Minnesota Public Radio Somali series wins national SPJ award

Yuen's three-part series details the struggles of Somali immigrants in the Twin Cities.

Yuen's three-part series details the struggles of Somali immigrants in the Twin Cities.

Minnesota Public Radio just picked up a prestigious award for its in-depth coverage on the Somali community in Minneapolis.

The Society of Professional Journalists announced yesterday that MPR's three-part series, "Civil War Kids: Young Somalis in Minnesota," won its New America Award, designed to honor coverage of important issues related to immigrant communities in the United States.


We imagine this puts series author Laura Yuen in good graces at MPR. Just last month, outgoing MPR boss Bill Kling was sharing with us his belief that in-depth reporting needs to be stepped up. Read on more on that -- and Kling's plan to do so -- in last week's feature, "The Klingdom and the Power."

The first installment of the series uses the triple-homicide in Seward last year as a window into the violent past of Somali refugees -- and how that violence has persisted in Minneapolis.

At least 11 young men of Somali descent have been killed in the Twin Cities since December 2007. Minneapolis police say Somali gang activity is on the rise. The FBI says about 20 men left for Somalia to join a gang of another kind -- al-Shabaab, a group the U.S. government considers a terrorist group with ties to al-Qaida.

The second part examines the hefty psychological scarring inflicted onto the collective immigrant population back in war-torn Somalia. Many Somali immigrants now struggle with mental illness as a result of things they saw and did before relocating, Yuen reports.

The series ends with a note of optimism. Yuen tells the hopeful stories of Somali youth who have overcome the odds, and how hundreds of young Somali-American refugees are now earning degrees every year from Minnesota colleges in medicine, engineering, public policy and other disciplines.

MPR will accept the award at a SPJ-RTDNA Excellence in Journalism 2011 conference held on September 24 in New Orleans.

Check out all three parts and the accompanying photos here.