2000 IRE Awards winners
Local Circulation Weeklies
- “Vanished Teens Case Solved,” The Jewish Week, Eric Greenberg.
- “Hunting Down a Slumlord,” New Times Los Angeles, Michael Gougis.
- “Snake Killer,” Phoenix New Times, Laura Laughlin.
- “Plumb Jobs,” New Times Los Angeles, Michael Gougis.
- “Cruel & Usual,” Riverfront Times, Bruce Rushton
Small newspapers (under 100,000)
“Stadium Naples,” Naples Daily News, Gina Edwards.
Relentless and dogged beat reports over four years documented a web of corrupt dealings involving a golf-stadium development, county grants, the PGA tour and local commissioners. Ultimately, one of the key subjects of these stories was indicted based on the information developed in the newspaper. The stories show how digging on a breaking news story can lead to important investigative disclosures. The paper gave the reporter plenty of support through space and prominent play throughout the investigation.
- “An Empty Promise,” The National Law Journal, Elizabeth Amon.
- “OMYA and World War II,” Rutland Herald, Bruce Edwards.
- “Officers Down,” Savannah Morning News, Paula Reed Ward.
- “Drug Pump’s Deadly Trail,” Tallahassee Democrat, Paige St. John.
Medium newspapers (100,000 through 250,000)
“Detroit Fire Department: Out of Service,” The Detroit News, Melvin Claxton, Charles Hurt.
The reporters documented irresponsibility and incompetence in the Detroit Fire Department, outlining myriad flaws – malfunctioning fire trucks, broken hydrants, closed stations – that contributed to deaths. They reconstructed in detail one fire in which two children died because equipment was not in working order. The series put pressure on public officials to increase funding. The presentation was clear and the writing was precise.
- “Misery for Rent,” Lexington Herald-Leader, Mary Meehan, Tom Lasseter, Linda J. Johnson, Geoff Mulvihill.
- “North Carolina State University Public Safety Scandal,” The News & Observer, Dan Kane.
- “High School Basketball Investigation,” Press-Telegram, Steve Irvine, Billy Witz, Fausto Ramos.
- “Asbestos: Forgotten Killer,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Andrew Schneider, Carol Smith
Large newspapers (over 250,000)
“The Body Brokers,” The Orange County Register, Mark Katches, William Heisel, Ronald Campbell, Sharon Henry, Michael Goulding.
Despite a federal ban on profiting from the sale of skin, bone and tissue obtained from dead people, a $500 million-a-year industry deals in donated body parts. This industry operated in the shadows, out of sight and mind of the American public, until it was revealed by the Register. Most impressive was the paper’s documentation of the relationship between not-for-profit tissue banks and their for-profit tissue-processing partners. Particularly shocking were the revelations that skin desperately needed for burn victims was instead going to cosmetic purposes. The series has spawned reforms in California and nationally.
- “Dangerous Care: Nurses’ hidden role in medical error,” Chicago Tribune, Michael Berens.
- “AIDS in the Priesthood,” The Kansas City Star, Judy Thomas.
- “The New FDA: Partnership with Deadly Risk,” Los Angeles Times, David Willman.
- “Pension Cuts 101,” The Wall Street Journal, Ellen E. Schultz.
“First Casualty,” CBS; 60 Minutes II, Bob Simon, Draggan Mihailovich, Christine Spolar.
Within 12 hours of Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. suffered its first casualty, Navy pilot Michael Scott Speicher. But as 60 Minutes II revealed, Speicher may not have died when his plane went down. Compiling secret Pentagon documents, including satellite photos and forensic reports, this report uncovered a series of missteps, some of which appear to be rooted in politics. The result was a breathtaking and well-told story about how the Department of Defense misled the American people and violated its most important military creed, to leave no soldier behind.
“The Paper Chase,” Dateline NBC, John Larson, Lynne Dale, Allan Maraynes, Neal Shapiro, Andy Lehren, Mable Chan.
When State Farm Insurance Co. wants to challenge an insurance claim, it often sends out patient records to several companies through a little-known practice called “paper review.” Dateline’s investigation documented how these companies used people with no medical training to write up reports that routinely denied patient claims. The reporters did an outstanding job of penetrating the inner workings of an industry which thrives on secrecy. The judges were awed by the depth and difficulty of the reporting and the outstanding interviews of the company executives, who were caught cold by the superb, incisive questioning.
- “Diamonds and Blood,” ABC News, John Quinones, David Fitzpatrick, Thomas E. Goldstone, David Ward, Jane Hartney.
- “Dangerous Drugs,” CBS News, Allyson Ross Taylor, Jim Murphy, Jim McGlinchy, Mark Katkov, Andy Triay, Sharyl Attkisson.
- “No Safe Haven,” CNN&Time, Ken Shiffman, Daphne Algom, Linda Pattillo, David Timko, Lisa Satterfield, Sarah Fogel, Roger Herr, Lisa Satterfield, Ira Raider, Claire Cibik.
Top 20 markets
“Treading on Danger?” KHOU-TV, David Raziq, Anna Werner, Chris Henao.
By now everyone knows that Firestone tires on Ford Explorers were defective and caused several deadly crashes. The company agreed to recall those tires, the second largest tire recall in U.S. history. It is unlikely any of this would have happened without the reporting of KHOU in Houston. The results of KHOU’s investigation are spectacular: the second largest tire recall in US history, congressional hearings and new regulations. Were it not for this piece, the failure of Firestone tires on Ford Explorers likely would have remained sealed in court cases throughout the country. In the face of denials and threats from the two companies, the television station expanded the scope of its inquiry internationally. The reports sparked intense scrutiny of not only a defective product, but of the way complaints and patterns of defects are quashed or ignored.
- “What Some Car Dealers Don’t Want You to Know,” KCBS-TV, Joel Grover, Jennifer Cobb.
- “No Justice for Children: An Investigation of the Family Court System,” WFAA-TV, Valeri Williams, Meridith Schucker, Lisa Hampshire, Jesus Hernandez, WFAA Photo Staff.
- “Who’s at the Wheel?” WMAQ-TV, Dave Savini, Michele Rubenstein, Bond Li, John Scott, Sharon Pearson.
Below top 20 markets
“Who’s Policing the Police,” WTVF-Nashville, Phil Williams, Bryan Staples.
Phil Williams began investigating how off-duty Nashville police officers were getting paid as security guards in the city’s most notorious strip zone. He soon discovered that high-ranking police officers were ordering a hands-off approach to the establishments at the behest of their owners. Williams and Staples went on to expose other unethical actions by police. Despite threats to himself and his family, Williams persevered. It was a powerful but even-handed series of reports. He went after one of the most powerful institutions in any town and broke the blue line by getting police officers to talk about their superiors. The story was nailed and resulted in the resignation of a top-ranking police officer and a change in the policy regulating off-duty employment by police. An outstanding example of dogged local reporting.
- “Marine Corps Toxic Water,” WITI-TV Fox 6, Bob Segall, Diane Carbonara.
- “Day Care Felons,” WKMG-TV, Tony Pipitone, Jim Crane, Darran Caudle, Brent Singleton.
“The Secret History of Lead,” The Nation, Jamie Lincoln Kitman.
This reads like a classic turn-of-the-century muckraking piece. The author documents how American businesses, including General Motors and Standard Oil, produced and marketed leaded gasoline even though they knew there were safer, though more expensive, alternatives. And this story reveals that after lead was finally banned in U.S. gasoline in 1986, the companies continued to market leaded gas overseas. The research manifested here is nothing short of breathtaking.
- “Caught Off Guard,” Boston Magazine, Kate Yeomans.
- “Capitalism in a Cold Climate,” Fortune Magazine, Richard Behar.
- “The Bingo Connection,” Mother Jones, Christopher D. Cook.
- “Big Money and Politics: Who Gets Hurt,” TIME Magazine, Donald L. Barlett, James B. Steele, Andrew Goldstein, Laura Karmatz, Daniel Levy.
“Beneath Native Land: Occidental Petroleum in South America,” Living on Earth from NPR, Ingrid Lobet.
The reporter went on an extraordinary journey into the heart of the South American jungle. She showed enterprise and daring as she exposed the effects of Occidental Petroleum�s oil drilling on native lands. On a tight budget and journeying through the most horrendous conditions, the reporter uncovered water contamination and environmental damage caused by a major U.S. oil company.
- “Lethal Legacy,” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Kelly Ryan, Margaret McGee, Sandra Bartlett.
- “MCI Shirley Prison Allegations,” WBUR-FM, Jason Beaubien.
Tom Renner Award
“California’s Billion Dollar Rip-Off,” KCBS-TV, Joel Grover, Jennifer Cobb.
The California Medicaid program – Medi-Cal – has been beset by fraud for years. But KCBS brought the state’s residents face to face with the swindles, showing how corrupt doctors, nurses and street hustlers were defrauding the system and costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Excellent use of undercover video provided graphic proof of an unabashed fraud. And the station did not let bureaucracy off the hook, showing how obsolete computers made the fraud so easy. The undercover work was gutsy, smart and powerful. The series resulted in immediate action by the governor and the closing of 12 of the 13 clinics that the reporters exposed.
- “Capitalism in a Cold Climate,” Fortune Magazine, Richard Behar.
- “Black Mass: The Irish Mob, The FBI, and a Devil’s Deal,” Public Affairs, Dick Lehr, Gerard O’Neill.
“Our Private Legislatures – Public Service, Personal Gain,” Center for Public Integrity, Diane Renzulli, Meleah Rush, John Dunbar, Alex Knott, Robert Moore, Ken Vogel.
The Center for Public Integrity decided to investigate conflicts of interests involving state legislatures in all 50 states. To proceed, it obtained the financial disclosure documents of all state legislators and compiled them into a master database. The result: an eye-opening project that disclosed that more than 20 percent of state legislators sat on committees charged with regulating the legislators’ professional or business interests. This is the first comprehensive look at all state legislators in one place and the interactive nature of the project allows voters to see for themselves how their lawmakers measure up.
- “Playing with Fire: The Untold Story of Woodstock ’99,” MTVi News, Brian Hiatt, Chris Nelson.
- “Money, Influence and Integrity in the 2000 Election Year,” The Public I, The Public I staff.
“Inside the ’96 Olympics,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Melissa Turner.
Following the disclosure of the Salt Lake City Olympics bribery scandal, the Journal-Constitution wanted to take a closer look at what happened during the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta. But the Atlanta Olympics committee denied the paper’s request for documents, saying those records were private. The paper would not give up, and was joined in its efforts by the state attorney general and ultimately Congress. After finally receiving the hundreds of boxes of documents, the paper produced a remarkable series of stories that gave readers an incredible behind-the-scenes look at the Olympics and its organizers. The effort also set an important precedent for news organizations seeking to look into Olympic organizing committees in the future.
- “BioWar,” CBS News, Eric Longabardi
- “Government Inc.: You Move In. They Cash In.,” The Orlando Sentinel, Robert Sargent Jr., Ramsey Campbell, Jim Leusner, Sean Holton.
- “Disregarding Your Right to Know,” The Press of Atlantic City, Michael Diamond, John Froonjian.
- “Access Denied,” The Telegram, Tracy Barron, Ryan Cleary, Barbara Sweet, Russell Wangersky, Robert Mills.
- “Dirty Dining,” Toronto Star, Robert Cribb.
“The Book of Honor: Covert Lives and Classified Deaths at the CIA,” Doubleday, Ted Gup.
When Ted Gup was visiting the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va., in 1991, he noticed a large marble wall in the lobby. It featured 69 black stars, representing each of the CIA agents or employees who had died on assignment. More than half of those stars had no names attached. Nine years later, Gup’s book discloses the people behind the stars and the stories of their deaths. Gup went after one of the most impenetrable institutions in the country, breaking more than 50 years of silence by the agency. His painstaking research uncovered information even the victims’ fellow agents didn’t know, and he presents it in an engaging, compelling fashion. Beyond the remarkably detailed portraits of individuals, Gup’s research presents a mosaic of our nation�s covert actions overseas.
- “The Informant,” Broadway Books, Kurt Eichenwald.
- “The Buying of the President 2000,” Center for Public Integrity, Charles Lewis.
Student Work (All Media)
“Cycle of Influence: How Campaign Contributions, Lobbyist Spending and Personal Financial Interests Affect the West Virginia Legislature,” Charleston Gazette/University of Missouri, Scott M. Finn.
Excellent storytelling about how lobbyists influence legislators in the state capital of West Virginia. The reporter combined excellent computer-assisted reporting skills with strong sourcing. He was able to show through many different windows how personal and business conflicts affect legislation in that state. As a contest screener said, “Finn has done a service for the readers of West Virginia.”
- “Lackmann Sustains Questionable Food Safety Standards,” The Chronicle/Hofstra University, Shawna VanNess, Elizabeth Foley.
- “Poor Disclosure,” Capital News Service/University of Maryland,” Chris Frates.