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IRE Journalism Educators'
1999 IRE Awards
Return to The IRE Contest
1999 IRE Contest Winners and Finalists
The IRE Awards were established in 1979. Click on a date to see past winners:
1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989 1988 1987 1986 1985 1984 1983 1982 1981 1980 1979
Local Circulation Weeklies
"Above the Law," The Nashville Scene, Willy Stern.
This is Stern's second IRE award in as many years; a rare accomplishment. This time Stern used a wealth of documents and sources to build a rock-solid case against abusive security guards at a largely Hispanic apartment complex; guards who allegedly beat, abused and stole from tenants. He also revealed a sordid relationship between the security company and the Nashville Police Department, which resulted in double-dipping and compromised investigations of the abuse. The company went out of business and the series sparked local and federal investigations. Stern's obstacles included attempts to intimidate him, The Scene, and their sources.
Small newspapers (under 100,000)
- Fort Worth Weekly, Betty Brink, "Cruel and Unusual" Shoddy medical care at Carswell's Prison Hospital turns women's punishment into torture,.
- Los Angeles New Times, Susan Goldsmith, "Kaiser's Dirty Secret"
- The Dallas Observer, Thomas Korosec, "Anatomy of a Smear"
- The Cleveland Scene, Mike Tobin, "Comrades in Crime"
"Timecard Troubles," The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. Christopher Mele, Oliver
To look at their time cards it appears that Orange County N.Y. sheriff's deputies can be in two
places at the same time, or at least get paid for it. This is well-told classic "gotcha" showing how deputies
double-dipped, working part-time jobs while on the clock elsewhere. Excellent reporting job that just kept
building and building. The stories sparked a state investigation. They also generated a ticketing blitz
against their newspaper.
Medium newspapers (100,000 through 250,000)
- The Press of Atlantic City, Michael Diamond and John Froonjian, prosecutors, defenders doing private work on city time
- The Colorado Daily, Brian Hansen, Pamela White, Terje Langeland, Mark Collins and Amanda Hill, "Brave New CU: The university at a crossroads"
- The Leader-Telegram, Eric Lindquist, Traci Gerharz Klein and Dan Holtz, "Questionable Operators"
- Stars and Stripes, Gregory Piatt and Derald Everhart, "Death on the Tracks"
- The Waterbury Republican American, Sean Patrick Lyons, "A System Padded with Patronage"
"Deadly Alliance," The Toledo Blade, Sam Roe.
How government and industry chose weapons over workers. For decades, the U.S. defense industry has used beryllium in making nuclear bombs and other weapons. It was so key to the nation's defense, government officials said, that the industry and government sacrificed the health and lives of hundreds of workers exposed to the toxic metal. It was an exhaustive piece that forced into the open embarrassing information that government and industry wanted hidden, using tragic tales of people who spent years of their lives gasping for breath. The Blade prompted two congressional investigations, generated three bills to compensate victims and reopened a regulatory effort at OSHA. The series held up under intense scrutiny and an orchestrated attack by attorneys representing the key subject.
"Falling from the Sky," The Dayton Daily News, Russell Carollo.
When you join the military, you assume the enemy is your greatest threat. But for the men and women who fly the aircraft key to our armed forces, their greatest enemy is the shoddy work done to repair and maintain those planes and helicopters. Dozens of people have died from faulty military aircraft. The military kept this shameful record secret from the pilots who risked their lives to take to the air and the taxpayers who foot the bill for substandard work. The reporter used persistence and great knowledge of his sources to draw this story out, finding the details that proved the cover-up and the people to tell the human stories. It prompted a call for congressional hearings and changes in Defense Department policies regarding maintenance.
Large newspapers (over 250,000)
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Andrew Schneider, "Uncivil Action: A Town Left to Die"
- San Francisco Examiner, Lance Williams, "Outbreak"
- St. Paul Pioneer Press, George Dohrmann, Judith Borger, Rick Linsk, David Shaffer and Blake Morrison, University of Minnesota basketball scandal
"Invisible Lives, Invisible Deaths," The Washington Post, Katherine Boo.
A stylishly written, searing series that shows how a multi-billion dollar program to service the most vulnerable in society had totally failed. Not only were people dying but the people charged with keeping track of them failed to even keep track of their deaths. The Post went to incredible lengths to track retarded citizens being moved from large institutions to group homes. And it found that many were sexually assaulted, used as laborers, even treated as slaves. Boo's findings were so devastating that officials tried to shred documents after she asked for them. Brilliant reporting; passionate writing.
"Prosecutorial Misconduct ," Chicago Tribune, Ken Armstrong, Maurice Possley.
A sweeping and damning account of how the people who are paid to seek justice throw it all away to win. This astonishing tale, told in classic Chicago style, shows how prosecutors routinely commit the worst kinds of deceptions in order to obtain convictions. Among the reporters' findings: Since 1963, homicide cases nationally against 381 defendants have been thrown out because prosecutors concealed evidence suggesting the defendants' innocence or presented evidence they knew was false.
- Minneapolis Star Tribune, Chris Ison, Paul McEnroe and Randy Furst, "Investigating the U"
- The Houston Chronicle, Mark Smith and Jim Morris, "Texas Medicaid"
- The Baltimore Sun, James Haner, "Zombieland"
"Tobacco Slaves," 60 Minutes II, Bill Owens, Margaret Ebrahim, Scott Pelley.
This powerful piece brought the issue of child labor to life in a compelling way. Taking a simple object, a cigarette popular with U.S. teens, the reporters took us around the world, and revealed a tragic cost of the toil fueling this fad. The report put names and faces on a problem that refuses to go away. It helped prompt long-overdue action by the U.S. government to ban one company's importation of the cigarettes, and at the same time, revealed how our own infatuation with bureaucracy and diplomacy allowed the continued importation of the cigarettes, and the exploitation of the children who make them.
Top 20 markets
- ABC News 20/20, Diane Sawyer, Victor Neufeld, Ira Rosen, Robbie Gordon, Sarah Walker, Phuong Nguyen, Jenny Motier and Mike Hardee, "Surgery Seminars"
- Dateline NBC, Neal Shapiro, Allan Maraynes, Lea Thompson, Mark Feldstein, Tressa Verna, Rachel Burstein, Liz Brown, Jon Fine, David McCormick and David Corvo, "Keeping the Peace?"
- Dateline NBC, Colleen Halpin Rubino, Chris Hansen, Tressa Verna, Rachel Burstein, Adam Gorfain, Neal Shapiro and Marc Rosenwasser, "Body of Evidence"
- ABC News 20/20, Diane Sawyer, Catherine Harrington, Jason Maloney, Kate Hunt, Gary Fairman, Tony Wasserman, Irina Ratchkovskaya and George Englesos, "The Unwanted Children of Russia"
"The Investigation of First USA," WFAA Dallas, Valeri Williams, Lisa
Hampshire, Meridith Schucker, Jesus Hernandez, Don Smith.
Excellent results. One of the nation's largest credit card companies ripping off millions of customers for billions of dollars by charging often-fraudulent late fees and then upping interest rates. While WFAA was not the only entity to report the story, the station was extremely dogged in pursuing it, and it got results. The CEO resigned, numerous customers filed suit and the company suffered on Wall Street.
"Armed Forces Recruiting Fraud," WFAA. Dallas, Byron Harris, P.J. Ward, Chris Johnson.
Solid, traditional shoe-leather work here exposing blatant fraud among military recruiters. Recruiters arranged with a diploma mill to print required high school diplomas for recruits with GEDs. Enterprise from top to bottom. The station showed how some recruiters profit personally from the practice and nailed one recruiter red-handed. Judicious use of hidden cameras. The series also showed how some recruits who later admitted they paid recruiters for their diplomas were instead rejected as drug users, so the military would not have to face up to the diploma scam.
Below top 20 markets
- WMAQ TV Chicago, Dave Savini, Michele Rubenstein, Suzanne Richter, Mable Miller, Mark Ringo and Stephen Davis, "Kids In Confinement"
- WCCO Minneapolis, Julie Kramer, Julie Jacoby and Kevyn Burger, "Fighting for a Smile"
- KTRK TV Houston, Wayne Dolcefino, Steve Bivens, Kent Stallings and John Mubarak, "Classrooms Become Crime Scenes"
"Case Dismissed," WTHR Indianapolis, Bill Ditton, Jeremy Rogalski,
Kathleen Johnston, Gerry Lanosga.
A great job of exposing a failure in the criminal justice system that allowed drunken drivers to go free. The reporter developed his own database of six years of DUI arrests that showed 10 percent of cases were dismissed because police officers failed to show up in court. The reporter did an excellent job of getting the faces of DUI perpetrators and the victims who were affected by the systemic failure.
- WTVF Nashville, Jennifer Kraus, Mark Martin, Larry Brinton, Susan Niland, Mike Cutler and Paige Brown, "Feed the Children"
- WBAL Baltimore, Jayne Miller and Robert Moore, "Failure to Protect"
- WKRC Cincinnati, Jeff Hirsh and Jeff Barnhill, "Dead Man Driving"
- WTLV Jacksonville, Winston Dean, John Gardner and Laura Smith, "Condition Critical: Code of Silence"
- City Limits and Kemba Johnson, "The Harlem Shuffle"
- The Chicago Reporter, Danielle Gordon, "Death behind bars"
- Bloomberg News Service, Ed Leefeldt, Adam Levy, "Selective Disclosure Series: Whispers That Roar, The End of Earnings as We Know Them, Access Denied"
Tom Renner Award
- Nashville Scene, Willy Stern, "Above the Law"
- Bergen Record, Thomas Zambito, Mary Jo Layton, Pia Sarkar and Robert Gebeloff, "Home Health Care in Crisis"
"Disclosure Denied," and other work, APBnews.com, Amy Worden, James Gordon Meek, Bob Port, Ben Lesser and Sydney H. Schanberg
For their pioneering work to gather data and post it on the Internet for the benefit of the public, especially their efforts to gather and post financial disclosure forms of federal judges.
- The Public I, Maud S. Beelman, "U.S. Support for Tobacco Overseas: Going Out of Business?"
- ESPN.com, Tom Farrey, "Memos uncover alleged UT violations"
- APBnews.com, Jim Krane, "The Graying of America's Prisons"
"Spotlight on Secrecy," San Francisco Bay Guardian, Bruce B. Bruggmann and Bay Guardian Editorial Staff
This is the latest in a long history of fighting for access to public records. Shows why it is important to have open records. Uses concrete examples and focused on showing the public why openness is important. They took the lead in pushing for a ballot measure to improve access when the mayor and governor were opposed to it. It won with 59 percent of the vote. Excellent job of combining advocacy for open records with investigative reporting that shows what you can do with those records.
- "Disclosure Denied," "APBnews.com, itself, as a news
organization," Amy Worden, James Gordon Meek, Bob Port, Ben Lesser, Sydney H. Schanberg, APBnews.com.
- Florida Times-Union, Joe Adams, "The Florida Public Records Handbook"
- The Daily News, The New York Times Co., Newsday, A.P. and the NY Press Club for lawsuit against Rudolph Guiliani, Howard Safir and the City of New York.
"Animal Underworld: Inside America's Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species," Alan Green, The Center for Public Integrity.
With a passion for detail and an even-handed approach, this book documents the sophisticated business of laundering exotic animals and the paperwork that's supposed to keep track of them. Showed hypocrisy of animal conservationists who are opposed to "canned hunts" but who participate in them. The book also documented the hypocrisy of zoos and animal rights groups who pretend to be opposed to many of their own business practices.
- Charles C. Thompson II, W.W. Norton, "A Glimpse of Hell: The Explosion on the USS Iowa and Its Coverup"
- Joe Jackson and William F. Burke, Jr., Times Books, "Dead Run"
"Troubled Bridges," KOMU-TV, Channel 8, Columbia, MO., Mark Greenblatt.
Enterprising use of computer-assisted reporting, sourcing and internal documents to show that mid-Missouri's bridges are deteriorating and placing drivers in dangerous situations. Also uncovered improprieties in which tax dollars were used to repair a bridge used by a private firm. Partly as a result, two Missouri lawmakers have proposed the Emergency Bridge Repair and Replacement Fund to address the problem which would appropriate $25 million for the kinds of problems documented in this report.
- University Daily Kansan, Emily Hughey, "Coach Under Fire"
- The Columbia Missourian, Lynn May, Jeff Walling and Claire Hunt, "The Sturgeon Disaster: Twenty Years Later"