Friday, October 3, 2008

Barlett & Steele Awards announced

From the inbox:

BusinessWeek magazine and The Seattle Times have been awarded first place and runner-up respectively in the second annual Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism.

"Prisoners of Debt," a series by BusinessWeek's Brian Grow, Robert Berner, Keith Epstein and Geri Smith, received the $5,000 first-place award. "The Favor Factory" by The Seattle Times' David Heath and Hal Bernton was awarded the $2,000 second-place prize.

These awards sponsored by the Reynolds Center are named for the celebrated investigative business journalism team of Don Barlett and Jim Steele, which has received two Pulitzer Prizes and numerous other national honors. Judging of the awards is based on that duo's admonition to break new ground and "tell me something I don't know."

"In a traumatic year for the news industry and economy, this year's winning entries prove the importance and relevance of solid investigations by dedicated journalists into excesses of both business and government," said Andrew Leckey, Director of the Reynolds Center. "All entrants in this year's competition should be commended for remaining true to their professional responsibility to dig deeply into financial issues."

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order) in the 2008 awards went to:
--Bloomberg Markets, "Toxic Debt" (part 1, part 2, part 3) by David Evans and Richard Tomlinson.
--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Chemical Fallout" by Susanne Rust, Meg Kissinger and Cary Spivak.
--The New York Times, "Golden Opportunities" by Charles Duhigg.
--The Wall Street Journal, "U.S. Investors Face an Age of Murky Pricing" by Susan Pulliam, Randall Smith and Michael Siconolfi.

The first-place "Prisoners of Debt," a three-part BusinessWeek series (part 1, part 2, part 3 ), revealed how large financial firms regularly collaborate with doctors and hospitals to turn unpaid medical bills into high-interest consumer debt. It explained how banks and credit card firms badger unsophisticated consumers to pay off debts even after they have been extinguished by the bankruptcy courts and also examined so-called "micro-lending" that ties up the indigent in high-interest debt.

Runner-up "The Favor Factory," a four-part series by The Seattle Times, through exhaustive research uncovered thousands of purchases that the U.S. Congress has forced the military to make in recent years, including a $4.5 million Navy vessel that sits unused by a Seattle pier. The investigation of secretive Congressional earmarks included the scanning of hundreds of documents and a year spent building a database that directly linked this waste to political contributions.

The first-place and runner-up recipients will receive their publications' trophies and individual certificates at a Nov. 19 ceremony at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in Phoenix, where the Reynolds Center is located.

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