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Bittersweet Laurel 

T-P wins prize for series by team it mostly laid off

The Times-Picayune's eight-part 2012 series about Louisiana's prison culture, "Louisiana Incarcerated," received the John Jay/HF Guggenheim Prize for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting last week and will be honored next month at a ceremony in New York City, along with part-time New Orleanian and Treme creator David Simon for his contribution to criminal justice journalism.

  It's a bittersweet victory for the T-P, which laid off nine of the 20 people involved with the story during its cutbacks last year — including managing editors Dan Shea and Peter Kovacs, graphics artist Ryan Smith, photographer Scott Threlkeld and reporter Jonathan Tilove (who is now at the Austin American-Statesman). Reporter Cindy Chang, whose byline appeared on most of the stories, now covers immigration and ethnic issues for the Los Angeles Times.

  In an email, Shea told Gambit, "The work done by Cindy and her colleagues represents the best of what the Picayune used to be. It is tragic that while we were doing the final editing and designing to put the series in the paper, the secret meetings had begun to shift the emphasis of the newsroom to short online updates and sports and entertainment coverage. There are serious and talented journalists left at the Picayune, but they will face an uphill battle to try to do this type of work again."

  In an email, Chang told Gambit that part of the prize money received by the team will be donated to DashThirtyDash, the assistance fund for laid-off T-P employees. — Kevin Allman

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