An investigative reporter with The Indianapolis Star became the youngest recipient of the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award.
Marisa Kwiatkowski received the honor June 26 at the annual conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists in Indianapolis.
During its 16-year history, the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award has recognized writers whose work has positively affected readers’ lives and produced tangible benefits, said Robert L. Haught, coordinator of the award program.
Kwiatkowski, 31, covers social services issues at The Star.
“She has compiled a remarkable record at an early age of using her public forum to help others, as Will Rogers did,” he said.
In nominating her for the award, The Star’s executive editor, Jeff Taylor, said: “She writes of children abused and neglected, beaten to death or left starving, and of failures in the protection systems in place for children and adults. Marisa takes on this responsibility with compassion, tenacity and enormous skills as a storyteller, producing some of our most emotionally evocative, thought-provoking and noble journalism.”
Taylor added that Kwiatkowski’s stories have resulted in significant change.
“Two years of reporting on day care issues resulted in legislation in 2014 that tightened the rules governing day-care operations.”
For this achievement, Kwiatkowski, as part of a reporting team, won an award for best overall news writing from the Indiana Associated Press Media Editors in 2014.
In April, the Indiana Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists named her Journalist of the Year for her reporting on behalf of children.
In 2013, before coming to The Star, she was the winner of two national awards for her series on the difficulties of children with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities to receive appropriate services under Indiana’s fragmented system. As a result of her reporting, state officials pledged up to $25 million per year to close the funding gap.
Kwiatkowski joined The Star in July 2013 after almost seven years at The Times of Northwest Indiana (Munster). Following graduation from Grand Valley State University in Michigan, she also was a reporter with the Grand Haven (Michigan) Tribune and the Florence (South Carolina) Morning News.
She serves as a board member for the SPJ Indiana pro chapter, board vice president for Girls on the Run of Central Indiana, and co-leader of the Grand Valley State University alumni Indianapolis club. Kwiatkowski previously held active roles in Northwest Indiana volunteer organizations including Meals on Wheels and Junior Achievement.
The Will Rogers Humanitarian Award is a desk-size replica of the Rogers statue in the U.S. Capitol. It carries a $500 stipend.