The Selden Ring Award For Investigative Reporting: A look back

For 29 years USC Annenberg has honored remarkable work in investigative journalism with the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting. A $35,000 prize is presented annually to reporters whose work effected change.

2018: “Quantity of Care” – Mike Baker and Justin Mayo (Seattle Times) 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. 

2017“Denied” – Brian M. Rosenthal (Houston Chronicle) A series revealing that Texas state educators systematically denied special education services to hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren with developmental, intellectual and physical disabilities.

2016: “Seafood from Slaves” - Esther Htusan, Margie Mason, Robin McDowell and Martha Mendoza (The Associated Press) 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.

2015: “Innocents Lost” - Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch (Miami Herald) 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.

2014: "Deadly Delays" - (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) A team of five reporters shed 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.

2013: "In God's Name" - Alexandra Zayas (Tampa Bay Times) 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.

2012: "Methadone and the Politics of Pain" - Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong (The Seattle Times) This story 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.

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.

2010: 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 war zone private contractors was directly benefitting companies instead of those seeking treatment and death benefits.

2009: 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, New York state legislature passed a pension-reform package and stepped up regulation to end the corruption.

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.

2007: 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.

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.

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.

2004: (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.

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.

2002: 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.

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.

2000: "The Rape Squad Files" - (The Philadelphia Inquirer), "Invisible Lives, Invisible Deaths" - Katherine Boo  (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.

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.

1998: "The Shipbreakers" - Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson (The Baltimore Sun) USC Annenberg adjunct professor Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson revealed the covert shipbreaking industry, which was bringing often fatal danger to workers and the environment both domestically and overseas in India.

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.

1995: (The New Orleans Times-Picayune) A group of five reporters disclosed instances of local government officials touting the legalized gaming industry.

1994: Eileen Welsome (The Albuquerque Tribune)  Eileen Welsome revealed classified information surrounding the U.S. government's willingness to expose thousands to radiation poisoning, including 18 Americans who were unknowingly injected with plutonium.

1993: Roy Gutman (Newsday) For exposing 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) As a result of exposing 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 (The San Franscisco Examiner) This investigation exposed the city of Oakland's police department was actively disregarding rape allegations against women with previous drug or criminal records. As a result, more than 200 cases were reopened.

1990: Jane O. Hansen (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), (The Lexington Herald-Leader) In a series uncovering abuse and neglect against Georgia children in the state's welfare system, child protection legislation was enacted. Additionally, an investigation piece based in Kentucky revealed  financial policies in the state's school system.