Journalism institute honored for reports on working mothers and chronic homelessness

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism was recently honored with two awards for reporting. One award went to institute founding director Florence Graves and research assistant Hadar Sayfan; another went to institute senior researcher E.J. Graff.

Graff won a “Special Honor for Excellence in Reporting on the Media” for her article "The Opt-Out Myth,” which appeared in the April/May issue of the Columbia Journalism Review. The Council on Contemporary Families (CCF), as part of its sixth annual media awards, created this special honor for Graff's report on the distortions in many stories about working mothers. 

"The jury was unanimously impressed," CCF wrote to the Schuster Institute. "We seek to reward writing in the mainstream press rather than more specialized outlets like the Columbia Journalism Review, but Graff's story was so important and well executed that we felt it deserved a special award."

Graff directs the Schuster Institute's Gender & Justice Project, and is a resident scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center. Her article argued that the recent spate of "moms-go-home" stories misrepresented actual trends, and explained why the discussion should be reframed as a major public policy issue for 21st century working families. The story, and several follow-up articles, led to a burst of renewed debate, with discussion continuing on more than 100 blogs and news outlets. Graff appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," "The Diane Rehm Show," "On the Media," and the New England Cable News show "Wired" and made appearances at Harvard's Shorenstein Center, the Demos Institute and the New School in New York City to discuss the topic.

"The Opt Out Myth" and some of the follow-up discussion, is available at

In a different award, Graves and Sayfan won first place in the 2nd Annual Cushing Niles Dolbeare Media Awards for “First Things First,” which appeared in the Boston Sunday Globe on June 24, 2007.  The award was for an article in a newspaper with a circulation of 100,000 or more. 

Within a month after publication of the article, which explored a new approach to ending chronic homelessness, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts launched a long-delayed commission on these efforts. Joe Finn, the executive director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (MHSA), said “the appearance of this article in the Boston Globe Ideas section elevated the discussion of ‘housing first’ in Massachusetts to a whole new level.” The article dug deeply into the pros and cons of “housing first,” which gives homeless people homes of their own without first requiring them to resolve the disabling conditions that contribute to their homelessness.”  The judges noted that the article “had a profound impact on state agencies in Massachusetts.”

The Niles Dolbeare Media Awards, sponsored by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), honor print journalists who do exceptional work in covering the affordable housing crisis in the US. Graves and Sayfan, who was a student research assistant and WSRC student-scholar partner for three years, were recognized at a reception at Washington D.C. and received a $2500 prize for the institute.

To read the article and find resources about the issue, go to The article is located in the center column.

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