Professor Birman's documentary named national finalist for 2012 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism

Journalism professor Dan Birman's documentary “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story” is a finalist in the 2012 Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism national contest.

The film takes an in-depth look at a 16-year-old girl who is serving a life sentence for murder. Cyntoia Brown found herself in a series of bad situations that led her to killing a man, and Birman spent six years exploring her life and familial relationships to answer a very basic question: Why? The documentary pushes aside assumptions about what we think we know about violence and reveals a strong connection between violence in her maternal line and a predestined childhood leading toward disaster. The film has been viewed numerous times, including on PBS' Independent Lens, and was featured in 90 cities last year as part of the ITVS Community Cinema Program.

The program was completed for broadcast in the 2010-2011 academic year with the help of two USC Annenberg alumni. David Eisenberg (M.A. 2006) edited the rough cut of the documentary and was an associate producer. Megan Chao (M.A. 2008) helped with show delivery to PBS and was credited with Production Coordination and Research.

The Casey Medals are administered by The Journalism Center on Children & Families at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. The annual awards honor distinguished coverage of children and families in multiple categories. Previous winners of the long form video award include ABC News, BET News and Public Policy Productions Inc. In print categories, The New York Times, and the Boston Globe have won awards.

This year's winners, runners-up and honorable mentions will be announced later this month.

Learn more about “Me Facing Life” here

Related story: Professor Birman and alumna Chao win three Telly awards for “Chasing Speed” documentary