Prestigious Awards Go To FIJ-Supported Journalists

It’s been an extraordinary year for journalists working with support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.  In recent months, ten FIJ-supported grantees have been recognized for exemplary work just completed, or in progress.

Trevor Aaronson, writing for Mother Jones, won first place in the national/international category of the Data Journalism Awards, an international competition, for his article, “The Informants.” Aaronson examined terrorism prosecutions and discovered that a series of high-profile cases had started as FBI stings where the means, the plot, and the co-conspirators were all supplied by the FBI.  Mother Jones produced a video presenting a behind-the-scenes look at Aaronson’s data-driven investigation. In addition to receiving financial support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, Aaronson was supported by a year-long fellowship with the Investigative  Reporting  Program at the University of California-Berkeley. Aaronson was also named a finalist for the 2011 Livingston Awards for Young Journalists.

Sarah Favot, Kirsten Berg, and Jenna Ebersole, of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting were named finalists for the 2011 Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, for their project entitled “Our Youngest Killers,” which documented how a crackdown on “super predators” in Massachusetts developed into a profoundly inequitable system of justice for adolescents.

Bob Butler and Jessica Williams, reporting for The Lens of New Orleans, won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for Online News, Audio Investigative Reporting, for their investigative report: “One homeowner’s travails: Even after more than six years, family can’t move back into ‘new’ house.” The story documents a New Orleans woman’s unsuccessful efforts to rebuild her home, which had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, because she followed her mortgage company’s instructions to use most of her insurance proceeds to pay off her mortgage. Butler is a fellow with the G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism, which was also named as a winner of the award.

Isabel Morales and Julián Reséndiz, writing for the Dallas Morning News, won first place in the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors award for Spanish Language News, for their story “Claman justicia por sus muertos,” on human rights violations in Colombia.

Jason Berry won the Investigative Reporters and Editors Book Award, for his book “Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church” published by Crown Publishers. The judges of the Investigative Reporters and Editors award applauded Berry’s work for “shining a bright light on the shenanigans and inner workings of the Catholic Church” as he “uncovers abuses of the trust of church members by influential bishops who diverted funds intended for philanthropic purposes into accounts used for plugging Vatican operating deficits or defending priests accused of pedophilia.”

Susan Southard was a finalist for the 2012 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for her book, “Nagasaki,” which will be published by Viking Penguin. Her book will tell the story of five “hibakusha” (bomb-affected people) who were teenagers in 1945 when the U.S. dropped the atom bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.

Hella Winston, writing for The Jewish Week, won the 2012 Simon Rockower Award of Excellence in Jewish Journalism first place award for news reporting in large circulation newspapers. Her story, “In Lakewood Abuse Cases, ‘A Parallel System Of Justice’” revealed the intimidation faced by Lakewood New Jersey families who try to report allegations of sexual abuse within the Orthodox Jewish community to secular law enforcement. The judges’ comments: “Thoroughly reported, well-written story about an important problem and pressing moral issue. Kudos to the writer and her publication for bravery, and for handling story in such a professional manner.”

Mc Nelly Torres of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting won two awards for her investigative report, “School of Hard Financial Knocks,” exposing how Florida school districts misused funds intended to help low-achieving students. She won second place for Online Investigative Reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, which sponsors the Green Eyeshade Award, and a special citation for investigative reporting in small market print publications from the Education Writers Association.

Rebekah L. Cowell, writing for The Independent Weekly (Durham NC), won a 2011 Sigma Delta Chi Award for Investigative Reporting (non-daily publication). Her “Waste Land” series documented how low income and minority communities get stuck with other people’s waste in the form of city dumps, landfills, waste transfer stations, and hazardous waste sites.

Kelly Virella, Marc Fader, Anthony Smyrski, and Jarrett Murphy, writing for City Limits (New York City), won a 2011 Sigma Delta Chi Award for Magazine Investigative Reporting (regional/local circulation), for their “Behind Bars” series. Their investigation found that some prison staff never face consequences such as prosecution or loss of job for sexually abusing inmates, and that some guards have even conceived children with women prisoners.

The Fund for Investigative Journalism is proud to have supported such important work, and congratulates all the journalists who have been recognized as finalists and winners of these prestigious awards.

The Fund’s grant-making program is made possible by support from the Park Foundation, the Gannett Foundation, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Green Park Foundation, and generous donations from family foundations and individuals.