Journalism Society Honors Deadline Detroit for 2 Feature Articles and Jack Lessenberry Investigation

May 02, 2019, 10:06 PM

Deadline Detroit received three awards from the Society of Professional Journalists’ local chapter Thursday night at an annual presentation.


Joe Lapointe, a regular contributor, won second place in online feature reporting for a vivid narrative recalling his work as a Tiger Stadium usher in 1968 – "the coolest job."

Nancy Derringer, a staff member, won fourth place for a feature about radio station 910am, its owner and its roster of "notorious" program hosts.

This news site also won a fourth-place investigative reporting award for documenting questionable behavior with women involving Jack Lessenberry, then-head of Wayne State’s journalism program. The society honored a May 2018 article by freelance contributors Evelyn Aschenbrenner and Peg McNichol.

"We're pleased to be recognized for contributing good journalism in this community," says Allan Lengel, editor and co-founder of Deadline. "We're proud of all our writers, including the two WSU graduates who spent seven months on an authoritative account of complaints about a prominent instructor there."

Evelyn Aschenbrenner, left, and Peg McNichol chronicled complaints about Jack Lessenberry, who led WSU's journalism program.

Aschenbrenner and McNichol, who earned Wayne journalism degrees in 2004, contacted more than 100 people and chronicled a half-dozen allegations from women who say Lessenberry acted inappropriately, said things that made them uncomfortable or repeatedly showed unwanted attention. The 4,200-word article described “a long and sometimes documented history of allegations that he misused his power and influence when dealing with female colleagues and students."

An outside attorney hired by the university a day after the story was published found that he "violated Wayne State University’s non-discrimination and sexual harassment policies" and that undergraduates were "mistreated by Mr. Lessenberry." He had resigned a month before the investigator's report was completed.

Nearly 200 people attended the San Marino Club dinner and awards ceremony in Troy, according to SPJ administrator Marcia Hart. Allie Gross of the Detroit Free Press was honored as Young Journalist of the Year.

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