March 17, 2009 — The $25,000 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting has been awarded to Debbie Cenziper and Sarah Cohen of the Washington Post for their investigative report “Forced Out.” The Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy administers the award.
Cenziper and Cohen’s investigation revealed how Washington, D.C. landlords drove hundreds of tenants from rent-controlled apartments by refusing to make repairs and other harassment methods, and then profited from redevelopment. As a result of the investigation, the Washington, D.C., attorney general sued 23 landlords, half the city’s housing-inspection force was fired and “The Tenant Protection Act of 2008” was introduced. It provided funds for building repair as well as help for tenants suing landlords for code violations.
“These journalists championed the interests of utterly powerless people, which shows yet again how essential investigative journalism is in our society,” said Alex S. Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center.
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 five finalists for the 2009 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, all of whom received $10,000, were:
Ames Alexander, Kerry Hall, Franco Ordonez,
Ted Mellnik and Peter St. Onge
“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.
New York Times
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
“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.
“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.
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 2009 Goldsmith prize for best academic book was awarded to Markus Prior for Post-Broadcast Democracy: How Media Choice Increases Inequality in Political Involvement and Polarizes Elections. The prize for best trade book went to Jane Mayer for The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.
The Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism was given to Gwen Ifill, the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and senior correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. Her new book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was published in January 2009.
The annual Goldsmith Awards Program is funded by the Greenfield Foundation.