The Center for Investigative Reporting and “Reveal” radio have been honored with five National Headliner Awards for contributions to multiplatform journalism, ranging from an interactive database of California local government compensation to a national radio piece about deadly accidents in the U.S. Coast Guard.
First place in journalistic innovation went to Payday California, by Joanna Lin and Michael Corey, which tracks public pay for California’s 58 counties and 482 cities. The judges lauded Payday as an “easy to access tool, highly interactive,” that “places in the hands of the public essential information about how communities are spending their money, in comparison with other communities in the state.”
Putting the data in context, CIR’s analysis showed that even after controlling for population size and cost of living, some local officials received significantly higher pay. It also found that a state pay database, created to stop local government financial shenanigans, doesn’t include enough information to allow for a thorough analysis.
In the broadcast radio category, “Reveal” radio segments took the top two awards. Both were created for pilot episodes of the hourlong public radio show produced by CIR and PRX, which now is being aired on more than 270 stations across the country.
Reporter G.W. Schulz, producer Ben Adair and “Reveal” host Al Letson took first place for exposing a disturbing trend in the Coast Guard: deaths attributable to poor training and lapses in judgment. Combining never-before-reported data with riveting personal stories, Schulz found that two dozen aviators and other personnel were killed in the air and at sea, including four who died after their helicopter crashed into poorly marked power transmission lines that the Coast Guard had been told about but never fixed.
“An underreported story of the unexpectedly high incidence of deadly accidents in a branch of the service not normally associated with high mortality,” the Headliner Award judges wrote. “The story was richly reported and brought about results when the Coast Guard modified existing policy.”
Second place went to reporter Aaron Glantz and producer Adithya Sambamurthy for “Profiting Off the GI Bill,” an investigation into billions of dollars in aid meant for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans that has been hijacked by for-profit colleges, some offering little or no actual education or future job prospects. In a national database of more than 10,000 public, private and proprietary schools, Glantz found that California was the epicenter of the problem, with nearly 2 of every 3 GI Bill dollars spent there going to for-profit schools.
In broadcast television, CIR received two third-place awards. “To Kill a Sparrow,” a profile of a young Afghan woman imprisoned for trying to escape an unlawful forced marriage, was honored in the documentary category. Zohreh Soleimani gained exclusive access to a world rarely captured by the Western media, persuading male family members to speak candidly about their belief in absolute authority over their wives and daughters. The film was featured on The New York Times website, on Reveal TV via PBS and at numerous film festivals.
In the business and consumer category, “Who’s Behind the Takeover of the World’s Biggest Pork Producer?” investigated the largest-ever Chinese purchase of an American business. Nathan Halverson’s story for PBS NewsHour uncovered documents that proved that the U.S. Congress was misinformed when a Chinese company insisted it was not controlled by the Communist Party.
The National Headliner Awards have been given out by the Press Club of Atlantic City, New Jersey, since 1935.
Earlier this month, CIR was named an award finalist by Investigative Reporters and Editors in the large multiplatform category for its coverage of a neglected public housing complex in Richmond, California: Subsidized Squalor – which was told through not just text, photos and video, but also interactive graphics, poetry and a play. “The Box,” an animated video story of a teen’s experience in solitary confinement at Rikers Island, was named an honoree by the Webby Awards in the online video animation category.
In February, two other CIR projects received James Madison Freedom of Information Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California chapter: one for exposing the coerced sterilization of female prisoners in California, by Corey G. Johnson, and another for tracing the destructive route of Silicon Valley Superfund waste across the nation, by Matt Drange and Susanne Rust, partnering with the GuardianUS interactive team.