BEST WRITER AT A LOCAL DAILY (1999)
The Saint Paul Pioneer Press calls Ruben Rosario its public-safety columnist. Technically, that may describe his spot in the newsroom hierarchy. But Rosario's real function, to hear his colleagues tell it, is that of community conscience: "Ruben feels it's his duty to keep us aware that there are complicated explanations for sensational events," says Walt Parker, Rosario's editor until last summer. "For him it's more than who shot who--it's what drives the system." Parker and others describe the New York-born criminal-justice writer as the product of a journalistic tradition that's all too rare these days. After Rosario graduated from Fordham College in the Bronx in 1976, he went to work as a copy boy at the Daily News, where, he recalls, he fetched sandwiches and coffee for journalism giants Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill, among others. With every ham on rye he absorbed a little more wisdom--and ultimately worked his way up to staff writer. It's our luck that in 1991, having covered such landmark events as the Gotti trial, Rosario went in search of a city where he could afford "some grass and a house" for his family of three. Here his uncanny ability to get people to open up to him has resulted in some of the most compelling stories in the Twin Cities' dailies. Along with several of his other examinations of Minnesota's child-protection bureaucracy, Rosario's heart-rending profile of Mildred Irving, the Minneapolis woman who murdered her three-year-old daughter in 1997 after her children were taken away from her numerous times by the state, recently won him the prestigious Anna Quindlen Award for Excellence in Journalism on Behalf of Children and Families. "He has a tremendous empathy for people who don't have much power, and a sense that it's the duty of journalists to not accept the way things are--to believe that things can be better," sums up Parker, his former editor.