Detroit News reporter wins national award

The Detroit News

Investigative Reporter Christine MacDonald of The Detroit News won a prestigious national journalism award for her stories on evictions in Detroit.

MacDonald won a 2017 Sigma Delta Chi Award for public service journalism for newspapers with circulations between 50,000 and 100,000. The award, given by the Society of Professional Journalists, was announced Monday.

The two-day series, “Detroit Evictions,” published Oct. 5 and 6, showed how Detroit renters were caught in a cycle of transience and poverty.

Trapped in run-down apartments whose landlords ignored inspection ordinances, the renters’ attempts to compel improvements by withholding rent often led to eviction, the series found.

The yearlong investigation showed that in 2015 only one of every 13 evictions involved an address that was legally registered with the city.

Within days of the series’ publication, the Detroit City Council passed ordinances to crack down on scofflaws and give tenants more remedies.

In nominating the series for the award, News’ Managing Editor Gary Miles described how MacDonald convinced the 36th District Court of Michigan to share data on 285,000 eviction cases from 2009 to 2017. The information normally isn’t released and isn’t available under the Freedom of Information Act.

McDonald talked to tenants, activists, officials, experts and landlords to get all sides of the story, said Miles.

“She illuminated landlords’ abuses and the compelling challenges they face,” he said.

McDonald and other winners of the awards will be honored at a banquet June 8 at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.