The Austin Chronicle

Gentlewoman and a Scholar

By Monica Riese, April 17, 2012, 10:17am, Newsdesk

For the first time in its history, the Texas Institute of Letters has awarded its Stanley Walker Newspaper Journalism award to an altweekly writer – specifically, to none other than our very own Jordan Smith.

Smith was recognized for her investigative reporting in the Larry Swearingen case, in "The Science of Injustice," Aug. 19, 2011. In that piece, she carefully lays out the case surrounding the 1998 murder of Melissa Trotter and calls into question the legitimacy of physical evidence in Texas courts. The case is now under appeal because forensic evidence suggests Swearingen had been arrested and incarcerated weeks before the murder could have been committed.

In addition to her criminal justice reporting, Jordan was also awarded the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Maggie Award in 2011 for her reporting on Texas' dismantling the health care safety net for uninsured women. Her work has also appeared in Salon, The Crime Report, and The Nation, among other publications.

A little more on the company she keeps with this latest award: The TIL awards have been given since 1939, three years after the institute's inaugural meeting. TIL announced its award winners, who this year will take home a total of some $22,000 in prize money, at the nonprofit's 76th annual meeting. Other 2012 winners include Austin's Stephen Harrigan, who won the Jesse H. Jones Fiction Award for his novel, Remember Ben Clayton (Knopf), and Steven Fenberg, who wrote a biography of that award's namesake, Unprecedented Power: Jesse Jones, Capitalism, and the Common Good (Texas A&M University Press).

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