Raquel Rutledge wins 2010 Goldsmith reporting prize

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Thomas E. Patterson with Raquel Rutledge.
Thomas E. Patterson with Raquel Rutledge, winner of the 2010 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

March 23, 2010 — The $25,000 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting has been awarded to Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for “Cashing In on Kids.” The Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy administers the award, which was presented by Bradlee Professor of Government Thomas E. Patterson.

In Rutledge’s year-long series covering Wisconsin’s child-care program, she exposed a system plagued by fraud, deceit and criminal activity that cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and repeatedly put children in danger. Her reporting led to criminal probes and indictments and prompted lawmakers to pass new laws aimed at eliminating fraud and keeping criminals out of the day care business.

Launched in 1991, the Goldsmith prize honors journalism that 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. The annual awards program is funded by the Greenfield Foundation.

The five finalists for the 2010 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, all of whom received $10,000, were:

J. Andrew Curliss and Staff
The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
“Executive Privilege: The Perks of Power”

The News & Observer‘s yearlong investigation of former North Carolina Governor Mike Easley exposed pay-to-play politics at its worst. Their reporting revealed how Easley accepted numerous unreported gifts from supporters in return for political influence and “sweet deals.” The facts uncovered in this series launched state and federal criminal investigations, led to resignations and firings, exposed election law violations and spurred government reforms.

Mark Greenblatt, David Raziq, Keith Tomshe, Robyn Hughes and Chris Henao
KHOU-TV, Houston, TX
“Under Fire: Discrimination and Corruption in the Texas National Guard”

KHOU-TV exposed rampant sexual discrimination, abuses of power, cover-ups to Congress, financial corruption and theft by the National Guard’s top commanding generals. As a result, the Texas governor fired the accused commanders, the FBI and DA have launched criminal probes and three new state laws have been passed, requiring better oversight of the Guard by both the Governor’s office and the state assembly.

Sean P. Murphy
The Boston Globe
“Gaming the System: Public Pensions the Massachusetts Way”

Sean P. Murphy exposed how state officials took advantage of loopholes in the state retirement system to enrich themselves at taxpayers’ expense. The result of his investigations prodded the Massachusetts State Legislature and Governor Deval Patrick to enact and overhaul pension laws. The story also led two ex-legislators to publicly renounce hundreds of thousands of dollars in future pension benefits.

Joe Stephens, Lena H. Sun and Lyndsey Layton
The Washington Post
“Death on the Rails”

Reporters from The Washington Post uncovered repeated lapses in safety in Washington’s Metro subway system and a systemic breakdown in safety oversight. As a result of the Post series, the Metro has instituted sweeping reorganization; there has been a congressional demand for reform, and in a historic step, the federal government announced it would move to take over regulation of subways and light rail systems across the nation.

A.C. Thompson, ProPublica and The Nation Institute
In collaboration with: Gordon Russell, Laura Maggi and Brendan McCarthy, The New Orleans Times-Picayune and Tom Jennings, Frontline
“Law and Disorder”

ProPublica’s A.C. Thompson, in collaboration with journalists from The Nation, The New Orleans Times-Picayune and PBS’s Frontline, exposed the existence of white vigilante violence and questions about the New Orleans Police Department’s use of deadly force days after Hurricane Katrina. This series provoked an FBI investigation resulting in a federal grand jury examining police conduct. These hearings are expected to yield indictments.

The judges also awarded a special citation to the staff of The Seattle Times for its breaking news coverage following the brutal murder of four policemen.

The Goldsmith Book Prize is awarded to the best academic and best trade books that seek to improve the quality of government or politics through an examination of press and politics in the formation of public policy. The 2010 Goldsmith prize for best academic book was awarded to Matthew Hindman for The Myth of Digital Democracy. The prize for best trade book went to John Maxwell Hamilton for Journalism’s Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting.

The winner of the 2010 Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism is David Fanning, executive producer of PBS’s Frontline since its debut in 1983.

This article was written by and the photo taken by Leighton Walter Kille of the Shorenstein Center.