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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Shadid Curriculum: The Gap

Brandon Stahl, A.J. Lagoe, Steve Eckert and Gary Knox (KARE 11) were 2022 finalists for the Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics.

Early on, when we started reporting these stories and we were looking at people who were severely mentally ill but were also being accused of very horrible crimes, what we were very aware of is that we didn’t want to stigmatize the mentally ill.

Brandon Stahl (KARE 11)

Balancing Rights

In their investigative series, “The Gap: Failure to Treat, Failure to Protect,” the KARE 11 team uncovered that criminal suspects deemed too mentally ill to stand trial in Minnesota are often released without adequate treatment due to gaps in state law, often resulting in a vicious cycle of temporary re-incarceration where both victims and suspects are failed by the justice system.

While exploring these under-represented aspects of Minnesota’s criminal justice system, the KARE 11 team needed to elucidate the poorly defined legal rights of each suspect and victim while also reporting on wrongdoing at the individual, institutional and societal levels with accuracy and care. In balancing the rights of those involved with the mistreatment of both victims and suspects, KARE produced a holistic and balanced narrative of a complex and entangled reality. 

KARE 11 reporters who worked on this story are available for virtual class visits. Contact Center administrator Krista Eastman ( for more information.

Brandon Stahl on His Reporting


Q1: Reporters often find themselves reporting on, or within, unfamiliar systems and institutions. Why do journalists spend time researching the procedures and practices of an institution before engaging with possible failures of that institution?

Q2: The language used in criminal and mental health reporting carries weight and can affect reader interpretation. How can you as a journalist ensure the language you use accurately portrays the narrative without stigmatizing and while minimizing bias?

Q3: Issues and events are rarely black and white; both sides of a story often have truths and merit. Is there an ethical obligation to report both sides in all cases? Can you think of a scenario where leaving out one side would be ethically or professionally preferable?