Hinman Wins EWA Award

The Education Writers Association (EWA) announced the winners of the 2006 National Awards for Education Reporting today, and Riverfront Times staff writer Kristen Hinman took top honors in the Investigative Reporting category.

Hinman was honored for "Basketball by the Book," her series about Vashon High School's boys' basketball team, a perennial powerhouse coached by Floyd Irons, a polarizing figure who, until his dismissal under murky circumstances over the summer, was a legend in the local high school basketball community.

Examining data obtained from the St. Louis Public Schools dating back to the late 1990s, Hinman found that in case after case, player after player appeared to have provided false information to the district, in apparent violation of local and state regulations that govern school attendance and athletic competition.

Hinman compared roster information to public records, and also applied the "shoe leather" approach: knocking on the doors at ballplayers' ostensible addresses and interviewing the occupants; tracking down the athletes themselves at addresses far outside the boundaries of Vashon's mandated attendance district.

The in-depth November 2 story that resulted from Hinman's investigation yielded a swift response from the school district, which immediately launched its own investigation.

Two weeks later, having initially dismissed Hinman's findings as "innuendos and rumors," the Missouri State High School Activities Association was compelled to launch its own investigation when Vashon's new coach benched two of his current players after complaints were lodged with respect to their eligibility.

Other EWA honorees this year include KMOV-TV, the Dallas Morning News, the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Wall Street Journal, as well as Village Voice Media publications New Times Broward/Palm Beach and the Houston Press. For a complete list of winners, check here.

And for the latest twist in the Vashon story, check back to riverfronttimes.com next Wednesday. In the meantime, links to Hinman's previous Vashon stories are listed below:

An Incomplete Education More than 50 teachers allegedly gave passing grades to AWOL Vashon students. By Kristen Hinman May 18, 2006

Basketball by the Book: A Riverfront Times Investigation The Vashon High School Wolverines have won five state titles in the past eight years. But did they play by the rules? By Kristen Hinman November 2, 2006

Basketball by the Book, Part 2: Foul Play Diana Bourisaw asks her staff to blow the whistle on ineligible basketball players. By Kristen Hinman November 16, 2006

Basketball by the Book, Part 3 Two Vashon hoopsters are benched pending eligibility investigations. By Kristen Hinman December 14, 2006

-Tom Finkel

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