Submitted by REYNOLDS CENTER Staff
PHOENIX, Oct. 4, 2011 — The Arizona Republic, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Seattle Times won gold, silver and bronze awards respectively in the fifth annual Barlett & Steele Awards in Investigative Business Journalism, the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism announced today.
Named for the renowned investigative team of Don Barlett and Jim Steele, whose numerous awards include two Pulitzer Prizes, these annual awards funded by the Reynolds Center celebrate the best in investigative business journalism.
“Public Pensions, A Soaring Burden” by Craig Harris of The Arizona Republic received the top gold award of $5,000. The series focused on questionable public-pension practices and their cost to taxpayers. A project that included 67 public-records requests uncovered elected officials making more in retirement than when they were employed and pensions paid to convicted felons removed from office for official wrongdoing.
“This is an important subject that many had taken shots at before, but what’s new is the clarity with which it addressed the issue and its rigor in expressing a complicated analytical story,” the judges said of the series that led to sweeping statewide pension reform. “It was fair and comprehensive in reaching out to those on all sides, dug deeply into public records and told us something we didn’t know.”
(Harris presented an overview of his series at a special reporting institute presented by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in June in Phoenix sponsored by the McCormick Foundation.)
“A Case of Shattered Trust” by Raquel Rutledge and Rick Barrett of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel received the silver award of $2,000. The series revealed how a firm with a decade of serious regulatory violations of sanitary conditions was allowed to operate while the Food and Drug Administration did nothing. As a result of the stories, the FDA revealed the name of the bacterium that it found in the manufacturer’s contaminated alcohol wipes. Following a permanent federal injunction against the firm, the product is no longer manufactured.
“This brilliantly written series was prompted by the death of a two-year-old boy in Houston and led to the exposing of a serious problem in a plant located in its own region,” said the judges. “It is a systematic examination of the manufacture of a commonplace item and the sluggishness of regulation designed to protect consumers by investigating and correcting fatal flaws.”
“Seniors for Sale” by Michael J. Berens of The Seattle Times received the bronze award of $1,000. The series investigated the growing trend toward seniors being moved from nursing homes into less expensive “adult family homes.” The investigation uncovered more than 230 deaths that indicated neglect or abuse in these homes but were not reported to the state.
“This is groundbreaking, exhaustive reporting of a little-known abuse of elderly patients in which they are sometimes treated as commodities rather than patients,” the judges said of the series, which prompted significant reform at the state and county levels. “At a time when the aging population offers business opportunities, there are also opportunities for tragic abuses.”
Honorable mentions in this year’s awards are, in alphabetical order:
“In a volatile year for business and the economy, this year’s top entries struck blows against stunning abuses in the public and private sectors and got results,” said Andrew Leckey, president of the Reynolds Center. “In all our entries, newsrooms of a variety of sizes reaffirmed their dedication to intelligent and robust investigative business journalism.”
The judges for this year’s awards were Amanda Bennett, executive editor/projects and investigations at Bloomberg News; Myron Kandel, the founding financial editor of CNN; and Steve Koepp, editorial director of Time Home Entertainment Inc.
Awards will be conferred Jan. 3, 2012, during Reynolds Business Journalism Week at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix.
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