Journalist Michael Fuoco of Cedar Boulevard has earned an armful of awards for his Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2015-16 series “What Cost Freedom,” a five-part series focusing on Lewis Jim Fogle, who served 34 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of murder. Most recently, the series won the John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim 2017 Award for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting. The award recognizes the previous year’s best print and online justice reporting.
Fogle was released from prison with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He received no compensation for his wrongful conviction and hasn’t been able to find sustainable gainful employment. “Throughout the series, Fuoco portrayed Jim and his story with sensitivity, dignity and respect and readers got to know him as a three-dimensional lost soul,” Post-Gazette Assistant Managing Editor Virginia Linn wrote in her nomination letter.
The series has had real-life impacts since its publication. National and regional innocence projects have used it to lobby lawmakers to write legislation calling for wrongfully convicted people to be entitled to compensation. The West Virginia University Law School and the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science presented an art show and panel discussion about wrongful convictions. And fundraising efforts from private citizens have helped Fogle make ends meet.
Fuoco also received a first-place 2016 Professional Keystone Press Award in the personality profile division of the large, multi-day publications category. The Keystones, which are sponsored by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, go to pieces that “consistently provide relevance, integrity and initiative in service readers, and faithfully fulfills its First Amendment rights/responsibilities,” says the PNA.
Additionally, the series received first place in the Special Report/Series category of the 2016 William A. Schnader Print Media Awards, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association/Press Committee. That award goes to printed pieces that “foster greater public understanding of the legal system and the roles of society and the law, the courts, law enforcement agencies and the legal profession,” the association says.
Fuoco, an enterprise reporter, has been with the Post-Gazette for 33 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from John Carroll University and a master’s degree in journalism from Penn State University. He is a fellow of the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism at the University of Maryland and taught writing at the University of Pittsburgh for 10 years.
Read the series here.