Friday, September 26, 2008

SPJ on the Hans Peters Story

Posted By on Fri, Sep 26, 2008 at 5:22 PM

The Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists, this month took notice of a story that appeared in the Journal earlier in the year.

In "News Gems," a regular Quill feature, the magazine commended "Nobody's Fault," the story of the short, tragic life of Hoopa youth James Lee "Hans" Peters. The story was researched and written by the Spring 2008 Investigative Reporting class at Humboldt State, which is taught by Journal contributor Marcy Burstiner.

The other stories noticed in "News Gems" this month are from outlets like the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the St. Petersburg Times and the Omaha Word-Herald. Pretty big-league company for a pack of students, but their work on the Peters story was truly exceptional. Congratulations to them.

Here's what the Quill had to say:

"Nobody's Fault" by students at Humboldt State University is a powerful investigation into the death of James Lee Peters, 25, a mentally ill and mentally disabled man who committed suicide in a California jail cell. Part of what makes this story impressive is that the students completed it despite receiving no cooperation from the mental health workers who were responsible for Peters, the jailers who incarcerated him or his family, friends and lawyers. Undaunted, the students combed through court records, district attorney files and birth, death, and autopsy reports to piece together the details of Peters' troubling life and death.

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Hank Sims

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