Journalists Sandra Peddie and Eden Laikin of Newsday (Long Island, N.Y.) have been named the winners of the 2009 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting. The duo was recognized for their articles exposing widespread corruption and systemic failures in local special government districts on Long Island.
The $35,000 award, which has been presented annually for the past 20 years by the School of Journalism at USC Annenberg, honors the year’s outstanding work in investigative journalism that led to direct results.
“In more than 100 stories over a year, the Newsday reporters uncovered and documented pervasive pension abuses, double-dipping by retirees and lavish spending by employees and retained lawyers of the little-noticed special districts that spend many millions of taxpayers’ money to provide services like water hookups and trash collection,” the judges wrote in their commendation, citing the breadth of the revelations and the resulting reforms.
“From story to story and one special district to another, their investigation grew organically to include statewide laws and practices,” the judges wrote. “Within months, the New York state legislature unanimously passed a pension-reform package and other legislation to address the abuses uncovered by Newsday. State government departments also changed rules and stepped up enforcement to end specific instances of corruption.”
"Rooting out corruption requires tenacity and dedication, and the team from Newsday exhibited those traits in abundance," said Geneva Overholser, director of USC Annenberg's School of Journalism. "Their work and the many other worthy entries show that investigative reporting -- so critically important to our nation -- continues strongly in cities across the country. We cannot assume that this will always be true. We are delighted that the Selden Ring Award serves to support and encourage this vital work."
The jury also gave high praise to Detroit Free Press reporters Jim Schaefer and M.L. Elrick for their “relentless but scrupulously fair” coverage of a perjury scandal that sent the mayor of Detroit and his top aide to prison.
Len Downie, vice president at large of The Washington Post and chair of the judges’ committee, focused on the reporting teams’ achievements in the face of economic uncertainty in the industry. “It’s important to note that both of these papers are under stress at the moment, and yet they still managed during this time to perform these great public services,” he said.
Other judges serving on the panel were:
- Caesar Andrews, former executive editor, Detroit Free Press
- Gilbert Bailon, editorial page editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- Brant Houston, Knight Chair in Investigative & Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois
- Sandra Mims Rowe, editor, The Oregonian
- Melanie Sill, editor and senior vice president, The Sacramento Bee
- Paul Steiger, editor-in-chief, president and chief executive, ProPublica
The winners were selected from a field of 69 nominations. In April, Peddie and Laikin will come to USC for the award presentation, meet with students and participate in an investigative journalism symposium co-sponsored by the Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Online News Association.
The Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting was established in 1989 by the late Selden Ring, a Southern California business leader and philanthropist. He started the award to honor journalists whose investigative reporting informed the public about major problems or corruption in society and yielded concrete results.
Winning series of articles
Selden Ring Award
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