WAUKESHA, WIS.—Gina Barton, an adjunct lecturer of communication and investigative reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has won a national journalism award for her “courageous reporting” of A Death in Police Custody.
The George Polk Award for Local Reporting will be presented to Barton in April 2013. Her investigation covered the July 2011 death of Derek Williams in the back of a Milwaukee police car. Barton found that the medical examiner missed key signs pointing toward the officers’ actions as factors in the death. The Journal Sentinel also fought for 10 months before the Milwaukee Police department released the squad car video showing Williams gasping for air and pleading unsuccessfully for help. The reports prompted new departmental rules, an FBI investigation, the resignation of an assistant medical examiner and an ongoing public inquest.
The Polk Awards are conferred annually to honor special achievement in journalism. The awards, which place a premium on investigative and enterprise reporting, were established in 1949 at Long Island University. They are among the most prestigious honors in journalism.
Barton has taught News Writing and Reporting at Carroll since 2010 and joined the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff in 2002. In spring 2012, she won the Al Nakkula Award from the Denver Press Club for her October 2011 series, “Both Sides of the Law,” which investigated how Milwaukee police officers keep their jobs despite run-ins with the law. Her narrative series, “Fatal Identity,” was followed by charges against a longtime murder suspect. Her book on the case was published in September 2008 and featured on MSNBC.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and a master’s degree from Indiana University-South Bend. Barton also has worked at the Indianapolis Star, the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune and the Huntington (WV) Herald Dispatch.