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General News    H4'ed 4/12/14

2013 Polk Journalism Awards Announced

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Andrea Elliott of The New York Times will receive the George Polk Award for Local Reporting for "Invisible Child," her riveting five-part series focusing on one of 22,000 homeless children in New York City. After encountering an engaging 11-year-old girl, Dasani Coates, outside a Brooklyn homeless shelter, Elliott spent 15 months virtually living with Dasani and her family to produce an unsparing inside-out account of the realities of urban poverty that has echoes of Charles Dickens.

The New York Times: "Invisible Child"

The George Polk Award for Political Reporting will go to Rosalind Helderman, Laura Vozzella and Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post for revealing the relationship between Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and a wealthy entrepreneur. Starting with a tip to Helderman, reporters uncovered $165,000 in gifts and loans to McDonnell and his wife Maureen apparently in exchange for promoting a food supplement. Their stories became a major topic in the election of McDonnell's successor, led to calls for tighter financial disclosure laws in Virginia and spurred a federal investigation that resulted in a 14-count indictment of the McDonnells.

The Washington Post: "McDonnell apologizes, repays loans"

Two entries examining aspects of the crisis in treating the mentally ill will share the George Polk Award for Medical Reporting. Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will be honored for a series of stories on the Milwaukee County mental health system so revelatory, analytical and conclusive that they amount to a definitive study of a system that barely functions, and Cynthia Hubert and Phillip Reese of the Sacramento Bee will be cited for turning one man's account into a shocking exposé of a Las Vegas psychiatric hospital's practice of exporting patients -- 1,500 over five years -- to locales across the country via Greyhound bus.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Chronic Crisis"

Sacramento Bee: "L.A. poised to go after Las Vegas hospital in patient-dumping cases"

The New York Times reporters Frances Robles, Sharon Otterman, Michael Powell and N. R. Kleinfield will receive the George Polk Award for Justice Reporting for uncovering evidence that a Brooklyn homicide detective used false confessions, tainted testimony and coercive tactics to convict dozens of defendants. After a story by Otterman and Powell based on a tip she received that the man convicted in a rabbi's murder was framed, Robles discovered that the lead detective in that case used the same "witness" in half a dozen unrelated murders and put similar phraseology in the mouths of a number of suspects he swore had confessed. After her stories were published, two men were released from prison and Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, whose office prosecuted all of the dubious cases, lost a bid for re-election. More than 50 additional convictions are under review.

The New York Times: "Jailed Unjustly in the Death of a Rabbi, Man Nears Freedom"

Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times will receive the George Polk Award for Sports Reporting for revealing that Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, supplied some of baseball's biggest stars with performance-enhancing drugs. Elfrink deciphered and traced records from a disgruntled investor to customers like "Cacique" and "El Mostro" (code names for sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera) in a three-month investigation. His explosive stories led to the suspension of 13 players, created a sea change in how baseball owners and players approach drug use and explained how Florida Governor Rick Scott's laissez-faire approach to regulation allowed clinics like Biogenesis to operate with little or no oversight.

Miami New Times: "Tony Bosch and Biogenisis: MLB Steroid Scandal"

The George Polk Award for Business Reporting will go to Alison Fitzgerald, Daniel Wagner, Lauren Kyger and John Dunbar of The Center for Public Integrity for "After the Meltdown," a three-part series demonstrating that regulators and prosecutors have failed to hold a single major player on Wall Street accountable for the reckless behavior that sparked the 2008 financial crisis, allowing them to live lavishly in its aftermath and permitting some to resume the sort of investment activity that plunged the nation into a deep and debilitating recession.

The Center for Public Integrity: "After the Meltdown"

Matthieu Aikins, a freelance journalist who has reported from Afghanistan for five years, will receive the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting for "The A-Team Killings" published in the November 21 issue of Rolling Stone. In the course of five months of dogged reporting from one of the country's most dangerous areas, Aikins developed convincing evidence that a 12-man U.S. Army Special Forces unit and their Afghan translators rounded up and executed 10 civilians in the Nerkh district of Wardak province, where allegations of extrajudicial killings had emerged in early 2013. The army, which initially denied the charges, opened a criminal inquiry, and human rights organizations called for thorough and impartial investigations.

Rolling Stone: "The A-Team Killings"

The George Polk Award for Network Television Reporting will go to Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore, Mike Wiser, Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada for "League of Denial," a "Frontline" documentary aired on PBS that traced the National Football League's longstanding efforts to quash evidence linking head injuries suffered by players to an inordinately high level of the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The program detailed how physicians on the NFL payroll dismissed independent medical research and demeaned the researchers in a concerted effort to hide the truth.

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