In her presentation to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, which presents the Pulliam Fellowship each year as the educational arm of the Society of Professional Journalists, Shea said that her study will facilitate coverage of impoverished communities by giving poor people technology and training to help them tell their stories.
She wants to find out what they will say — "about their lives, their situation, what it feels like and what it means to be poor."
"Sandy," said Daily News Editor Michael Days, "proves daily that she is among the best and brightest in our business — creative, innovative and sharp as a tack. She is very deserving of this fellowship that ultimately will give voice to so many who need to be heard."
"Sandra's plan to study the causes and manifestations of poverty has the potential to break new ground," said Todd Gillman, Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News and a former foundation president who chaired the four-judge panel that made the award.
Shea's application was selected from among 96 — a record number of entries — because, as the SPJ said in a statement, "it combined an important topic with an innovative methodology, and because Shea is an outstanding journalist with a gift for exploring problems, highlighting solutions and advocating for those who need it."
Another member of the judges' panel, Mark Woods, a columnist for the Florida Times-Union, in Jacksonville, who received the 2011 Pulliam Fellowship, said, "Sandra Shea's proposal blends the best of PBS and the best of newspapers — putting the storytelling in the hands of the people."
Shea, who studied at the University of Connecticut and earned a master's in literature from Bennington College, in Vermont, joined the Daily News in 1990 as features editor. She became an assistant managing editor, and was named a senior writer in 2005. In 2010, she received first-place honors in the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Keystone Awards for three sample editorials.
She is the author of a well-received novel, The Realm of Second-Hand Souls.
Shea will be honored for the Pulliam fellowship at the Association of Opinion Journalists convention in September in Orlando, Fla.