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Long Island University Announces Winners of 2004 George Polk Awards

Journalists, including Seymour M. Hersh, Bill Moyers and Diane Sawyer, to be honored in 13 categories


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

The George Polk AwardsBrooklyn, N.Y. -- Thirty-five years after winning a George Polk Award for his coverage of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, Seymour M. Hersh of The New Yorker is being honored with a 2004 George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting. His detailed accounts of American torture of Iraqis in the Abu Ghraib prison revealed the depravity, extent and origins of Iraqi prisoner abuse, earning him his fifth Polk Award and making him the most honored individual laureate in the history of the awards.

His prize is among 13 awards for extraordinary journalism, ranging from courageous reporting in war zones to news-breaking investigations in baseball, which are being  announced Tuesday by Long Island University. Among the most coveted honors in journalism, the Awards have been administered by Long Island University since 1949. The 2004 Awards will be presented at a luncheon held at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan on April 21, 2005.

 “The 2004 George Polk Award winners reflect the vibrancy and indispensability of our free press,” noted Dr. David J. Steinberg, University president. He added, “Long Island University is deeply committed to the tradition of George Polk and to supporting these Awards, which honor journalists for courage and tenacity in the quest for truth.”

The Career Award will be given to Bill Moyers, who retired in November after more than three decades of pioneering broadcast journalism at CBS and PBS. Moyers previously was honored with a George Polk Award for political reporting in 1980.

Paisley Dodds of The Associated Press will be presented with the George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting. Her dispatches from Haiti, which were assembled at great personal risk, provided the world with an eyewitness account of the toppling of the Aristide regime, including the roles played by the United States and the Dominican Republic. Later, as floods devastated the country, she continued her efforts, shedding light on the deplorable conditions the Haitian people endured and how their poverty magnified the destruction of this natural disaster.

Dexter Filkins of The New York Times will be honored with the George Polk Award for War Reporting for his riveting, first-hand account of an eight-day attack on Iraqi insurgents in Falluja. His courageous reports of the street-by-street fighting that killed six U.S. marines and wounded 30, conveyed the hellish intensity of urban warfare underway in Iraq.

Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams of the San Francisco Chronicle will receive the George Polk Award for Sports Reporting. The pair investigated how star athletes obtained and used banned steroids and other performance-enhancers to boost their averages and their careers. Their relentless and revelatory coverage unearthed a national scandal, leading Congress and the White House to press team owners, trainers and sports-related organizations to be vigilant in the drug screening of athletes

Diane Sawyer and Robbie Gordon of ABC News PrimeTime Live will receive the George Polk Award for Television Reporting for “Fighting for Care,” an exposé on the disgraceful conditions, inadequate care and gross mismanagement that have persisted for years in Veterans Administration hospitals around the country. The report prompted hospital inspections as well as new supervision and training efforts.

Walt Bogdanich of The New York Times is the winner of the George Polk Award for National Reporting for “Death on the Tracks.” His series revealed that, despite hundreds of fatalities caused by railroad accidents, politically connected railroad companies evaded costs and regulations by manipulating evidence, government officials and public opinion. The reports forced the nation’s biggest railroad to improve its practices and prompted federal investigations and monitoring. This is the fourth time that Bogdanich has been honored by the Polk Committee.

Diana Henriques of The New York Times will be presented with the George Polk Award for Military Reporting. She explored how young soldiers were fleeced by insurance and investment firms that used ties to military commanders to gain access to them and to cultivate their trust. Her stories prompted investigations by federal and state authorities as well as congressional hearings that may lead to federal legislation. 

Ellen E. Schultz and Theo Francis of The Wall Street Journal will receive the George Polk Award for Economic Reporting for “Financial Surgery: How Cuts in Retiree Benefits Fatten Companies’ Bottom Lines,” an exposé on deceptive corporate accounting practices that reduce employee benefits. Schultz and Francis also were honored two years ago for exposing a pension investment hoax. It is Schultz’s third George Polk Award.

Justin Pritchard, a California-based Associated Press journalist who specializes in immigration issues, will be recognized with a George Polk Award in Labor Reporting for “Dying to Work,” an investigation of the high rate of job-related deaths for Mexican workers in the United States. Documented with federal data and survivor interviews, Pritchard’s report drew responses from the Mexican and American governments, including the first Hispanic Safety and Health Summit held by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

The Press Democrat will be honored with the George Polk Award for Regional Reporting for “Global Shift,” a series portraying the human and economic toll of decisions made by two employers to export high-tech, high-paying jobs from Sonoma County to low-income countries. The Santa Rosa, California-based newspaper dedicated a team of four reporters and a photographer to the eight-month, project – an ambitious undertaking for a 92,000-circulation daily. 

John Hill and Dorothy Korber of The Sacramento Bee will be honored with the George Polk Award for State Reporting for revealing how higher-ups in the California Highway Patrol, who were close to retirement, inflated pension benefits by making dubious claims of maladies. Their investigation has resulted in internal audits, legislation and a gubernatorial commitment to address the issue.

Tim Novak and Steve Warmbir of the Chicago Sun-Times will receive the George Polk Award for Local Reporting for “Clout on Wheels,” which exposed a $40 million municipal dump truck program as a hotbed of payoffs, sweetheart deals, mob connections and ties to city officials and politicians. The series revealed a level of corruption that has prompted reform, prosecutions and an expanding investigation into privatized city contracts.

Posted 02/21/2005

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