Colin Woodard, state and national affairs reporter for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, has won a prestigious national award for his report on the influence of for-profit online education companies on the Maine Department of Education.
Woodard is the winner of the 2012 George Polk Award for Education Reporting for “The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine,” a two-part report published in the Telegram on Sept. 2. His stories revealed how two out-of-state companies were shaping the state’s policies on digital education as it moved to establish its first charter schools. His work also showed how the companies’ schools in other states have fared poorly in studies of students’ achievement.
It is the second Polk award in as many years for a Maine Press Association member. The Advertiser Democrat of Norway won for its report in October 2011 on poor living conditions in low-income housing in western Maine. The three-month investigation by Editor A.M. Sheehan and Assistant Editor Matt Hongoltz-Hetling exposed dismal living conditions for some residents who got Section 8 assistance in Norway and neighboring Paris.
Polk awards are among journalism’s top honors. Besides Woodard, others to be recognized for work completed in 2012 include David Corn, Washington bureau chief for the Mother Jones news organization; reporters for The New York Times and Bloomberg News who uncovered high-level corruption in China; journalists for McClatchy Newspapers and GlobalPost who covered the civil war in Syria; and staffers with CBS News, The New Yorker, The Washington Post and PBS’ “Frontline.”
The awards will be presented April 11 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein will be the citation readers. Read the story in the Press Herald.