Shorenstein Center announces finalists for the 2009 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting

January 29, 2009

January 29, 2009 — The Shorenstein Center announced that six entries were chosen as finalists for the 2009 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. The winner of the $25,000 prize will be named at an awards ceremony on March 17 at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The 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, or instances of particularly commendable government performance.

“The Goldsmith Prize finalists demonstrate that investigative reporting of the highest quality is alive at newspapers of all sizes as well as in new Web-based news organizations,” said Alex S. Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center.

The finalists for 2009 are:

Ames Alexander, Kerry Hall, Franco Ordonez,
Ted Mellnik and Peter St. Onge

The Charlotte Observer
“The Cruelest Cuts: The Human Cost of Bringing
Poultry to Your Table”

The Charlotte Observer‘s investigation revealed how one company ignored and threatened injured workers as it created an illusion of safety inside its plants.  The stories have led to congressional hearings, federal investigations, the indictment of a top company manager, more staff for safety regulators and new federal legislation to curb the underreporting of workplace injuries.

Jim Schaefer, M.L. Elrick and Detroit Free Press Staff
Detroit Free Press
” A Mayor in Crisis”

The Free Press‘s yearlong investigation exposed lies, false testimony and insider dealings of then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his top aide as they attempted to cover up their romantic affair.  As a result, Mayor Kilpatrick resigned from office, was charged with multiple felonies, sentenced to 120 days in jail, five years’ probation, restitution of $1 million to the City of Detroit and loss of his law license.

David Barstow
The New York Times
“Message Machine”

David Barstow documented how the Pentagon constructed an elaborate apparatus to co-opt military analysts — mostly retired generals — to make its case for the Iraq War and the long occupation in Iraq.  He revealed that they were fed talking points in high-level Pentagon briefings that they repeated in TV interviews.  Many of these analysts had lucrative financial interests in military businesses benefiting from the policies they were asked to assess.

Patricia Sabatini and Len Boselovic
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Degree of Influence: Academic Corruption at West Virginia University”

Sabatini and Boselovic’s investigation found that an MBA claimed by the daughter of the West Virginia governor and friend of the West Virginia University president was, in fact, a false degree that was conferred by academic fraud, followed by a cover-up by WVU.  As a result, WVU withdrew the MBA, and the furor prompted the university’s president, provost and business-school dean to step down.

Abrahm Lustgarten
“Buried Secrets: Is Natural Gas Drilling Endangering
U.S. Water Supplies?”

Abrahm Lustgarten exposed the potential threat to drinking water supplies from the largely unregulated business of drilling for natural gas.  As a result, states have ordered environmental impact studies, members of Congress want to strengthen regulation and other news outlets are reporting and editorializing on the issue.

Debbie Cenziper and Sarah Cohen
The Washington Post
“Forced Out”

Cenziper and Cohen led an investigation that revealed how Washington, D.C., landlords drove hundreds of tenants from rent-controlled apartments by refusing to make repairs and other harassment, and then profited from redevelopment.  As a result of this investigation, the Washington attorney general sued 23 landlords, forcing the correction of more than 1,000 housing-code violations. Half the city’s housing inspection force was fired and “The Tenant Protection Act of 2008” was introduced, providing funds for building repair as well as help tenants sue landlords for code violations.

The 2009 Goldsmith Career Award will be given to Gwen Ifill. The moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and senior correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, she moderated the vice presidential debates during the 2004 and 2008 elections and is also the author of The Breakthrough: Politics in the Age of Obama.

The annual Goldsmith Awards Program is funded by the Greenfield Foundation.