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General News    H4'ed 4/12/14

2013 Polk Journalism Awards Announced

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Brooklyn, N.Y. - Four reporters who revealed the extent of secret surveillance and massive data collected by the National Security Agency are winners of the 65th annual George Polk Awards in Journalism announced today by Long Island University. The four -- from the British newspaper The Guardian and The Washington Post -- were among 30 recipients from 15 news organizations who were recognized in 13 categories for work in 2013.

Reporting by those honored also triggered probes of statehouse corruption in Virginia and political payback in New Jersey, explored the gap between rich and poor in urban and rural locales, produced telling accounts of mass death in Bangladesh and civilian killings by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, exposed dark sides of pro football and major league baseball and examined community responses to mental illness that ranged from ineffective to absurd.

Columnist, author and editor Pete Hamill, a New York institution for nearly half a century, was honored with the George Polk Career Award, which is named in memory of Professor Robert D. Spector, chair of the George Polk Awards for 32 years until his death in 2009. Hamill joins such prior career honorees as James Reston of The New York Times, Fred Friendly of CBS and Bill Moyers of PBS.

"In the tradition of George Polk, many of the journalists we have recognized did more than report news," said John Darnton, curator of the awards. "They heightened public awareness with perceptive detection and dogged pursuit of stories that otherwise would not have seen the light of day. Repercussions of the NSA stories in particular will be with us for years to come."

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The George Polk Awards in Journalism are conferred annually to honor special achievement in journalism. The awards, which place a premium on investigative and enterprise reporting that gains attention and achieves results, were established in 1949 by LIU to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war.

The 2013 George Polk Awards will be presented at a luncheon at The Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan Friday, April 11. Associated Press correspondent Kimberly Dozier will be the citation reader at the event. Three award recipients -- Andrea Elliot of the New York Times, Eli Saslow of the Washington Post and Alison Fitzgerald of the Center for Public Integrity -- will discuss their reporting with Darnton in the David J. Steinberg Seminar, "Covering Inequality in America," the preceding evening, Thursday, April 10. The seminar, at LIU Brooklyn's Kumble Theater for Performing Arts, is free and open to the public.

These are the George Polk laureates for 2013:

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Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras of The Guardian and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post will receive the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting for investigative stories based on top-secret documents disclosed by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden. The reporters conferred with Snowden to negotiate release of the material and then used their extensive backgrounds covering national security to explore the purloined files and reveal their stunning import on the Website Guardian US, describing how the NSA gathered information on untold millions of unsuspecting -- and unsuspected -- Americans, plugged into the communications links of major Internet companies and coerced companies like Yahoo and Google into turning over data about their customers.

The Guardian: "NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily"

The Guardian: "Timeline of articles"

The Washington Post: "U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program"

James Yardley of The New York Times will receive the George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting for coverage of the disastrous Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, which dwarfed the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in its immensity, claiming the lives of more than 1,100 clothing workers. Barred from Bangladesh after his prior reporting on deplorable factory conditions there, Yardley found his way to the scene from India. After initially depicting the depth and scope of the tragedy for its victims and their families in highly personal terms, his stories documented oppressive conditions that continue to exploit workers at the hands of politically connected Bangladeshi manufacturers supplying a global network of brand-name distributors and giant retailers.

The George Polk Award for National Reporting will go to Eli Saslow of The Washington Post for six stories delving into the lives of some of the 47 million Americans who receive aid from the $78 billion federal food stamp program, which has tripled in the past decade. Reporting on a corner of Rhode Island where one in three families qualifies for aid, desperate seniors who must be convinced to swallow their pride to apply for aid, a rural Tennessee town where children go hungry when school is out, a Congressman who wants to require recipients to work for food stamps, a Texas county where processed food is so prevalent obesity and diabetes are double the national average and a mother of six in Washington, D.C., facing the largest cuts to the program in 50 years, Saslow has painted an indelible portrait of American poverty.

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The Washington Post: "Waiting for the 8th"

Shawn Boburg, who covers the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for The Record of Northern New Jersey, will be recognized in the State Reporting category for articles on lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September that created a monumental traffic jam in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Boburg, who has written extensively about patronage and cronyism at the Authority for three years, wrote as early as December that the closings may be traceable to powers outside the agency, setting the stage for subsequent stories on the involvement of Governor Chris Christie's office, which made national headlines.

The Record: "Agency Still Silent on tie-up at GWB"

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