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Long Island University Announces Winners of 2005 George Polk Awards

Journalists Honored for Excellence in 14 Categories


Peg Byron,Director of Public Relations
Brooklyn Campus ,
Long Island University

The George Polk AwardsBrooklyn, N.Y. -- Long Island University has announced the 2005 winners of the George Polk Awards in Journalism. Media professionals whose works include exposés of United States-sponsored torture, heroic reporting from war zones and scenes of natural disaster, and revelations concerning questionable and potentially hazardous clinical trials and medical devices are to be recognized in 14 categories. Established in 1949, the Polk Awards are among the most coveted honors in journalism. This year’s ceremonies will take place during a luncheon held at the New York Marriott MarquisHotel in New York City on Wednesday, April 19. The annual George Polk Awards Seminar, which will explore “The Human Rights Beat,” will be held at the Museum of Television & Radio, Tuesday, April 18.

“The caliber of work produced by this year’s Polk Award winners reminds us that investigative journalism is vital to our democracy and society,” noted Dr. David J. Steinberg, Long Island University president. “We are indebted to these journalists for their vigilance during these troubling times and for their dedication to ensuring that the stories they cover are reported accurately and with the highest level of professional integrity,” he added.

The George Polk Career Award will be bestowed upon Frederick Wiseman, the documentary filmmaker whose works include “High School,” “Hospital,” “Public Housing” and the 1967 classic, “Titicut Follies,” which focus on the everyday experiences of less fortunate Americans who struggle against the bureaucracy of social institutions operating at the community level. Wiseman’s pioneering “cinéma vérité” style is credited with forging a new genre of investigative reporting.

Receiving the George Polk Award for International Reporting will be Chicago Tribune reporter Cam Simpson and photographer José More for their investigation of the massacre of 12 Nepalese men in Iraq. Their two-part series uncovered a trail of forced labor and human trafficking that stretched from Nepal to the Middle East and was financed by a $12 billion U.S. defense contract awarded to KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton. As a result of their efforts, the State Department investigated abuse of foreign workers in Iraq and promised to push the Pentagon to develop tough guidelines for U.S. contractors.

ABC News correspondent Brian Ross and reporter Richard Esposito will be awarded the George Polk Award for Television Reporting for revealing the treatment, which many experts consider to be torture, that the CIA used in secret detention facilities. In naming the countries where the facilities were located as well as exposing the White House-approved “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA, including a method called “water boarding” that subjects detainees to simulated drowning, the reports triggered an avalanche of critical reaction from governments and the public around the world.

The George Polk Award for National Reporting will go to Dana Priest of The Washington Post for unveiling the existence of secret CIA-run prisons and wrong doing that included the death of an Afghan detainee and the attempted cover up of the mistaken imprisonment of a German citizen. Priest detailed the elaborate covert operations in a series of 10 articles that unleashed an international furor and raised troubling questions at home about the government’s counter-terrorism campaign.

Also from The Washington Post, reporters Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway will receive the George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting. Trekking across Afghanistan, they documented that claims of the U.S. reconstruction process in Afghanistan were a sham and a waste of millions of dollars. Shortly after they revealed that the U.S. Agency for International Development had misled Congress and the public, the longtime director of USAID resigned.

Two New York Times journalists – commentator Frank Rich and medical business reporter Barry Meier – also will receive Polk Awards. For his barbed essays that intertwine popular culture with politics, including “The God Racket, from DeMille to DeLay” and “Enron: Patron Saint of Bush's Fake News,” Rich will be honored with the George Polk Award for Commentary.

Meier won the George Polk Award for Business Reporting for his exposé on a commonly used heart implant device with a deadly defect that was unpublicized by medical-device manufacturer Guidant Corporation and by the Food and Drug Administration. His coverage, which began last May and continued this year, sparked government, corporate and medical investigations that have helped to save lives. 

The Times-Picayune, the hometown paper of Hurricane Katrina’s most long-suffering victims, will be honored with the George Polk Award for Metropolitan Reporting. With only a skeleton staff whose members themselves were displaced from their homes, the paper persevered, covering the disaster and serving as a critical and accurate source of information for the battered New Orleans community and the world. Although the paper’s offices were forced to move from its headquarters in the flooded city, its reporters remained on the streets working. Without access to its printing presses, the nearly 170-year-old paper stepped up its online editions and blogs, generating more than 30 million hits a day. When operations resumed four days after the storm, the paper’s first headline read: “Help Us, Please.”

Jerry Mitchell of Jackson, Mississippi’s The Clarion-Ledger, will be presented with the George Polk Award for Justice Reporting. His work revealed the searing truth about the murder of three civil rights activists during the summer of 1964. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were investigating one of a number of church burnings in the eastern part of Mississippi when they were beaten and shot to death.Despite receiving threats to his life, Mitchell relentlessly pursued leads, located new witnesses and unearthed previously unknown information that enabled the State to convict the man who was the mastermind behind the killings. More than four decades later, justice was finally served.

Bloomberg News reporters David Evans, Michael Smith and Liz Willen will share the George Polk Award for Health Reporting. Their ongoing coverage exposed faults in the U.S. clinical trial system that exploited poor, mostly minority citizens. The reporters revealed how patients, without being informed of the risks, were enticed into entering trials that might lead to serious illness or even death. Just as troubling, their reports revealed that the FDA was outsourcing oversight of some clinical testing centers to private, for-profit companies that were financed by the same large pharmaceutical companies whose drugs were being tested. The Bloomberg team’s story led to a Department of Health and Human Services review of the regulation of human testing and to the resignation of top executives at a major for-profit clinical trial testing center.

Sharing the George Polk Award for Political Reporting will be Marcus Stern and Jerry Kammer of Copley News Service and Dean Calbreath of Copley’s flagship paper, The San Diego Union-Tribune. Their reporting exposed bribery and influence peddling by Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the once-powerful Southern California congressman, who now awaits sentencing after admitting he accepted $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors.

The George Polk Award for Local Reporting will be awarded to Adam Clay Thompson, senior writer for The San Francisco Bay Guardian. His series on public housing, “Forgotten City,” detailed the atrocious living conditions in San Francisco Housing Authority-owned dwellings. The weekly newspaper’s limited resources did not stop Thompson from generating a huge story which served as a catalyst for politicians, building and health inspectors and the media to take action, forcing the Housing Authority to repair all of the apartments cited in the story.

Victor S. Navasky will receive the George Polk Book Award for “A Matter of Opinion,” a unique memoir full of colorful personalities and big events published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Navasky, who became editor of the The Nation in 1978 and rose to become its publisher and editorial director in 1995, is now publisher emeritus. His work provides a historically significant view of the role that public discourse plays in sustaining the democratic process in an age of mass media and corporate dominance. 

JoAnn Mar, an independent radio producer, will receive the George Polk Award for Radio Reporting for “Crime Pays: A Look at Who’s Getting Rich from the Prison Boom.” Her one-hour documentary explored the privatization of the prison system during the past 25 years. It reveals how politically connected corporations and other businesses, as well as state and local economies, have a large stake in the prison business; some are active members of an influential consortium that has successfully promoted model legislation for longer sentencing requirements.




Posted 02/21/2006

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