2014 IRE Award winners Announced

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awards ireEditor’s Note: Investigative Reporters and Editors is the world’s largest and oldest association of investigative journalists. A GIJN founding member, IRE began in 1975 and is based at the University of Missouri Journalism School. Each year the organization honors “outstanding investigative work” with its highly regarded IRE Awards. The prizes are given in 16 categories that include small to large markets, broadcast and multimedia, books, FOI, students and more. Winners from previous years can be found on the IRE awards website.


IRE is proud to announce the winners and finalists of the 2014 IRE Awards contest.

“This year’s entries show groundbreaking investigative journalism is being produced at all levels, from a small Oregon weekly to the nation’s largest newspapers, non-profits and broadcasters,” said Ziva Branstetter, chair of the IRE Contest Committee. “The entries had impact in their communities and across the country, prompting campaign finance reforms, investigations and resignations as well as better care for veterans.

“The entries also show several important trends continue to grow,” Branstetter said. “Journalists are finding inventive ways to tell stories on multiple platforms and collaborating with other media outlets to produce ambitious projects for a variety of audiences. “The next time you hear someone lamenting the loss of great investigative journalism, show them this list.”

This year’s winners were selected from among more than 550 entries. One organization – ProPublica – is a multiple award winner, in both the multimedia and the Gannett Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism categories, for two separate projects.

The awards will be presented at the 2015 IRE Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Saturday, June 6.

IRE MEDALS

The highest honor IRE can bestow for investigative reporting is the IRE Medal. This year’s medal winners are:

Death ValleyThe Real Death Valley / Muriendo por Cruzar,” The Weather Channel, The Investigative Fund and Telemundo (Category: Broadcast/Video Large)
The Weather Channel: Gregory Gilderman, Solly Granatstein, Neil Katz and Katie Wiggin
The Investigative Fund: John Carlos Frey and Esther Kaplan
Telemundo: Alina Falcon and Marisa Venegas
Efran Films: Shawn Efran, Brandon Kieffer
View this story online

Judges’ comments:  This masterful production takes a fresh and human approach to issues surrounding immigration enforcement and reframes the debate by focusing on the deaths of hundreds of migrants in one rural Texas county. Reporting in English and Spanish, the team uses interviews and 911 emergency call tapes to tell a gripping and complex tale of human striving and hard choices. The reporters used radio logs and other records to find that migrants stranded in the desert who called 911 waited more than two hours on average for help from the Border Patrol. In vivid detail, the reporters told the story of the Palomo brothers, undocumented immigrants from El Salvador who tried to cross through the county. One of the brothers fell ill while the other repeatedly called 911 for help. Over the course of nine hours and five 911 calls, Border Patrol agents failed to arrive at the scene, as the ill brother died. Video crews hiked through searing heat and traveled to El Salvador to put a human face on the tale.

WWFirst Lady Inc.,” Willamette Week (Category: Print/Online Small)
Nigel Jaquiss
Read this story online

 Judges’ comments: This small news organization punched way above its weight, taking on a powerful governor and his fiancée. Reporter Nigel Jaquiss’ reporting exposed the secret deals made by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, who secured lucrative consulting contracts with special interests seeking to influence the governor. Jaquiss’ work stood out due to his clear and fair writing style, persistent legal advocacy for records and unflinching reporting. Kitzhaber, at the time the longest serving governor in Oregon’s history, resigned in February 2015.

SPECIAL AWARDS

Medals are also awarded to winners of two special award categories:

Tom Renner Award

FugitivesFugitives Next Door,” USA Today
Brad Heath
With contributions from dozens of journalists at Gannett community newspapers, TV stations and Gannett Digital.
Read this story online

Judges’ comments: “Fugitives Next Door” is an ambitious project that reveals a nationwide problem hiding in plain sight – tens of thousands of criminals escaping justice because law enforcement agencies nationwide refused to pursue them. Imaginative, exhaustive reporting that required more than a hundred public records requests, and scraping millions of records online, led to important conclusions law enforcement agencies did not want us to know and strong results that include reforms in several states. Leveraging Gannett’s network of newspapers and TV stations proved critical to ensuring this story had national scope. The interactive presentation was excellent and leveraged the depth of the reporting. This was a complex story to put together and the reporter did it with grace, humanizing the problem.

Finalists:

  • Revenge Beatdown,” Alabama Media Group, Challen Stephens
  • For Jared Remy, leniency was the rule until one lethal night,” The Boston Globe, Eric Moskowitz
  • Crime in Punishment,” WSMV-Nashville, Jeremy Finley, Brittany Freeman and Jason Finley
  • Unholy Alliances,” Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Miranda Patrucic, Dejan Milovac, Stevan Dojcinovic, Lejla Camdzic, Drew Sullivan, Jody McPhillips and Rosemary Armao

FOI Award

Medicare Unmasked,” Wall Street Journal
John Carreyrou, Christopher Weaver, Christopher S. Stewart, Rob Barry, Anna Wilde Mathews, Tom McGinty, Michael Siconolfi, Janet Adamy, Martin Burch, Chris Canipe, Madeline Farbman, Jon Keegan, Palani Kumanan and Stuart A. Thompson
Read this story online 

Judges’ comments: With a sustained, aggressive legal battle, staff at the Wall Street Journal pried open an opaque – and often times corrupt – pillar of the U.S. health system: Medicare billing.  The resulting release of court-ordered data last year gave the nation an unprecedented look at why taxpayers are funding $60 billion in unnecessary Medicare payments each year. Their public release of the data also allowed hundreds of other media outlets and the public to examine Medicare billing data.

Finalists:

  • Diplomatic Drivers,” NBC4 Washington, Tisha Thompson, Steve Jones, Rick Yarborough and Mike Goldrick
  • Crossing Alone,” Houston Chronicle, Susan Carroll, Connor Radnovich, Vernon Loeb, Maria Carrillo, and Mizanur Rahman
  • Fatally Flawed,” The Charlotte Observer, Ames Alexander, Gavin Off, Fred Clasen-Kelly, Elizabeth Leland, Jim Walser, Doug Miller, Tony Lone Fight, Kathy Sheldon, Dee-Dee Strickland, David Puckett, Rob Adams, Stephanie Swanson, Eric Edwards, Diedra Laird, John Simmons, Todd Sumlin, Ortega Gaines, Jeff Willhelm and Bert Fox
  • The Business of Dying,” The Washington Post, Peter Whoriskey, Dan Keating, Darla Cameron, Cristina Rivero and Shelly Tan
  • Protecting the Players – How safe are your school’s helmets?,” Gannett TV, WIXA, KUSA, WCSH, KENS, KTHV, KVUE, KHOU, WVEC, WTLV, WZZM, WKYC, WUSA, KPNX, WLTX, KARE, WVUE and KSDK

2014 Award winners and finalists by category:

PRINT/ONLINE

PRINT/ONLINE – SMALL

First Lady Inc.,” Willamette Week (medal winner)
Nigel Jaquiss
Read this story online

Judges’ comments: This small news organization punched way above its weight, taking on a powerful governor and his fiancée. Reporter Nigel Jaquiss’ reporting exposed the secret deals made by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, who secured lucrative consulting contracts with special interests seeking to influence the governor. Jaquiss’ work stood out due to his clear and fair writing style, persistent legal advocacy for records and unflinching reporting. Kitzhaber, at the time the longest serving governor in Oregon’s history, resigned in February 2015. 

Finalists:

  • Gaming the Lottery,” The Palm Beach Post, Lawrence Mower, Fedor Zarkhin, Pat Beall, Michelle Quigley, Melanie Mena and Niels Heimeriks
  • Till Death Do Us Part,” The Post and Courier, Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff
  • Juvenile Justice?,” The Florida Times-Union, Topher Sanders and Meredith Rutland
  • Dying for Care,” The Palm Beach Post, Pat Beall
  • West Virginia Water Crisis,” The Charleston Gazette, Ken Ward Jr., David Gutman, and the Charleston Gazette Staff

PRINT/ONLINE – MEDIUM

VA Scandal,” Arizona Republic
Dennis Wagner, Craig Harris, Rob O’Dell and Paul Giblin
Read this story online 

Judges’ comments: While the story of poor care for veterans has been told well by media outlets across the country, reporting by the Arizona Republic propelled this story into a national scandal with sweeping results. The team’s stories revealed that veterans were dying while waiting for basic health care services at the Phoenix VA. Meanwhile, officials were manipulating records to hide the long wait times. Writing more than 100 stories during the year, the reporters told the stories of individual veterans whose pleas for treatment were ignored until it was too late. This skillfully reported series helped lead to national reform, investigations and resignations, including U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. The project demonstrates the benefits of solid beat reporting and not letting go of a story once the national media jumps in.

Finalists:

  • Unguarded,” The Columbus Dispatch, Mike Wagner, Lucas Sullivan, Josh Jarman and Jill Riepenhoff
  • Innocents Lost,” Miami Herald, Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch
  • Undue Force,” The Baltimore Sun, Mark Puente, Dave Rosenthal and Algerina Perna
  • Prison Scandal,” Omaha World-Herald, Todd Cooper, Matt Wynn, Alissa Skelton, Paul Hammel, and  Cate Folsom

PRINT/ONLINE – LARGE 

Courting Favor,” The New York Times
Eric Lipton
Read this story online 

Judges’ comments: “Courting Favor” offers a disturbing journey into the world of state attorneys general who increasingly are targeted by corporate and plaintiffs’ lawyers for lavish lobbying efforts and campaign cash. The investigation was meticulously built on public records gathered from 25 states and through on-the-ground reporting. “Courting Favor“ found that attorneys general have halted investigations at the behest of lobbying efforts; taken material written by industry representatives or private lawyers and used it verbatim in lawsuits, legislation and official letters; and entered into contracts with private firms seeking contingency fees after those firms made campaign contributions. The reporting sparked investigations in four states and legislation to restricts gifts and contributions.

Finalists:

  • Medicare Unmasked,” Wall Street Journal, John Carreyrou, Christopher Weaver, Christopher S. Stewart, Rob Barry, Anna Wilde Mathews, Tom McGinty, Michael Siconolfi, Janet Adamy, Martin Burch, Chris Canipe, Madeline Farbman, Jon Keegan, Palani Kumanan and Stuart A. Thompson
  • Shadow Campus,” The Boston Globe, Jenn Abelson, Jonathan Saltzman, Thomas Farragher, Casey Ross, Todd Wallack and Scott LaPierre
  • Unfit for Flight,” USA Today, Thomas Frank with contributors, Terry Byrne, Morgan Fecto, Leigh Giangreco, Shannon Green, Mark Hannan, John Hillkirk, Kelly Jordan, John Kelly, Lauren Kirkwood, Tim Loehrke and Allison Wrabel
  • Product of Mexico,” Los Angeles Times, Richard Marosi and Don Bartletti

MULTIPLATFORM

MULTIPLATFORM – SMALL

An Impossible Choice,” inewsource
Joanne Faryon, Brad Racino and Lorie Hearn
Read this story online 

Judges’ comments: inewsource exposed and documented a world where thousands of people, tethered to tubes and machines, are kept alive in places called “vent farms.” The state of California pays for all of their care, more than $600 million in 2013. A reporter and videographer secured unprecedented access to one of these units, producing an unvarnished portrayal of a system that keeps people alive at all costs. “An Impossible Choice” was presented in written narratives, radio stories, video vignettes, graphics, a survey, a Q&A with medical experts, a 10-minute mini-documentary, and an animated storybook that could easily be shared on social media. The project sparked discussion throughout the community about the importance of making critical end-of-life choices.

Finalists:

  • “Louisiana Purchased”, WVUE-New Orleans and NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune,
    For WVUE: Lee Zurik, Tom Wright, Jon Turnipseed, Mikel Schaefer, Greg Phillips and E.Q. Vance
    For NOLA.Com/The Times-Picayune: Manuel Torres, Heather Nolan, Lauren McGaughy, Dmitriy Pritykin, Ted Jackson, Dan Swenson and Tim Morris
  • The Scajaquada is a Crippled Creek,” Investigative Post and WGRZ-Channel 2
    For Investigative Post: Dan Telvock and Jim Heaney
    For WGRZ-Channel 2: Andy DeSantis, Franco Ardito and Athan Kompos
  • State of Confusion,” Arizona Daily Star, Perla Trevizo, Carli Brosseau and Jill Jorden Spitz

MULTIPLATFORM – MEDIUM

Drugging Our Kids,” San Jose Mercury News
Karen de Sá and Dai Sugano
Read the story online 

Judges’ comments: The San Jose Mercury News series dove into the disturbing use of pharmaceuticals to control the behavior of foster youth. After fighting the California Department of Health Care Services for months, the newspaper obtained Medicaid claim data on prescriptions administered to the state’s thousands of foster kids. The five-part series combined exclusive data analysis, powerful narratives, interactive online graphics, poignant photos and a 40-minute documentary video to uncover how foster care providers are relying on a risky but convenient remedy to control the behavior of thousands of troubled kids: numbing them with drugs that are untested and often not approved for children. The series prompted an investigation by the state medical board and promises of legislation to curb the practice.

Finalists:

  • Trouble with Taxes,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Raquel Rutledge, Kevin Crowe and Allan James Vestal
  • Questionable Drugs,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today, John Fauber, of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Elbert Chu and Coulter Jones, of MedPage Today
  • Betrayed by Silence,” Minnesota Public Radio News, Madeleine Baran, Sasha Aslanian, Tom Scheck, Laura Yuen, Mike Cronin, Chris Worthington, Mike Edgerly, Bill Wareham, Eric Ringham, Regina McCombs, Jeffrey Thompson, Jennifer Simonson, Amanda Snyder, Meg Martin, William Lager, and Justin Heideman

MULTIPLATFORM – LARGE 

Firestone and the Warlord,” PBS Frontline, ProPublica, and Rain Media.

Marcela Gaviria, Will Cohen, Maeve O’Boyle, Jonathan Jones, T. Christian Miller, Nesa Azimi, Abel Welwean, Leah Bartos, Daisy Squires, Hannah Birch, June Thomas, Ashley Gilbertson, Timothy Grucza and Rachel Anderson; Martin Foster, Tesun Oh, Clair MacDougall, Erasmus Tweh, Ben Ezeamalu, Emmanuel Ogala, David Sleight, Matt Rota and Terry Parris Jr.
View or read this story online

Judges’ comments: This reporting collaboration told a gripping story of how Firestone managed to continue operating during the brutal Liberian civil war, a tale informed by diplomatic cables, court documents and accounts from Americans who ran a rubber plantation as Liberia descended into chaos. The team exceled in one of the world’s most difficult reporting spots and made viewers care about issues often neglected. The sources of the revelations were all on camera and detailed in documents. The result is a concise history of a disturbing episode that the public largely overlooked, and a rare window into the interrelationships of corporations that supply our consumer goods and regimes linked to crimes against humanity.

Finalists:

  • Subsidized Squalor,” The Center for Investigative Reporting, San Francisco Chronicle, KQED News, RAW Talent, The Off/Page Project
    For The Center for Investigative Reporting: Amy Julia Harris; Corey G. Johnson, Aaron Williams, LaToya Tooles, Andrew Donohue, Mark Katches and Robert Salladay
    For the San Francisco Chronicle: Lacy Atkins
    For KQED News: Julia McEvoy
    For RAW Talent: William Hartfield-Peoples, Donte Clark and Deandre Evans
    For The Off/Page Project:  José Vadi
  • Product of Mexico,” Los Angeles Times, Richard Marosi and Don Bartletti
  • Big Oil, Bad Air,” InsideClimate News, The Center for Public Integrity and The Weather Channel
    For InsideClimate News: Lisa Song, David Hasemyer, Susan White, Zahra Hirji, Paul Horn, Lance Rosenfield, Sabrina Shankman, Marcus Stern, John Bolger, Hannah Robbins
    For The Center for Public Integrity: Jim Morris, Jamie Smith Hopkins, Talia Buford, Rosalind Adams, Ben Wieder, Alan Suderman, Eleanor Bell, Alexander Cohen, Chris Zubak-Skees, Peter Smith, David Heath
    For The Weather Channel: Gregory Gilderman, Neil Katz, Faisal Azam, Eric Jankstrom, Shawn Efran, Katie Wiggin
  • Losing Ground,” ProPublica and The Lens, Al Shaw and Brian Jacobs of ProPublica and Bob Marshall of The Lens

BROADCAST/VIDEO

BROADCAST/VIDEO – SMALL

Louisiana Purchased“, WVUE-New Orleans and NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune,
For WVUE: Lee Zurik, Tom Wright, Jon Turnipseed, Mikel Schaefer, Greg Phillips and E.Q. Vance
For NOLA.Com/The Times-Picayune: Manuel Torres, Heather Nolan, Lauren McGaughy, Dmitriy Pritykin, Ted Jackson, Dan Swenson and Tim Morris
View this story online 

Judges’ comments: “Louisiana Purchase” – a comprehensive investigation into the big business of the state’s campaign financing — exposed illegal activities, questionable practices and toothless ethics enforcement. The reporting team uncovered volumes of data from campaign finance records that show direct influence peddling going on across the state. In the wake of the series, state lawmakers passed five campaign finance reform laws, 10 politicians returned money to taxpayers, state and federal authorities launched investigations, and politicians returned more than $300,000 in illegal contributions.

Finalists:

  • SCDSS: The System Failed,” WLTX-Columbia, Clark Fouraker, Jennifer Bellamy, Darci Strickland and Marybeth Jacoby
  • Holding Officials Accountable,” WVUE-New Orleans, Lee Zurik, Tom Wright, Jon Turnipseed, Mikel Schaefer and Greg Phillips
  • Policing for Profit,” WTVF-Nashville, Phil Williams, Bryan Staples and Kevin Wisniewski
  • Crime In Punishment“, WSMV-Nashville, Jeremy Finley, Brittany Freeman and Jason Finley

BROADCAST/VIDEO – MEDIUM

Ticket-Rigging Traffic Enforcement,”  KHOU Houston
Jeremy Rogalski and Keith Tomshe
View this story online 

Judges’ comments: You can’t be in two places at once. KHOU used extensive data analysis to prove that members of the Houston Police Department’s traffic enforcement division were falsifying tickets so they could collect more overtime money in court. A group of officers listed each other as witnesses on traffic tickets, even though KHOU proved they were somewhere else, writing a different ticket at the same time.  Rogalski used traffic ticket data to find suspicious tickets, and then cross-referenced the tickets with GPS data from the officers’ locations. The investigation led prosecutors to dismiss more than 6,000 tickets. Three officers quit and were indicted on felony charges.

Finalists:

  • Broken Bond”, WXIA-Atlanta, Shawn Hoder and Catherine Beck
  • How to Call 911 at the USPS“, NBC Bay Area, Liz Wagner, Vicky Nguyen and Felipe Escamilla
  • The Human Toll of Hanford’s Dirty Secrets“, KING-Seattle, Susannah Frame, Steve Douglas, Doug Burgess, Russ Walker and Mark Ginther
  •  “Recruit Death,” WSB-Atlanta, Erica Byfield, Terah Boyd, LeVar James and Matt Serafin

BROADCAST VIDEO – LARGE

The Real Death Valley / Muriendo por Cruzar,” The Weather Channel, The Investigative Fund and Telemundo (Category: Broadcast/Video Large)
For Telemundo: Alina Falcon and Marisa Venegas
For The Investigative Fund: John Carlos Frey and Esther Kaplan
For The Weather Channel: Gregory Gilderman, Solly Granatstein, Neil Katz and Katie Wiggin
Efran Films: Shawn Efran and Brandon Kieffer
View this story online

Judges’ comments: This masterful production takes a fresh and human approach to issues surrounding immigration enforcement and reframes the debate by focusing on the deaths of hundreds of migrants in one rural Texas county. Reporting in English and Spanish, the team uses interviews and 911 emergency call tapes to tell a gripping and complex tale of human striving and hard choices. The reporters used radio logs and other records to find that migrants stranded in the desert who called 911 waited more than two hours on average for help from the Border Patrol. In vivid detail, the reporters told the story of the Palomo brothers, undocumented immigrants from El Salvador who tried to cross through the county. One of the brothers fell ill while the other repeatedly called 911 for help. Over the course of nine hours and five 911 calls, Border Patrol agents failed to arrive at the scene, as the ill brother died. Video crews hiked through searing heat and traveled to El Salvador to put a human face on the tale.

Finalists:

  • Broken Dreams: The Boeing 787,” Al Jazeera, Will Jordan, Kevin Hirten, Colin McIntyre and Marc Shaffer
  • United States of Secrets,” FRONTLINE, Kirk Documentary Group, RAIN Media, Michael Kirk, Mike Wiser, Jim Gilmore, Barton Gellman, Martin Smith, Linda Hirsch, Ben Gold, Raney Aronson-Rath and David Fanning
  • Failure to Recall: Investigating GM,” CNBC, Nik Deogun, Phil LeBeau, Mitch Weitzner, Wally Griffith, Mary Noonan Robichaux, Deborah Camiel, Rich Gardella, Meghan Lisson, Jeff Pohlman, Meghan Reeder, James Segelstein, Mike Beyman and Christie Gripenburg
  • Crisis at the VA,” CNN, Drew Griffin, Nelli Black, Scott Bronstein, Patricia DiCarlo, Curt Devine, Charlie Moore and Terence Burke
  •  “Mission Investigate: The Swedish Nazis,” SVT, Nils Hanson

RADIO/AUDIO

Delinquent Mines,” National Public Radio and Mine Safety and Health News
NPR: Howard Berkes, Robert Little, Anna Boiko-Weyrauch, Robert Benincasa and Nicole Beemsterboer
Mine Safety and Health News: Ellen Smith
Listen to this story online 

Judges’ comments: “Delinquent Mines” used innovative data analysis to find that 2,700 American coal and mineral mining companies had failed to pay nearly $70 million in delinquent mine safety penalties for years or even decades. These mining companies operated more than 4,000 mines and while they were delinquent, committed 131,000 violations, exposing a loophole in federal regulation and enforcement that places miners at risk. The collaboration found human stories to illustrate the data, from anguished families whose relatives were killed in mining accidents to one billionaire owner whose mines had large unpaid fines. The stories led the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to cite a major delinquent mining company for failure to pay its fines and then shut down the mine when the operator failed to meet a deadline for payment. The agency also said it was considering an “early warning system” for delinquent mines so that it could begin court action against them sooner.

Finalists:

  • The Insider,” Swedish Radio, Daniel Öhman and Bo-Göran Bodin
  • LA Schools iPad Debacle,” KPCC – 89.3, Annie Gilbertson
  • WBEZ Probe Leads to Indictment of Chicago Police Commander,” WBEZ Public Radio, Chip Mitchell and Derek John
  •  “Betrayed by Silence,” Minnesota Public Radio News, Madeleine Baran, Sasha Aslanian, Mike Edgerly, Meg Martin and Chris Worthington

STUDENT

Payday Nation,” The Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University
Julia Harte, Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein and Nicholas Nehamas
Read this story online 

Judges’ comments: In “Payday Nation,” reporters at Columbia University’s Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism detailed the rise of a new moneymaking venture among Native American tribes: online payday lending. Reporters visited tribes in California and South Dakota. The stories used government data and interviews with reluctant sources to reveal a system of exploitation, both at the individual level for poor Native American consumers and for tribal leaders chasing false promises of economic prosperity.  The project was published by Al Jazeera America.

Finalists:

  • The State Where Giving Birth Can Be Criminal,” The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Rosa Goldensohn and Rachael Levy
  • The Costs and Benefits of an Elite College Chess Team,” Webster University, Dan Bauman and Megan Favignano
  • Gun Wars: A News21 Investigation of Rights and Regulations in America,” ASU-News21, This project was produced by 29 journalism students from 16 universities working under the direction of Jacquee Petchel, Leonard Downie, Jr. and Peter Bhatia
    The multimedia investigative student journalists were: Claudia Balthazar (Hofstra University), Jacob Byk (Kent State University), Jessica Boehm (Arizona State University), Marlena Chertock (University of Maryland), Jacqueline Delpilar (University of Tennessee), Emilie Eaton (Arizona State University), Sarah Ferris (George Washington University), Carmen Forman (University of Oklahoma), Allison Griner (University of British Columbia), Kristen Hwang (Arizona State University), Kelsey Jukam (University of Texas-Austin), Robby Korth (University of Nebraska), Natalie Krebs (University of Texas-Austin), Jon LaFlamme (Arizona State University), Alex Lancial (Arizona State University), Lauren Loftus (Arizona State University), Erin Patrick O’Connor (Arizona State University), Jacy Marmaduke (University of Nebraska), Aaron Maybin (Marquette University), Wade Millward (University of Florida), Justine McDaniel (University of Maryland), Brittany Elena Morris (Arizona State University), Kate Murphy (Elon University), Jordan Rubio (Texas Christian University), Amy Slanchik (University of Oklahoma), Morgan Spiehs (University of Nebraska), Sydney Stavinoha (University of Oklahoma), Sam Stites (University of Oregon), and Jim Tuttle (Syracuse University).

INVESTIGATIONS TRIGGERED BY BREAKING NEWS

A Deadly Slope: Examining the Oso, Washington Disaster,” The Seattle Times
The Seattle Times staff
Read this story online 

Judges’ comments: This investigation uncovered in a short period of time state negligence and cover- ups in the wake of the deadly landslide that killed 43 people. Despite officials’ claims the landslide “came out of nowhere,” The Seattle Times revealed how there had been a litany of warnings, going back seven decades. The team had to master the scientific knowledge to accurately report what it was discovering, and then present the findings in a way readers could digest using everyday language and informative and easy-to-understand graphics. Reporting that would have taken others months produced five deep stories in just days. The state has adopted new rules for timber companies and procedures for evaluating unstable slopes.

Finalists:

  • Mexico Violence,” The Associated Press, Mark Stevenson, Eduardo Castillo and Katherine Corcoran
  • GM Recall Investigation, CBS News, Jeff Glor, Kimberly Godwin, Dan Ruetenik, Charlie Brooks, Matt Joseloff, Steve Capus, Jim McGlinchy and Patricia Shevlin
  • Dan River Coal Ash Spill,” The Associated Press, Michael Biesecker and Mitch Weiss
  • Fatal Leak,” Houston Chronicle, Lise Olsen, Mark Collette, Karen Chen, Matthew Tresaugue, Anita Hassan, Craig Hlavaty, Mike Morris, St. John Barned-Smith, Michelle Iracheta and Marie D. De Jesús

BOOK

The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI
Betty Medsger
Read more about the book 

Judges’ comments: The break-in took place in 1971 and over ensuing years has largely faded from public memory. But Betty Medsger never stopped searching for the true origin of the revelations that marked the beginning of J. Edgar Hoover’s long slide from his perch as perhaps the most admired man in America. Medsger succeeds where the FBI failed, identifying the average-citizen burglars who stole evidence of the FBI’s surveillance of law-abiding citizens. Her book painstakingly documents how the burglary moved the public and Congress, long intimidated by Hoover, to finally turn against the bureau’s extra-legal activities. “The Burglary” fills a hole in our collective history and – for the first time — pulls the complete story of the Media, Pa. burglary together in one place.

Finalists:

  • American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood, Paul Greenberg
  • The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, Nina Teicholz

GANNETT AWARD FOR INNOVATION IN WATCHDOG JOURNALISM

Losing Ground,” ProPublica and The Lens
Al Shaw and Brian Jacobs of ProPublica and Bob Marshall of The Lens
Read this story online 

Judges’ comments: Losing Ground told a story we have seen before, but in a completely novel way with a custom, user-tested interface for browsing maps. The judges were impressed by the effort, care and innovative thinking the team put into image collection and matching for the maps. In addition to using high-resolution satellite imagery from typical commercial and government sources, the reporters worked with experts to create their own low-cost solution for adding spectral depth to their images — a crucial layer of data needed to fully tell the story. Not only did “Losing Ground” apply innovative techniques coupled with extensive shoe leather reporting, it furthered The Lens’s ability to be a watchdog for its community. This is a masterful piece of reporting and one of the best examples we’ve seen of how journalism and technology can work hand-in-hand to tell stories.

For questions or concerns about the IRE Awards please contact Lauren Grandestaff, lauren@ire.org.

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