who protects her reporters from themselves and who knows when to stay the hell out of the way.
“Her questions pop into my head as I write, months after her retirement: ‘What is the most powerful way we can say this? What are readers going to care about?’ Those questions will drive me for the rest of my career.”
Victor Murdock Award
Swaim and Lefler teamed up on a series of articles investigating local officials who had attempted to smear Wichita mayor Brandon Whipple with a false election ad.
The three-part series tracked down the origin of the ads and who paid for them, eventually leading to the resignation of Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell and Wichita City Commissioner James Clendenin. State Rep. Michael Capps, R-Wichita, also was implicated in the plot and asked to resign by party officials.
The ad in question had featured young women falsely accusing Whipple of sexual harassment leading up to the election of 2020.
The reports followed the money and discovered $10,000 had been raised under the guise of a non-profit to fund the false attack.
They discovered the plot originated as a “last-ditch effort” to save former Mayor Jeff Longwell’s job. Longwell had already been implicated in another local scandal concerning how he steered a $524 million contract for a new water plant in Wichita to his friends.
Following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Kansas City Star reporter Mara Rose Williams urged her editors to seize the moment. The result was an investigation of The Star’s role in the city’s history and practice of systemic racism.
Research for the project uncovered instances of the newspaper reinforcing Jim Crow laws, redlining, school segregation and other destructive public policies.
For “The Truth in Black and White,” reporters spent hundreds of hours studying decades of microfilmed pages of the The Star, the Kansas City Times and the city’s Black newspapers, The Call and The Sun.
“The Kansas City Star prides itself on holding power to account,” editor and president Mike Fannin wrote in an essay introducing the project. “Today we hold up a mirror to ourselves to see the historic role we have played, through both action and inaction, in shaping and misshaping Kansas City’s landscape. It is time that we own our history.”