Potts spent two-and-a-half months reporting in Owsley County, Kentucky. Her story, "Pressing on the Upward Way," chronicles the trials and triumphs of the Christian family as they struggle to get ahead financially through education, opening a small business, and playing live music. The story was the centerpiece of the American Prospect's special issue on poverty.
Forty-year-old Sue Christian went back to school to become a teacher after being laid off from her job at a data entry company. Her son Kody took over a T-shirt printing shop with his father, J.C., after spending time on the road with a Christian rock band. Daughter Ciara is poised to start college in the fall.
Get the backstory on the Christian family. Potts discusses her two-and-a-half months living in Owsley County, how she got to know the family, and how they are doing now.
The Christians' story illustrates how many impoverished Americans live. They strive, and might make some progress, but often end up sliding back.
Owsley County is caught in a vicious cycle of depopulation and unemployment. Young people leave because there are no jobs, and most businesses won't set up shop there because there aren't enough customers. The Christians are determined to create opportunities for themselves in their home town, but it's a challenge.
"Potts' thorough reporting and sensitive storytelling provide a window into the lives of Americans whose experiences are too often ignored by the media," said Sidney Judge Lindsay Beyerstein. "This story is a testament to Potts' reporting prowess and the American Prospect's commitment to excellence in socially conscious journalism."
The American Prospect recently held a fundraising drive in order to keep publishing their magazine. They originally asked for $700,000 to maintain the publication until the end of the year, but ended up raising $1.29 million, ensuring a longer future.
Monica Potts is a senior writer for the American Prospect. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Connecticut Post and the Stamford Advocate. She also blogs at PostBourgie.
The Sidney Hillman Foundation honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good. Judges are Rose Arce, Hendrik Hertzberg, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Harold Meyerson, Susan Meiselas, and Lindsay Beyerstein.
The Sidney Award is given once a month to an outstanding piece of socially conscious journalism, by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which also awards the annual Hillman Prizes every spring. Winners of the Sidney receive a certificate designed by New Yorker cartoonist, Edward Sorel, a $500 honorarium and a bottle of union-made wine.