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IRE Awards Honor Detroit, Gitmo Probes.

Investigations ranging from Detroit to Guantanamo Bay are among the winners of the 2008 Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards, which are to be formally announced this morning.

This year's top prize, the IRE Medal, was given to WWL-TV in New Orleans "for its dogged rolling investigation of a city-run housing nonprofit that falsely claimed to have fixed homes in desperate need of repair after Hurricane Katrina, and the contractors who pocketed the money without doing the work."

On the newspaper front, lead winners were the Detroit Free Press's expose on the disgraced mayor's electronic messages, and McClatchy Newspapers' series on the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

But as notable were the mix of non-traditional media, such as the online-only Voice of San Diego, the coalition of journalists who formed the Chauncey Bailey Project, and the Center for Public Integrity and The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

"What's remarkable about these stellar investigations this year is that they were produced under the worst economic pressures our industry has ever faced," said James V. Grimaldi, chairman of the contest committee and a reporter at The Washington Post. "Some news organizations facing possible bankruptcy and massive job cuts have continued to pursue watchdog journalism that will make our society and the world a better place to live."

The top winners are:

* IRE Medal: Lee Zurik of WWL-New Orleans for "NOAH Housing Program."

* Tom Renner Award: Stefan Candea, Duncan Campbell, Te-Ping Chen, Gong Jing, Alain Lallemand, Vlad Lavrov, William Marsden, Paul Cristian Radu, Roman Shleynov, Leo Sisti, Drew Sullivan, Marina Walker Guevara, Kate Willson, David E. Kaplan of The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The Center for Public Integrity for "Tobacco Underground: The Booming Global Trade in Smuggled Cigarettes."

* FOI Award: Wayne Dolcefino, Steve Bivens and David Defranchi of KTRK-Houston for "The E-Mail Trail."

* Largest newspapers (Over 500,000 & wire service) (Tie): Jim Schaefer, M.L. Elrick, David Zeman, Jennifer Dixon and Dawson Bell of Detroit Free Press for "A Mayor in Crisis."

"Detroit Free Press reporters Jim Schaefer and M. L. Elrick spent four years trying to get text messages that Detroit's mayor exchanged with his top aide, eventually breaking stories of their affair, exposing perjury, and the expenditure of $9 million of taxpayer money spent to cover up wrongdoing and vast corruption in the Kwame Kilpatrick administration," IRE officials stated.

* Largest newspapers (Over 500,000 & wire service) (Tie): Tom Lasseter and Matthew Schofield of McClatchy Newspapers for "Guantanamo: Beyond the Law."

"McClatchy Washington Bureau reporters Tom Lasseter and Matthew Schofield invested extensive time and resources to track down 66 Guantanamo detainees in 11 countries on three continents over eight months to expose abuses at the Guantanamo Bay prison," the announcement said.

* Large newspapers (250,000-500,000): Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong of The Seattle Times for "Culture of Resistance."

"Through their skillful reporting, Berens and Armstrong exposed a silent killer epidemic of the antibiotic resistant bacteria known as MRSA, which Washington state hospitals ignored for decades," the judges said.

* Medium newspapers (100,000-250,000): Thomas Peele, Mary Fricker, Bob Butler, Josh Richman and A.C. Thompson of The Chauncey Bailey Project for "The Chauncey Bailey Project investigation."

"Under the most difficult of circumstances, the reporters exposed deep flaws in the police investigation of the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey," the announcement said. "Through tenacious reporting and deep source development, Chauncey Bailey Project reporters Thomas Peele, Mary Fricker, Bob Butler, Josh Richman and A.C. Thompson uncovered a stunning videotape linking someone to the murder, yet the individual has not been charged in the case and the evidence has been seemingly overlooked or dismissed by police."

Winners in other categories included:

* Small newspapers (Circulation under 100,000): Tim Fields and Joy Blackburn of The Virgin Islands Daily News for "Hospital Corruption."

* Local-circulation weeklies: Joaquin Sapien and Ben Welsh of the Fort Worth Weekly and the Center for Public Integrity for "Hear No Evil, Smell No Evil."

* Network/Syndicated: Jeff Fager, Bill Owens, Scott Pelley, Solly Granatstein, Nicole Young, Lamy Li, Kevin Livelli, Brad Simpson, David Lom and Tom Honeysett of CBS News--60 Minutes for "The Wasteland* Top 20 Markets : Joel Grover and Matt Goldberg of KNBC-Los Angeles for "Contaminated Water."

* Magazine/Specialty Publication: Keith Epstein, Brian Grow, Ben Elgin, Cliff Edwards and Chi-Chu Tschang of BusinessWeek for "Cyber-War."

* Book: James Bamford for "The Shadow Factory."

* Radio: Laura Sullivan, Amy Walters and Steve Drummond of NPR for "36 Years of Solitary: Murder, Death and Injustice at Angola."

* Online: Will Carless, Rob Davis and Andrew Donohue of for "The Redevelopment Investigation."

* Student (All Media): Kristen Coulter, Brian Hughes, Carolyn Crist, Matthew Grayson and Melissa Weinman of The Red & Black (University of Georgia) for "Sexual Harassment at UGA."

"This year's winners and finalists reflect the changing nature of investigative reporting," IRE Executive Director Mark Horvit said in a statement. "But they all share a commitment to exposing the truth and a willingness to devote the time and resources."
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Title Annotation:2008 Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards on Detroit expose and Guantanamo Bay detention
Author:Strupp, Joe
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Date:Mar 31, 2009
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