An Oklahoma Watch project on Hispanic immigration was awarded first place in general news reporting in the Great Plains Journalism Awards, in which publications and news sites from eight central U.S. states compete.

Contributing writers Ron J. Jackson Jr., Graham Lee Brewer, Katherine Borgerding and Juan Sanchez and data journalist Darren Jaworski won for a series entitled “Immigration in Oklahoma.”

“In a category with many strong entries, this stood out for its scope, depth and honest reporting,” judges wrote. “Oklahoma is changing, and Oklahoma Watch went beyond the numbers and into the communities to tell us why and how.

“Once I started reading,” a judge added, “I couldn’t put this down.”

The project explored the fast-rising Hispanic population in the state and its effects on small communities. The series included a story by Jackson on racial tensions in the town of Heavener; another by Brewer on the new sense of vibrancy in Guymon, the only city in Oklahoma where Hispanics have become the majority; an analysis of the statewide trend by Katherine Borgerding and Juan Sanchez, and data visualizations by Darren Jaworski.

“The Hispanic populations of 218 Oklahoma communities have more than doubled over the past decade, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of 2010 and 2000 Census data,” Borgerding wrote.

“From the Panhandle city of Guymon to the Little Dixie community of Heavener, Hispanics now comprise a significant and growing portion of the population across the state.

“The rapid growth reflects the continuing migration of Mexicans and other Latinos to the United States as well as a comparatively high Hispanic birthrate. It points toward a multicultural future that some Oklahomans consider invigorating, but others find unsettling.”

To see all Oklahoma Watch stories on this topic, go to this link.

The Great Plains Journalism Awards are presented by the Tulsa Press Club and Benevolent Association. Entries are accepted from media in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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