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Shorenstein Center Announces Six Finalists for 2016 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting

Finalists include: The Associated Press, The Guardian US, InsideClimate News, The New York Times, Tampa Bay Times, and The Washington Post.

Cambridge, MA — Six finalists for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting have been announced by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. The winner of the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting will be announced at an awards ceremony on March 3, 2016, at the Kennedy School.

The Goldsmith Prizes are underwritten by an annual gift from the Goldsmith Fund of the Greenfield Foundation. The Investigative Reporting Prize, which carries a $10,000 award for finalists and $25,000 for the winner, is intended to recognize and encourage journalism which promotes more effective and ethical conduct of government, the making of public policy, or the practice of politics by disclosing excessive secrecy, impropriety and mismanagement, or instances of particularly commendable government performance.

“The Goldsmith Prize judges had a difficult if rewarding task,” said Thomas Patterson, interim director of the Shorenstein Center. “Many of this year’s submissions were prize worthy, and the top six – the judges’ picks as finalists for the Goldsmith Prize – are spectacular. They testify, at a time when newsrooms are shrinking, to journalists’ commitment to exposing wrongdoing by those entrusted with power.”

The six finalists for the 2016 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting are:

The Associated Press
Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza, Esther Htusan
“Seafood from Slaves”

This Associated Press series uncovered extensive use of slave labor in the Thai seafood industry, which supplies major U.S. supermarkets, restaurants, and food suppliers, such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Sysco, Nestle, Whole Foods, and Red Lobster. The investigation led to the freeing of more than 2,000 enslaved fishermen from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, the jailing of perpetrators, congressional hearings, and the proposal of new laws. The U.S. State Department used the series as part of its decision to give Thailand the lowest rating for human trafficking and has discussed the findings during diplomatic talks.

The Guardian US
Jon Swaine, Oliver Laughland, Jamiles Lartey, Ciara McCarthy, Guardian US interactive
“The Counted”

The Guardian documented the number of people killed by police in the U.S., telling the stories of who they were, and establishing the hidden trends in how they died, through a database, special reports, and multimedia. The investigation’s final tally for 2015 of 1,134 deaths was two and a half times greater than the last annual total recorded by the FBI. After the publication of “The Counted,” the FBI announced at the end of 2015 that it would overhaul its system of counting killings by police. The Department of Justice also began testing a new program for recording arrest-related deaths, drawing on Guardian data.

InsideClimate News
Neela Banerjee, John H. Cushman Jr., David Hasemyer, Lisa Song
“Exxon: The Road Not Taken”

InsideClimate News reported that Exxon conducted cutting-edge climate research decades ago, and then, without revealing to shareholders and the broader public what it knew about the effects of climate change, worked to manufacture doubt about the scientific consensus that its own research had confirmed. As a result of the reporting, New York’s attorney general has launched a probe of Exxon. Other lawmakers around the country and environmental leaders have also urged the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to conduct investigations of Exxon.

The New York Times
Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Michael Corkery, Robert Gebeloff
“Beware the Fine Print”

The New York Times investigated clauses in numerous consumer and employee contracts and reported that they deprive Americans of their ability to sue, insulating companies whose business practices are deceitful or illegal. The Times revealed how a coalition of credit card companies and retailers enshrined class-action bans in contracts. They also revealed that some companies require disputes be settled according to biblical principles or by company-related arbitrators. Bills have since been introduced in Congress to exempt secular disputes from religious arbitration; to prevent nursing homes from requiring arbitration in residents’ contracts; and to bar for-profit schools from using arbitration clauses in enrollment agreements.

Tampa Bay Times
Michael LaForgia, Cara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Gartner
“Failure Factories”

The Tampa Bay Times exposed how the Pinellas County School Board abandoned integration, then deprived black schools in poor neighborhoods of resources until they were awash in violence and academic failure, making Pinellas County the most concentrated site of academic failure in the state of Florida. As a result of the series, officials enacted reforms including increased funding, improved teacher training, and the converting of three of the affected schools into magnets. The Florida Department of Education opened an investigation into the district’s use of federal Title I dollars to ensure that money is spent properly.

The Washington Post
The Washington Post staff
“Fatal Shooting by Police”

The Washington Post launched an effort to tally every fatal shooting in the U.S. by an on-duty police officer in 2015. Their database chronicled shootings in real time, using news reports and other public sources – compiling a record more extensive than that of the FBI, which spurred the agency to take action to enact better federal recordkeeping. The FBI’s new approach will reflect that of the Post’s, capturing shootings and other violent incidents in real time and logging many of the same details. The Post‘s coverage also was cited by two senators when they introduced legislation in June to force states to report officer-involved shootings to the FBI.

The Goldsmith selection judges were Karen de Sá, San Jose Mercury News; Mike Greenfield, the Greenfield Foundation; Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald; Bill Mitchell, affiliate faculty member, Poynter Institute for Media Studies; Michael Rezendes, The Boston Globe; and Debra Adams Simmons, current Nieman Fellow. Thomas Patterson, Shorenstein Center interim director, chaired the meeting as a non-voting member of the committee.

The Goldsmith Awards Ceremony

Presentation of the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the Goldsmith Book Prizes and the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Thursday, March 3, 2016, 6:00 p.m.

John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, Harvard Kennedy School
79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA

The ceremony will also be streamed online.

Learn more.

About the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy

The Shorenstein Center is a research center based at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, with a mission to study and analyze the power of media and technology and its impact on governance, public policy, and politics. Research, courses, fellowships, public events, and engagement with students, scholars, and journalists form the core of the Center.