New York Times Wins 2 Polk Awards for Investigative Reporting
The New York Times won two George Polk Awards for investigative reporting that uncovered corruption and drug trafficking behind the assassination of the Haitian president and revealed extensive details about U.S. airstrikes in the Middle East that killed civilians.
Long Island University, the home of the Polk Awards, announced the 15 winners on Monday. John Darnton, the curator of the awards since 2009, said that he had received 610 submissions, the most ever, and that they “came from far more sources of investigative reporting than ever before.”
“This speaks to the vitality and continued promise of a changing journalism landscape and is reason to feel optimistic about the future of our craft,” he said in a statement.
The staff of The Washington Post won the national reporting prize for “The Attack,” an online series that intricately examined the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, showing how law enforcement agencies were slow to act on warnings of violence beforehand and detailing the aftermath. More than 75 journalists at The Post contributed to the series, which relied on thousands of pages of documents and hundreds of interviews, videos, photographs and audio recordings.
The Post also received a second award, for technology reporting, that it shared with the Guardian U.S., along with the nonprofit organization Forbidden Stories. The prize was for “The Pegasus Project,” a global investigation that revealed that Israeli spyware had been used to hack the smartphones of journalists, business executives, politicians and human rights activists. Forbidden Stories organized a consortium of news organizations to delve into leaked files and pore over hundreds of documents.
The Wall Street Journal’s “Facebook Files” series, led by the reporter Jeff Horwitz, won the business reporting prize. The series, based on internal files from a whistle-blower, showed how Facebook executives ignored the company’s internal findings on how flaws in its platforms caused harm and were unwilling to fix them.
The award for foreign reporting went to Maria Abi-Habib, Frances Robles and the staff of The New York Times for reports that revealed a plot behind the murder of the Haitian president, Jovenel Moïse, linked to drug traffickers he was trying to expose. American officials say the investigation into his death has stalled. Ms. Abi-Habib interviewed more than 70 people to report on the president’s life in the months leading up to his assassination and uncovered corruption and self-dealing in the government.
Azmat Khan, a contributing writer, alongside The Times reporters Dave Philipps and Eric Schmitt and the staff of the paper won the military reporting award for investigations that uncovered the true toll of America’s air war in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The Pentagon was forced to admit that a drone strike during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan mistakenly killed 10 civilians, including seven children. Work from The Times’s visual investigations team that revealed the error was included in the entry. Documents uncovered by Ms. Khan further showed a pattern of errors and civilian deaths.
The local reporting award was won by Corey G. Johnson, Rebecca Woolington, Eli Murray and The Tampa Bay Times for an investigation into the Gopher Resource lead-smelting factory in Tampa, Fla., that found workers were exposed to dangerous conditions. Their reporting led to action by regulators and a six-figure fine for Gopher Resource.
Two Miami Herald reporters, Carol Marbin Miller and Daniel Chang, as well as ProPublica, were awarded the state reporting prize for “Birth & Betrayal,” a series that revealed how a Florida law to lower malpractice costs for obstetricians was preventing hundreds of families from getting adequate support to care for their severely brain-damaged children. A fund that was meant to provide for the children instead repeatedly turned down requests while amassing $1.5 billion in assets. Its director and board left in the wake of the reports, and the law was revised.
A New Yorker article by Ian Urbina, reported with The Outlaw Ocean Project, on the efforts by the European Union to keep out migrants received the international reporting award. Mr. Urbina and his team discovered that migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were intercepted at sea by Libyans and held indefinitely in Libyan detention centers, a shadow immigration system funded by the European Union.
Adam Feuerstein, Matthew Herper and Damian Garde of Stat, a medical news site, won the medical reporting award for revealing that Biogen had used a back-channel campaign with the Food and Drug Administration to get its Alzheimer’s treatment approved despite objections from the agency’s own scientific advisers.
The environmental reporting award was given to the ABC News anchor David Muir, the executive producer Almin Karamehmedovic and the producer Esther Castillejo for “The Children of Climate Change,” which aired on the ABC programs “World News Tonight” and “Nightline.” Mr. Muir’s dispatches from Madagascar depicted how climate change has led to a famine affecting half a million children.
Sarah Stillman, a staff writer at The New Yorker, won the Magazine Reporting award for her work tracing the exploitation and working conditions of the migrant laborers who contract for disaster-recovery firms to clean up the damage inflicted by climate disasters. She spent a year traveling to disaster zones and speaking with workers and climate-change experts.
Linda So, Jason Szep and the staff of Reuters were awarded the political reporting prize for their examination of intimidation and threats by supporters of Donald J. Trump against officials and poll workers involved in the electoral process of the 2020 election. The Reuters team tracked down nine people responsible for a series of threats who said they believed they had done nothing wrong. Only two expressed regret.
The award for local television reporting went to Dave Biscobing of KNXV, an ABC affiliate in Phoenix, for reports that revealed the Phoenix Police Department and Maricopa County attorney’s office had falsely charged Black Lives Matter protesters as members of a criminal street gang.
The national television reporting honor was awarded to A.C. Thompson of ProPublica for his documentary “American Insurrection,” an examination of the rise of far-right extremism. The documentary was produced with the PBS series “Frontline” and the investigative journalism program at the University of California, Berkeley.
CNN’s chief foreign correspondent, Clarissa Ward, and her crew won the foreign television reporting prize for their coverage of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the rapid Taliban takeover. Ms. Ward’s dispatches showed Taliban revelers in the chaotic streets of Kabul while some women were too afraid to leave their houses and many were desperately trying to find a way out of the country.
The winners of the Polk Awards, named after George Polk, a CBS News correspondent who was murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war, will be honored at a lunch in April.
Long Island University also announced a new award this year: the Sydney H. Schanberg Prize. Named for a longtime journalist at The New York Times, the prize honors long-form investigative or enterprise journalism that deals with conflicts, corruption, military injustice, war crimes or authoritarian government abuses. The award, funded by Mr. Schanberg’s widow, the journalist Jane Freiman Schanberg, comes with a $25,000 gift.
Mr. Schanberg, who died in 2016, won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Cambodia’s fall to the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. His account of the life of his colleague, Dith Pran, inspired the 1984 film “The Killing Fields.”
The inaugural winner of the new award, announced this month, is Luke Mogelson, a contributing writer for The New Yorker, for “Among the Insurrectionists,” his 12,000-word account of the unfolding of the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, along with videos he filmed while inside the Capitol with the rioters.