Selden Ring Previous Winners

For 29 years USC Annenberg has honored remarkable work in investigative journalism with the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting. A $50,000 prize is presented annually to reporters whose work effected change.

2020 – 2029

2022, “The Secret IRS Files”


A trove of tax data from an unidentified source — the largest confidential leak of tax records in U.S. history — led to ProPublica’s “The Secret IRS Files,” which exposed unprecedented data that showed how some of the richest people in America take advantage of the tax code to avoid paying even a single dollar in income taxes in some years. Read more about the winners here.

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2021, “Fruits of Labor”

Margie Mason and Robin McDowell, Associated Press

“Fruits of Labor” is a searing exposé that examined the working conditions on palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, revealing shocking abuses against some of the world’s most vulnerable laborers — and connecting that mistreatment directly to a byproduct found in roughly half the items for sale in American supermarkets. Read more about the winners here

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2020, “Profiting from the Poor”

Wendi C. Thomas, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism

“Profiting from the Poor” exposed the rapacious debt collection practices of Memphis’ largest health care system. A nonprofit hospital chain affiliated with the United Methodist Church that was suing thousands of patients, including many of its own employees, for unpaid hospital bills. Read more about the winner here.

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2010 – 2019

2019, “Kept Out”

Emmanuel Martinez and Aaron Glantz, Reveal

“Kept Out” is a series uncovering widespread racial discrimination in home lending throughout the United States. Read more about the winners here.

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2018, “Quantity of Care”

Mike Baker and Justin Mayo, Seattle Times

“Quantity of Care” is a series revealing that a prominent Seattle-area neuroscience institute was growing rapidly and attracting patients nationwide while staff members were expressing alarm, internally, about patient care. Read more about the winners here.

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2017, “Denied”

Brian M. Rosenthal, Houston Chronicle

“Denied” is a series revealing that Texas state educators systematically denied special education services to hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren with developmental, intellectual and physical disabilities. Read more about the winner here.

2016, “Seafood from Slaves”

Esther Htusan, Margie Mason, Robin McDowell and Martha Mendoza, The Associated Press

“Seafood from Slaves” is a series of stories exposing how seafood sold in U.S. grocery stores and restaurants was produced by slaves. The AP’s work prompted reforms and prosecutions — and the release of more than 2,000 people who had been held captive in horrific circumstances. Read more about the winners here.

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2015, “Innocents Lost”

Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch, Miami Herald

“Innocents Lost” is an examination of six years of child deaths in Florida — a project that immediately resulted in the most sweeping overhaul of child welfare laws in the state’s history. Read more about the winners here.

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2014, “Deadly Delays”

Team of five reporters, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Deadly Delays” sheds light on newborn screening programs that depend on speed and science to save babies from rare diseases. Through an analysis of nearly 3 million screenings, the series revealed how delays across hospitals have put babies at risk for disability and death. As a result, dozens of states overhauled their infant screening programs. Read more about the winners here.

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2013, “In God's Name”

Alexandra Zayas, Tampa Bay Times

“In God's Name” is a three-part series and year-long investigation revealed instances of abuse against children at unlicensed religious homes and boarding schools. Zayas also created searchable database outlining abuse cases across group homes in Florida. Read more about the winners here.

2012, “Methadone and the Politics of Pain”

Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong, The Seattle Times

“Methadone and the Politics of Pain” uncovered the pressuring of Medicaid patients to use the painkiller Methadone by the state of Seattle as a cheap alternative, despite warnings about its often fatal risks. Within days of publication, the state issued an emergency public-health warning of the drug's uncertainties and later removed methadone from its list of preferred drugs. Read more about the winners here.

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Editor’s note: Some of the links from this page are temporarily broken because of a system migration. However, all of the stories can be accessed by clipping and pasting the headline into Google. We apologize for this inconvenience.

2011, “Breach of Faith”

Ruben Vives and Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times

Following a detailed expose of municipal corruption through the issuing of enormous compensation packages in Bell, Calif., eight former and current city officials were arrested and the state controller’s office ordered municipalities around California to post the salaries of city employees on the Internet. “Breach of Faith” uncovered pervasive municipal corruption in the city of Bell, Calif. Read more about the winners here.

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2010, T. Christian Miller

T. Christian Miller, ProPublica

In a multi-part series, Miller's reporting brought to light the first publicly tallied data showing that more than 1,600 civilians have died and 37,000 injured while supporting U.S. soldiers. The series also revealed that insurance coverage for private contractors in war zones has become a boon for companies and a disaster for those who rely upon it for treatment and death benefits. Read more about the winners here.

2000 – 2009

2009, Sandra Peddie and Eden Laikin

Sandra Peddie and Eden Laikin, Newsday

Ubiquitous pension abuses and outrageous spending by local government districts on Long Island at the cost of millions of taxpayers’ money became the centerpiece of this investigative story. As a result of this project exposing corruption, New York state legislature passed a pension-reform package and stepped up regulation to end the corruption. Read more about the winners here.

2008, “Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army’s Top Medical Facility”

Dana Priest and Anne Hull, The Washington Post

The heavily neglected and deprecating living conditions for veterans within the Walter Reed Army Medical Center spurred the firing of the facility’s commanding general as well as the forced resignation of other top-ranking military personnel. Read more about the winners here.

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2007, Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman

Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman, Hartford Courant

Beginning an investigation in 2006, this reporting duo revealed how the U.S. military was sending troops with grave mental health and psychological problems into combat. As a result, Congress established new mental health screening programs for recruits and placed a cap on the amount of time mentally ill soldiers are mandated to stay in a war zone. Read more about the winners here.

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2006, “Investigating Abramoff – Special Report”

The Washington Post

The work of reporters and editors at The Washington Post uncovered deep congressional corruption by Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Their journalistic skills aided in Abramoff's four-year prison conviction for exchanging expensive gifts and trips for political favors. Read more about the winners here

2005, “Drinking Water”

The Washington Post

With this investigative story, more than 200 articles ran warning Washington D.C. residents of dangerously high levels of lead in the tap water. The report spanned nationwide and the Environmental Protection Agency launched an investigation into the misreporting of lead levels across numerous water facilities. Reporters and editors from The Washington Post exposed lead contamination in the District of Columbia water supply and the failure of public officials to inform and protect residents. Read more about the winners here

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2004, Asbury Park Press

Asbury Park Press – Gannett New Jersey

Before the New Jersey state election in 2003, the series exposed government officials more concerned with personal financial gain than the interests of their voters. Read more about the winners here

2003, “Abuse in the Catholic Church”

Boston Globe

Reporters at the Boston Globe joined forces to reveal misconduct within the Catholic Church. The series led to public outcry against Boston priests, state legislature requiring clergy to report sexual abuse, a national child-protection policy in the Catholic Church and ultimately the resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston, one of the nation's most influential Catholic prelates.

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2002, Heidi Evans and David Saltonstall

Heidi Evans and David Saltonstall, New York Daily News

Lorraine Hale, the co-founder of the highly regarded Hale House shelter serving women and children in Harlem, was exposed for funneling more than $500,000 in donor funds to outside projects and violating child adoption laws. As a result, Hale faced indictment on 72 counts of criminal activity. Read more about the winners here.

2001, “Quackenbush Secretly Routed Funds to TV Ads”

Virginia Ellis, Los Angeles Times

Virginia Ellis brought documents to light proving California’s state insurance commissioner funneled $1.9 million in public money to private political consultants and production studios for advertorial television slots. Shortly after publication, Quackenbush resigned. 

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2000, “The Rape Squad Files” and “Invisible Lives, Invisible Deaths”

Co-winners The Philadelphia Inquirer and Katherine Boo from The Washington Post

The Inquirer team was honored for their efforts in revealing the Philadelphia police department's questionable pattern of neglecting women's claims of rape. Post reporter Katherine Boo exposed the shocking abuses of mentally disabled people in Washington D.C. group homes.

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1990 – 1999

1999, “Deadly Force: An Investigation of D.C. Police Shootings”

The Washington Post

Five reporters from the Post were honored for an investigation revealing Washington D.C. police shot and killed more persons per resident in the 1990s that any other police force of a large American city. The story spurred a complete revamp of officer training programs, emphasizing alternatives to using deadly force. Read more about the winners here.

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1998, “The Shipbreakers”

Gary Cohn and Will Englund, The Baltimore Sun

USC Annenberg adjunct professor Gary Cohn and Will Englund revealed the covert shipbreaking industry, which was bringing often fatal danger to workers and the environment both domestically and overseas in India.

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1997, “Safety at Issue: the 737”

Byron Acohido, The Seattle Times

This five-part series took an in-depth look at technical, financial and regulatory issues circulating around a number of Boeing 737 crashes during the 1990s.

1996, “Battalion 316”

Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson, The Baltimore Sun

With their first Selden Ring Award, USC Annenberg adjunct professor Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson shed light on the Honduran army unity responsible for political assassinations and torture during the 1980s. It was also revealed that Battalion members received training and support from the CIA.

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1995, “Casinos”

The New Orleans Times-Picayune

A group of five reporters disclosed instances of local government officials touting the legalized gaming industry.

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1994, Eileen Welsome

Eileen Welsome, The Albuquerque Tribune

Eileen Welsome revealed classified information surrounding the U.S. government's willingness to expose thousands to radiation poisoning for experimentation, including 18 Americans who were unknowingly injected with plutonium.

1993, Roy Gutman

Roy Gutman, Newsday

Roy Gutman, Newsday’s European correspondent, exposed the tragic carnage of imprisonment, deportation, torture and murder of Muslims in Bosnian death camps, the United States increased humanitarian aid in Bosnia, urged the United Nations to form a war crime commission and thousands of prisoners were released.

1992, The Greenville News

The Greenville News

A team from The Greenville (South Carolina) News revealed that the University of South Carolina’s president was accepting extra compensation and lavishly spending. He resigned and was later indicted for using a public office for personal gain.

1991, Candy J. Cooper

Candy J. Cooper, The San Francisco Examiner

This investigation exposed the city of Oakland’s police department for actively disregarding rape allegations against women with previous drug or criminal records. As a result, more than 200 cases were reopened.

1990, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader

Co-winners Jane O. Hansen at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Lexington Herald-Leader

Jane O. Hansen’s series uncovered abuse and neglect against Georgia children in the state’s welfare system, and as a result, child protection legislation was enacted. Additionally, an investigation piece by a team of ten journalists from THe Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader revealed financial policies in the state's school system.