Bee reporters honored for stories on county Child Protective Services

Two Sacramento Bee reporters have won a national award from the Society of Professional Journalists for their work uncovering problems and errors at Sacramento County's Child Protective Services department.

Marjie Lundstrom and Sam Stanton were among three recipients of the organization's 2009 First Amendment Award for the two-part series "Unprotected" and subsequent coverage that, the judges noted, led to a grand jury investigation. The stories can be viewed at www.sacbee.com/cps.

Along with the other two winners, The Oklahoman/NewsOK.com and the Detroit Free Press, Lundstrom and Stanton were "recognized for their extraordinarily strong efforts to preserve and strengthen the First Amendment."

For the CPS series, reporting involved the first test of a new open records law that required release of otherwise private child welfare records whenever a child dies. Lundstrom wrote some of her own legal filings and appeared in court to secure access to records.

"Joining forces with veteran Bee reporter Stanton," a news release announcing the award said, "the two fought to hold the system accountable."

– Bee staff