Long Island University Announces Winners of 2002 George Polk Awards
Peg Byron,Director of Public Relations
Long Island University
Brooklyn, N.Y. -- Journalists tackling tough issues in turbulent times are among those being honored at the 2002 George Polk Awards Ceremony on April 10, 2003. Their work, which focuses on subjects ranging from the conflict in the Middle East to the crisis in the Catholic Church to the disturbing plight of the mentally ill, captures the spirit and integrity of investigative journalism at its best.
Morley Safer of CBS News received the Polk Career Award. Joining the network in 1964, Safer brought television’s first critical reports of the Vietnam War into American living rooms. His 1965 broadcast of United States Marines burning the village of Cam Ne turned the tide of public opinion during that conflict and transformed war reporting forever. Co-editor for "60 Minutes" since 1970, his work, including a landmark piece that helped exonerate a Texas man wrongly convicted of murder, has consistently illustrated his indefatigable commitment to the pursuit of truth.
The Boston Globe received two George Polk Awards. Correspondent Anthony Shadid won the Polk Award for Foreign Reporting for his 10-part series on the Middle East. Despite great risk to his own life — he was shot and seriously wounded in Ramallah —Shadid filed reports that conveyed the anger, despair and policies that have shaped the conflict.
In addition, a team of Globe reporters and editors received the Polk Award for National Reporting. Their yearlong series, "Crisis in the Catholic Church," exposed widespread sexual abuse by priests as well as the questionable way in which Church officials handled the matter. The stories led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law.
The New York Times also received two George Polk Awards. Clifford J. Levy received the Polk Award for Regional Reporting for a year-long investigation that resulted in the series, "Broken Homes," revealing the plight of 15,000 mentally ill adults housed in squalid New York State-licensed facilities. Levy’s work revealed how state officials had ignored high death rates at the homes for more than 25 years. As a result, federal and state attorneys are taking action and elected officials have promised greater resources and oversight.
Walt Bogdanich, Barry Meier and Mary Williams Walsh of The Times won the Polk Award for Health Care Reporting for "Medicine’s Middlemen." Their in-depth series showed that two private companies cornered the market on the sale of drugs, medical devices and other supplies to many hospitals, inflating costs while distributing inferior products. The series prompted six separate government investigations.
Sonia Nazario and photographer Don Bartletti of the Los Angeles Times won the Polk Award for International Reporting for a six-part series, "Enrique’s Journey." They traveled 800 miles by freight train, braving thieves and gangs to retrace the harrowing journey of a Honduran youth to the United States, capturing the hardships faced by the scores of Latin Americans who migrate north each year.
Debbie Salamone with Ramsey Campbell and Robert Sargent of the Orlando Sentinel won the George Polk Award for Environmental Reporting for the 12-part series, "Florida’s Water Crisis." Her detailed but accessible reports about the risks that unfettered growth poses to the state’s drinking water drew attention from the public as well as from planning groups and public officials.
Michael Luo, national writer for the Associated Press, won the Polk Award for Criminal Justice Reporting for "Small Town Justice." His three-part series questioned the confessions and manslaughter convictions of three poor, mentally handicapped African Americans in Butler, Alabama. Drawing national attention to the case, the series led to the release of two defendants; a third is in prison for an unrelated crime.
Ellen E. Schultz and Theo Francis of The Wall Street Journal won the Polk Award for Financial Reporting for a complex investigation into how some employers secretly use benefit plans, such as life insurance policies, to generate billions of dollars for themselves, even as their employees’ benefit assets dwindle. In response, Congressional committees are considering new guidelines requiring corporations to acquire written consent from their employees before entering into these types of arrangements.
Stephen Kiernan and Cadence Mertz of The Burlington Free Press (Vt.) won the Polk Award for Medical Reporting for their Code of Silence series, revealing how the state withheld essential information about medical incompetence and health care fraud, protecting physicians and hospitals. The reports led to the loss of medical licenses, changes in state law and an investigation of Vermont’s largest hospital.
Arnold S. Relman and Marcia Angell won the Polk Award for Magazine Reporting for their report in of The New Republic, "America’s Other Drug Problem." The article documented that pharmaceutical companies spend far more of their substantial profits on advertising and lobbying efforts than they do on drug research and development.
Jason Riley and R.G. Dunlop of The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, won the Polk Award for Local Reporting for exposing a county judicial system rife with misplaced, mismanaged and delayed cases. The three-part "Justice Delayed, Justice Denied" series on Bullitt County’s backlog prompted action by the state’s highest court and its attorney general.
Phil Williams and Bryan Staples at WTVF in Nashville, Tennessee, received a Polk Award for Television Reporting for "Friends in High Places," a series revealing potential ethics violations by then-Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist. The telecasts prompted investigations by the FBI, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and state auditors, as well as action by legislators to reform contract procedures.
Susan Sontag received the Polk Award for Cultural Criticism for "Looking At War," a nuanced essay in The New Yorker, examining the history of modern warfare through the photographer’s lens and the impact of photojournalism on people’s perceptions of war.
Originally published in the New Yorker, Copyright 2002 Susan Sontag.
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