Herald’s Douglas takes top journalism prize

Anna Douglas
Anna Douglas

Herald reporter Anna Douglas was named the recipient of the 2014 Outstanding Journalism Award by the Greater Charlotte Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists on Thursday.

Douglas, 25, was recognized for her coverage of the brief but turbulent tenure of Winthrop University President Jamie Williamson. She was chosen from among professional journalists nominated by news organizations around the Charlotte region, regardless of size.

“Anna does excellent work for us every day, but her work on the Winthrop story was particularly remarkable,” said Debbie Abels, president and publisher of The Herald and “She is thoughtful, tenacious and fair in her reporting. She is much deserving of this award, and I’m very proud of her.”

It was Douglas’ second top journalism award in two months, having been named the 2014 South Carolina Journalist of the Year by the S.C. Press Association in March.

The judges of the organization’s inaugural Outstanding Journalism Awards praised Douglas’ reporting as having “met all the standards for the best of Charlotte (area) journalism” in 2014.

“There is no question that this is the entry that clearly leads the way,” the judges wrote. “When a newspaper reporter’s dogged determination and pointed questions result in the removal of a university president, that’s impactful.

“Each segment of the entry was better than the one before it.”

Douglas reported that Williamson had granted pay hikes of up to 33 percent to several senior administrators without alerting the school’s Board of Trustees. She also reported that Williamson had approved a 40 percent increase in summer school tuition without informing students or faculty.

Additionally, Douglas reported that emails and other documents indicated Williamson was involved in the hiring of her husband for a temporary, part-time job in the president’s office. Other documents showed that some Winthrop staffers complained they had been bullied by Williamson.

After Douglas’ reporting on the hiring of Williamson’s husband, Winthrop trustees called a special meeting in June. At that meeting, Williamson was suspended, and the board gave notice it intended to fire her. Less than two weeks later, trustees fired her.

“We believe Anna’s work on the Winthrop story last year was excellent,” Herald Editor Paul Osmundson said. “She worked extremely hard to ensure her coverage was accurate, complete and fair. I’m grateful the Charlotte chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists agrees.”

Douglas, who is now The Herald’s special projects reporter, also has led the newspaper’s coverage of the city of Rock Hill. The 2011 Winthrop University graduate is the former editor of the school’s student newspaper. She was the SCPA’s 2011 Collegiate Journalist of the Year.