INDIANAPOLIS — A CNHI News Indiana series exposing problems with township government has been honored by the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The series won a first-place award for investigative reporting by newspapers and digital media with circulation of more than 30,000.

"Townships: Antiquity or Necessity?" found that, 11 years after a governor's commission had termed townships antiquated and ineffective and had called for their abolition, little had changed. Meanwhile, the collective annual budget of townships across the state had ballooned to $389 million.

The five parts of the series, written by CNHI Statehouse Reporter Scott L. Miley, were published in December. Among other research, reporters from CNHI newspapers visited 94 township trustees' offices in nearly 20 counties to gauge their accessibility and responsiveness, and an online survey tested 561 Hoosiers' knowledge of and engagement with township government.

The judge of the Indiana SPJ contest cited the series' quality of reporting and writing.

"Overall, the project exemplified what excellent investigative reporting is about: exposing a problem, offering insight and solutions, and in the process, serving the community and creating a path for change," the judge wrote.

CNHI News Indiana is a collaboration of 13 Hoosier newspapers owned by CNHI, a company based in Montgomery, Ala. The newspapers are in Anderson, Avon, Batesville, Goshen, Greensburg, Jeffersonville, Kokomo, Lebanon, Logansport, Rushville, Terre Haute, Washington and Zionsville.

"Townships: Antiquity or Necessity" also won CNHI's 2018 national award for public service.

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