2010 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting goes to ProPublica's T. Christian Miller

T. Christian Miller, a senior reporter for the non-profit news outlet ProPublica and a former reporter at the Los Angeles Times, has won the 2010 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting, the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism announced today.

The $35,000 annual award, which has been presented for the past 21 years by the School of Journalism at USC Annenberg, honors the year’s outstanding work in investigative journalism that led to direct results.

Miller’s reporting revealed that insurance coverage for private contractors in war zones had become a boon for companies and a disaster for those who relied upon it for treatment and death benefits.

Miller’s work showed that more than 1,600 civilians have died while supporting U.S. soldiers in war zones, with another 37,000 injured. These numbers had not been publicly tallied before Miller launched his work, nor had contractors or their families had any vehicle for speaking out about the problems they were experiencing.

The work was planned and edited in a collaboration between ProPublica and the Times. Most of the stories were published in the Times; some were first published on ABC News, Salon, and in The Washington Post. All appeared on ProPublica’s Web site. Doug Smith, the database editor of the Times, contributed significant statistical research.

Speaking for the panel of seven judges, Melanie Sill, editor of The Sacramento Bee, said Miller’s work and its impact “remind us of the irreplaceable value original investigative journalism provides and the injustices it exposes and corrects.

“Without this groundbreaking reporting, many of these problems would not have come to light,” she continued. “Its impact was clear and continuing; the Labor Department, Congress, the Pentagon and the insurance companies all acted in decisive recognition that this reporting was accurate and important.”

Miller joined ProPublica in 2008 as a senior reporter based in Washington, D.C., after 11 years reporting for the Los Angeles Times. Earlier in his career he worked for the San Francisco Chronicle and the St. Petersburg Times. He has received an Overseas Press Club award, a Livingston Award for Young Journalists and the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Reporting. Miller is the author of Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq.

Three other finalists were selected from a pool of 64 entries that the judges found notable for their scope, depth and resulting public accountability: 

  • “When Caregivers Harm,” a collaboration of the Los Angeles Times and ProPublica, exposed significant flaws in the oversight of California nurses with disciplinary problems.
  • “Trust Betrayed,” the SunSentinel of South Florida’s series revealed inadequate screening of caregivers with criminal histories.
  • “Justice Delayed, Dismissed, Denied,” The Philadelphia Inquirer’s exhaustive investigation unearthed widespread failures in criminal prosecutions.

“It is enormously heartening in this challenging period for journalism to see the courageous and results-oriented investigative reporting being done by news organizations of all sizes and descriptions,” said USC Annenberg journalism school director Geneva Overholser. “I am particularly delighted that the winning entry represents a collaborative effort among nonprofit and commercial media, presented across multiple platforms. ProPublica’s T. Christian Miller has reported and written a Selden Ring winner worthy of this prize’s highest aspirations: to encourage intrepid, painstakingly thorough and critically important reporting that brings undeniable results.”

Miller will collect the award April 9 at a luncheon featuring investigative reporter Seymour Hersh and honoring the life of the prize’s benefactor, Douglas Ring, who died in November 2009.

ProPublica's reporting on civilian contractors in Iraq
Selden Ring Award
Selden Ring Award previous winners