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LIU Announces 2011 George Polk Awards in Journalism

Winners in 15 categories include 24-year-old crime reporter who broke the story
of the Penn State sex abuse scandal


Brian Harmon,Director of Public Relations
LIU Brooklyn,
Long Island University

The winners of the 63rd annual George Polk Awards in Journalism were announced today by Long Island University.

Recognized for work completed in 2011, the recipients include Sara Ganim, a 24-year-old crime reporter with The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., who brought to light allegations of child sex abuse against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and who helped expose the institutional cover up that followed.

Journalists from news organizations big and small — including Bloomberg News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, ABC News, The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, Al Jazeera English, The Advertiser Democrat in western Maine, the nonprofit news group California Watch and the independent radio program "This American Life" — also earned George Polk Awards, which were given in 15 categories.

Anthony Shadid, a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, will be awarded posthumously for extraordinary valor for his work in the Middle East. Shadid, a 2003 Polk Award winner and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, died on assignment Thursday, Feb. 16, while crossing the border from Syria to Turkey.

Ronnie Dugger, founding editor of The Texas Observer, will receive the George Polk Career Award.

"There was a strong field of contenders this year, especially in investigative work," said John Darnton, curator of the George Polk Awards. "It was a big year for news with the Arab Spring and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and reporters from many news organizations went behind the headlines to search for underlying causes and trends."

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, were established in 1949 by LIU to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war.

The 2011 George Polk Awards will be presented at a luncheon at The Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan on Thursday, April 5, 2012. CBS News "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl will be the citation reader. The annual George Polk Seminar will take place the preceding evening, Wednesday, April 4, 2012, at the Kumble Theater for Performing Arts at LIU Brooklyn.

Sara Ganim of The Patriot-News will receive the George Polk Award for Sports Reporting for her outstanding coverage of the Penn State sex abuse scandal. Ganim, in March 2011, was the first to report that longtime Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky — second only to head coach Joe Paterno in the Penn State pantheon — was being investigated for child sex abuse. While most newspapers and television stations ignored the story, Ganim, a Penn State graduate, continued to write about the investigation, and on Nov. 4 she was the first to report that Sandusky had been indicted. Even after media coverage of the indictment and the university’s alleged cover-up became national news, Ganim, who already had spent over two years on the story, continued to lead the pack, uncovering new information on the scandal that led to the removal of Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier.

The George Polk Award for Television Documentary will recognize the courageous work of Al Jazeera English reporter May Ying Welsh and field producer Hassan Mahfood in developing "Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark." When Bahrain banned foreign journalists during the Arab Spring protests, Welsh remained, working undercover with Mahfood to produce a film that gives a voice to the protesters for democratic rights and presents a harrowing, on-the-ground view of their brutal suppression. The documentary highlights the unbridled power of security forces in a key American ally on the Gulf.

The George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting will be given to Jane Mayer, an investigative reporter with The New Yorker, for an exposé that called attention to the ominous story of Thomas Drake, a National Security Agency whistle-blower charged with being a spy. When Drake leaked documents raising questions about the efficacy of a new anti-terrorism project that could have violated the privacy of millions of Americans, the government indicted him under the little-used Espionage Act. Mayer’s article, "The Secret Sharer," was a study in prosecutorial excess that helped lead to all major charges against Drake being dropped. The author ends her masterful tale with the conclusion that America’s bloated "national-surveillance state" poses a greater threat to civil liberties than ever before.

The George Polk Award for Military Reporting will be bestowed upon C.J. Chivers of The New York Times for his courageous and illuminating coverage of the wars in Libya and Afghanistan. As a weapons expert and former Marine, Chivers is highly respected by soldiers, whether Libyan rebels or American officers. At the height of the Libyan conflict, he sneaked into the besieged port of Misurata. The only American print journalist in the rebel-held city, he quickly tapped into his weapons expertise to deliver an important scoop — that Libya was using cluster munitions never before used in war. For weeks Chivers provided some of the only reporting from Misurata, and he was on hand to cover the celebrations when rebels broke the siege and defeated Qaddafi. Chivers’ reporting is not one-sided. He has written about looting and summary executions by Libyan rebels as well as NATO airstrikes landing on friendly forces and civilians. In Afghanistan, he chronicled the frustration of American troops under attack from beyond the Pakistan border.

The George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting will acknowledge the fearless reporting of New York Times correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman and the powerful photographs of his colleague, Tyler Hicks. The two have documented conflicts in some of the most dangerous regions on Earth — the new state of South Sudan in central Africa and the Horn of Africa. They produced numerous exclusives and heart-wrenching photos of ethnic conflict, pillage, famine and piracy. To get them, the pair holed up in caves and riverbeds with bombing victims, tracked down Islamist warlords who spoke blithely of executions and ventured into coastal havens to interview notorious kidnappers. In Somalia, they were the first to report that the Shabab, the militant Islamists controlling much of the country, were blocking off escape routes to prevent people from fleeing famine zones and were diverting rivers to secure water while others starved.

For their investigative series that brought attention to the controversial tactics of the New York Police Department’s intelligence operations, a team of four Associated Press reporters earned the George Polk Award for Metropolitan Reporting. Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Chris Hawley and Eileen Sullivan collaborated on an investigation that showed the NYPD had built one of the largest domestic intelligence agencies in the country. The operations, conducted with advice and guidance from the Central Intelligence Agency, were secret until the AP series. The AP reporters documented how the NYPD assigned "rakers" and "mosque crawlers" to ethnic neighborhoods, infiltrating everything from booksellers and cafes to Muslim places of worship. The stories renewed debate over how far government should go and what tactics it should use to prevent another major terrorist attack in the United States.

The George Polk Award for National Reporting will go to the staff of The Wall Street Journal for a series of articles that examined and dissected new ways of insider trading involving Washington officials and well-connected investors. The Journal’s investigations, undertaken by almost a dozen reporters, showed how savvy investors gained an advantage by getting early clues to the Federal Reserve’s forthcoming policy moves. This revelation prompted the Federal Reserve for the first time to publicly release the communications it has with banks before its monetary-policy meetings. The series also revealed how hedge fund managers get an early clue to important legislation from lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and helped trigger proposed laws to curb improper stock investing by legislators and their aides.

The George Polk Award for Local Reporting will be presented to A.M. Sheehan and Matt Hongoltz-Hetling of the Advertiser Democrat for their in-depth report on the shocking conditions of low-income housing in the town of Norway, Maine. A fire that burned a rooming house to the ground caught the journalists’ attention because of locked egress doors and lack of smoke detectors. The reporters then investigated other subsidized housing in the area. They found a blatant disregard for code, health, safety or common decency, and rents that were far above allowable rates. The reporters researched the rules for Section 8 housing, scoured HUD rules and regulations, and went on to examine state and local regulations. Within four hours of the publication of the initial story, the state mounted an official investigation and then began a statewide re-inspection of all of its Section 8 properties.

Three reporters at Bloomberg News will receive the George Polk Award for International Reporting for a series of articles that shed light on the practice of Western companies selling surveillance technologies to repressive regimes that use them to track, imprison and kill dissidents. The muckraking efforts of Ben Elgin, Alan Katz and Vernon Silver demonstrated — and helped halt — the complicity of Western companies in these abuses. Their stories showed how phone transcripts generated by German computers led to the arrest, interrogation and torture of Bahraini human rights activist Abdul Ghani Al Khanjar. The series also exposed an ongoing mass-surveillance project by the Syrian government amidst the slaughter of civilians. The European Union banned the surveillance, and lives were saved as a direct result of the reporting. To get at the story, the Bloomberg News reporters spent 10 months inside the secretive world of computer programmers and former spies who sell and maintain the sophisticated surveillance tools that help totalitarian regimes quash opposition.

The George Polk Award for Medical Reporting will go to Lance Williams, Christina Jewett and Stephen K. Doig of California Watch, a nonprofit investigative reporting group. Their groundbreaking, yearlong series of articles demonstrated how a California hospital chain increased its Medicare reimbursements by classifying patients as suffering from rare medical conditions. The stories, which appeared in newspapers across California, offered a glimpse into the broader problem of waste, fraud and abuse within the nation’s $2.5-trillion health care system. The reporters sorted through more than 2,500 pages of legal filings and — using an ambitious computer-assisted data program — examined more than 51 million patient records of hospital and emergency room visits. In the wake of the series, Congress and the California State Assembly called for deeper investigations into fraud and malfeasance.

The George Polk Award for Television Reporting will be given to Brian Ross and Anna Schecter for their 10-month ABC News investigation of the murder of Peace Corps volunteer Kate Puzey in West Africa. The three-part report, which aired on ABC’s "20/20," uncovered a systemic failure to protect Peace Corps volunteers who were victims of sexual assault and the whistleblowers who tried to report the incidents. Ross and Schecter traveled to remote villages in Benin to investigate Puzey’s murder and began to unravel a disturbing legacy of cover-up and betrayal inside the Peace Corps. Their investigation led to historic changes, including a new law, The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, requiring the Peace Corps to protect whistleblowers, hire advocates for victims and improve the training of volunteers to reduce the risk of sexual assault.

A team of journalists at The Boston Globe won the George Polk Award for Legal Reporting for a stunning report on the extraordinary acquittal rate in drunk driving cases in Massachusetts. In an eight-month investigation, Thomas Farragher, Marcella Bombardieri, Jonathan Saltzman, Matt Carroll and Darren Durlach discovered that scores of state judges were in effect nullifying tough new laws against drunk driving by treating drunken driving offenders with exceptional leniency, even when their guilt seemed to be overwhelmingly obvious based on the facts. In the wake of The Globe reports, the state’s highest court named a special investigator to examine the high percentage of acquittals and the state panel that reviews judicial conduct began looking into possible unethical ties between some judges and lawyers who specialize in drunk driving cases.

Ira Glass with the public radio show "This American Life" earned the George Polk Award for Radio Reporting for "Very Tough Love," an hour-long report that showed alarmingly severe punishments being meted out by a county drug court judge in Georgia. Drug courts were set up to emphasize rehabilitation instead of incarceration, but Glass’ investigation revealed that Judge Amanda Williams strayed far from the principles and philosophy by routinely piling on jail sentences for relapses. One 17-year-old girl, initially in trouble for forging two small checks on her father’s account, was facing more than 10 years in jail. Following the airing of "Very Tough Love," Georgia’s Judicial Qualifying Commission filed 14 ethical misconduct charges against Williams. Within weeks of the filing of charges, Williams stepped down from the bench and agreed never to seek other judicial offices.

The George Polk Career Award will be presented to Ronnie Dugger, founding editor of The Texas Observer and co-founder of the Alliance for Democracy. He has written biographies of Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, as well as other books, and hundreds of articles for Harper's Magazine, The Nation, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Progressive and other periodicals. For over half a century, Dugger has been a crusading journalist, mentoring the likes of columnist Molly Ivins; author Larry L. King; and the late Willie Morris, former editor of Harper’s Magazine.

On Wednesday, April 4, the annual George Polk Seminar, which is free and open to the public, will take place at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts at LIU Brooklyn, located at the intersection of DeKalb Avenue and Flatbush Avenue in downtown Brooklyn. A 5:30 p.m. reception will precede a panel discussion, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. The seminar, entitled "Getting the Unforgettable Story," will feature four 2011 George Polk Award winners: Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, winner of the Magazine Reporting award; May Ying Welsh of Al Jazeera English, winner of the Television Documentary award; C.J. Chivers of The New York Times, winner of the Military Reporting award; and Sara Ganim of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., winner of the Sports Reporting Award. George Polk Awards Curator John Darnton will moderate the event.

On Thursday, April 5, LIU will host the George Polk Awards Luncheon at noon at The Roosevelt Hotel, located in Manhattan at 45 East 45th Street (at the corner of Madison Avenue). A poster exhibit displaying work by the 2011 Polk Award winners will commence at 11 a.m. A limited number of tickets are available. For reservations to attend the George Polk Seminar and for tickets to the George Polk Awards Luncheon, please contact LIU’s Office of Special Events at (516) 299-3298 or e-mail

George Polk Awards
Ranked among America's most coveted journalism honors, the George Polk Awards have been administered by Long Island University since 1949.They memorialize CBS correspondent George W. Polk, who was slain covering the civil war in Greece in 1948. A committee of jurors made up of University faculty members and alumni selects the winners from entries submitted by journalists and news organizations as well as nominations made by a panel of journalists and editors, including a number of former winners.

About LIU
In its ninth decade of providing access to the American dream through excellence in higher education, LIU is a multicampus, diverse, doctoral institution of higher learning. One of the largest and most comprehensive private universities in the country, the University offers more than 575 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs and certificates, and educates over 23,000* students in degree-credit and continuing education programs in Brooklyn, Brookville (LIU Post), Brentwood, Riverhead, and Rockland and Westchester (LIU Hudson). Other academic units include LIU Pharmacy (the Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences), which prepares students for successful careers in the fields of pharmacy and health care; LIU Global, which provides a wide range of study abroad options at overseas centers in China, Costa Rica and India, and through programs in Australia, Ecuador, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey; and LIU Online, which harnesses the latest technology to offer online and blended programs.

LIU’s more than 630 full-time faculty members provide outstanding instruction, which is supplemented by internships and cooperative education opportunities. The accomplishments of nearly 185,000 living alumni are a testament to the success of its mission – providing the highest level of education to people from all walks of life. The institution also provides enrichment for students and the community through the world-class arts programming at LIU Tilles Center, NCAA Division I and II athletic teams and the nationally renowned George Polk Awards in journalism.

*This number includes high school students enrolled in one or more degree-credit courses.

LIU Brooklyn is distinguished by...
dynamic curricula reflecting the great urban community it serves. Distinctive programs encompass the arts and media, the natural sciences, business, social policy, urban education, the health professions and pharmacy, and include the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, the Ph.D. in Pharmaceutics, the D.P.T. in Physical Therapy and the Pharm.D. in Pharmacy. A vibrant urban oasis in downtown Brooklyn, this diverse and thriving campus offers academic excellence, personalized attention, small class size and flexible course schedules. In 2006, a $45-million Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center was opened to serve the Campus and the surrounding community. In 2007, the Cyber Café was launched, providing a high-tech hot spot for students and faculty members to meet and eat.

Posted 02/20/2012

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