The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting was honored with three awards in the Arizona Newspapers Association’s 2018 Better Newspapers Contest, including top division awards in the news and investigative reporting categories.

The collaborative investigative reporting project by AZCIR and KJZZ, Building Relationships, won the first place award for investigative reporting among daily publications with a circulation less than 25,000.

AZCIR Senior Reporter Evan Wyloge and KJZZ Reporter Carrie Jung reviewed hundreds of documents, from campaign finance data and nonprofit filings to corporate records and procurement documents, to show how a small group of builders had become the main financiers of Maricopa County school district bond and override campaigns — then reaped the benefits when the bond and override money turned into construction work. Further reporting showed even deeper ties between construction companies and school districts, including joint business ventures and shared vacations.

In the months following the reporting, the Arizona Legislature upended the state’s K-12 procurement laws to avoid the problems unearthed by AZCIR and KJZZ.

Megan Janetsky, an AZCIR intern, took home a first place award in the news category among daily publications with a circulation of less than 25,000.

Janetsky’s reporting, Passage Prevented, revealed the impact that a U.S.-Mexico border wall would have on the wildlife habitats of southeastern Arizona’s “Sky Islands.” Janetsky followed the scientists who track wildlife in these pleistocene refugia, contrasting the prospect of manmade structures disrupting the ecosystem.

Claire Cleveland, also an AZCIR intern, won the second place award in the news category among daily publications with a circulation less than 25,000.

Cleveland’s article, Pregnant and Addicted, demonstrated that although the opioid death rate doubled in Arizona between 2007 and 2016 for pregnant women and new mothers, opioid withdrawal symptoms increased nearly five-fold during the same period. Cleveland explored what options are available for pregnant women and new mothers facing opioid addiction, and exposed critical resource gaps.