The George Polk Awards 2013 Laureates

The George Polk Awards 2013 Laureates

Local Television Reporting

Noah Pransky (pictured right) of WTSP, a CBS affiliate in the Tampa Bay area, for discovering and disclosing how state and local officials and a contractor bilked Floridian drivers out of millions of dollars in fines by reducing the period of time before yellow caution lights turn to red at intersections monitored by cameras. Pransky noticed a fast yellow at the scene of an accident and pursued the story with more than 40 reports that sent officials into reverse, lengthening yellows and vowing to legislate the practice out of existence.

National Security Reporting

Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Ewen MacAskill of The Guardian and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post for investigative stories based on top-secret documents disclosed by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden. The reporters conferred with Snowden to negotiate release of the material and then used their extensive backgrounds covering national security to explore the purloined files and reveal their stunning import, describing how the NSA gathered information on untold millions of unsuspecting -- and unsuspected -- Americans.

The Guardian: “Timeline of articles

Foreign Reporting

James Yardley of The New York Times for coverage of the disastrous Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, which dwarfed the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in its immensity, claiming the lives of more than 1,100 clothing workers. Barred from Bangladesh after his prior reporting on deplorable factory conditions there, Yardley found his way to the scene from India. After initially depicting the depth and scope of the tragedy for its victims and their families in highly personal terms, his stories documented oppressive conditions that continue to exploit workers at the hands of politically connected Bangladeshi manufacturers supplying a global network of brand-name distributors and giant retailers.

The New York Times: "Building Collapse in Bangladesh Kills Scores"

National Reporting

Eli Saslow of The Washington Post for six stories delving into the lives of some of the 47 million Americans who receive aid from the $78 billion federal food stamp program, which has tripled in the past decade. Reporting on a corner of Rhode Island where one in three families qualifies for aid, desperate seniors who must be convinced to swallow their pride to apply for aid, a rural Tennessee town where children go hungry when school is out, a Congressman who wants to require recipients to work for food stamps, a Texas county where processed food is so prevalent obesity and diabetes are double the national average and a mother of six in Washington, D.C., facing the largest cuts to the program in 50 years, Saslow has painted an indelible portrait of American poverty.

State Reporting

Shawn Boburg, who covers the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for The Record of Northern New Jersey, for articles on lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September that created a monumental traffic jam in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Boburg, who has written extensively about patronage and cronyism at the Authority for three years, wrote as early as December that the closings may be traceable to powers outside the agency, setting the stage for subsequent stories on the involvement of Governor Chris Christie’s office, which made national headlines.

Local Reporting

Andrea Elliott (pictured on right) of The New York Times for “Invisible Child,” her riveting five-part series focusing on one of 22,000 homeless children in New York City. After encountering an engaging 11-year-old girl, Dasani Coates, outside a Brooklyn homeless shelter, Elliott spent 15 months virtually living with Dasani and her family to produce an unsparing inside-out account of the realities of urban poverty that has echoes of Charles Dickens.

Political Reporting

Rosalind Helderman, Laura Vozzella, and Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post for revealing the relationship between Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and a wealthy entrepreneur. Starting with a tip to Helderman, reporters uncovered $165,000 in gifts and loans to McDonnell and his wife Maureen apparently in exchange for promoting a food supplement. Their stories became a major topic in the election of McDonnell’s successor, led to calls for tighter financial disclosure laws in Virginia and spurred a federal investigation that resulted in a 14-count indictment of the McDonnells.

Medical Reporting

Two entries examining aspects of the crisis in treating the mentally ill share this award: Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will be honored for a series of stories on the Milwaukee County mental health system so revelatory, analytical and conclusive that they amount to a definitive study of a system that barely functions, and Cynthia Hubert and Phillip Reese of The Sacramento Bee will be cited for turning one man’s account into a shocking exposé of a Las Vegas psychiatric hospital’s practice of exporting patients — 1,500 over five years — to locales across the country via Greyhound bus.

Magazine Reporting

Matthieu Aikins (pictured) for “The A-Team Killings” published in Rolling Stone. In the course of five months of dogged reporting from one of Afghanistan's most dangerous areas, Aikins developed convincing evidence that a 12-man U.S. Army Special Forces unit and their Afghan translators rounded up and executed 10 civilians in the Nerkh district of Wardak province, where allegations of extrajudicial killings had emerged in early 2013. The army, which initially denied the charges, opened a criminal inquiry, and human rights organizations called for thorough and impartial investigations.

Justice Reporting

Frances Robles, Sharon Otterman, Michael Powell and N. R. Kleinfield of The New York Times for uncovering evidence that a Brooklyn homicide detective used false confessions, tainted testimony and coercive tactics to convict dozens of defendants. After a story by Otterman and Powell based on a tip she received that the man convicted in a rabbi’s murder was framed, Robles discovered that the lead detective in that case used the same “witness” in half a dozen unrelated murders and put similar phraseology in the mouths of a number of suspects he swore had confessed. After her stories were published, two men were released from prison and Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, whose office prosecuted all of the dubious cases, lost a bid for re-election. More than 50 additional convictions are under review.

Sports Reporting

Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times for revealing that Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, supplied some of baseball’s biggest stars with performance-enhancing drugs. Elfrink deciphered and traced records from a disgruntled investor to customers like “Cacique” and “El Mostro” (code names for sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera) in a three-month investigation. His explosive stories led to the suspension of 13 players, created a sea change in how baseball owners and players approach drug use and explained how Florida Governor Rick Scott’s laissez-faire approach to regulation allowed clinics like Biogenesis to operate with little or no oversight.

Business Reporting

Alison Fitzgerald, Daniel Wagner, Lauren Kyger, and John Dunbar of The Center for Public Integrity for “After the Meltdown,” a three-part series demonstrating that regulators and prosecutors have failed to hold a single major player on Wall Street accountable for the reckless behavior that sparked the 2008 financial crisis, allowing them to live lavishly in its aftermath and permitting some to resume the sort of investment activity that plunged the nation into a deep and debilitating recession.

Network Television Reporting

Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore, Mike Wiser, Steve Fainaru, and Mark Fainaru-Wada for “League of Denial,” a “Frontline” documentary aired on PBS that traced the National Football League’s longstanding efforts to quash evidence linking head injuries suffered by players to an inordinately high level of the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The program detailed how physicians on the NFL payroll dismissed independent medical research and demeaned the researchers in a concerted effort to hide the truth.

Robert D. Spector Career Award

Brooklyn-born Pete Hamill joined the New York Post in 1960 and later wrote for the New York Herald Tribune, the Post again, the Daily News, the Village Voice and New York Newsday as well as the Saturday Evening Post, New York Magazine, the New Yorker, Esquire, Playboy and Rolling Stone. He served as editor of the Post and editor-in-chief of the News. He earned early acclaim for unflinching coverage of America’s urban riots in the 1960s, wars in Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Lebanon and Nicaragua, and the ups and downs of everyday New Yorkers. Hamill edited a two-volume collection of the work of A.J. Liebling and his extended essay, "News Is a Verb: Journalism at the End of the 20th Century,” was published in 1998. “A Drinking Life,” a 1994 memoir detailing his belated route to sobriety and all that came before, received wide critical acclaim. Hamill, who has also written passionately and extensively about art, photography and boxing, has lived in Barcelona, Dublin, Mexico City, San Juan, Rome, Los Angeles and Santa Fe but always returned to New York where he lives with his wife, the writer Fukiko Aoki. He will be 79 in June. His brother Denis Hamill accepted the award on his behalf.