Speaking truth to power: thirty-five works by Nieman Pulitzer winners that tackle abuses of power.
EDITORIAL WRITING, 1958
Harry S. Ashmore NF '42
In a series of anti-segregation editorials, Ashmore criticized Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus for his unwarranted interference in the confrontation over the admission of black students to a Little Rock high school in 1957.
In his lengthy telegram to President Eisenhower asking for understanding and support, Governor Faubus said among other things that he had not had his "day in court" to explain why his fear of possible violence was so great that he had decided to call out the National Guard to prevent integration at Central High School.
We believe that the governor should have such a day--and that it should be in federal court as soon as possible.
There is, as it happens, a clear precedent. In a Texas case in 1932 the governor of that state called out the militia on the ground that the effort to enforce a federal law limiting oil production would produce violence. In a unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice Hughes, the Supreme Court rejected two basic contentions of the Texas officials--first that the governor was personally beyond the jurisdiction of the federal courts, and second that the reason for his calling out the militia was not a proper matter for the court to consider. The Supreme Court held that the reverse was true in both instances--that the governor was subject to injunction in any constitutional matter and that his action in calling out the Guard to prevent violence where none yet existed was really the heart of the matter.
And the Court significantly noted further that in any event the only proper purpose for calling out the militia was to enforce the law, not to prevent its enforcement.
These are precisely the questions Governor Faubus has posed in the present case. Here as in the Texas action the heart of the matter is whether in fact the threat of violence was so real that Mr. Faubus was justified in preventing by force of arms the carrying out of a federal court order.
It is a question that must be settled if the impasse is to be resolved.
We hope, therefore, that Mr. Faubus is prepared to accept his "day in court" if it is offered to him, and in the act of accepting also indicate his willingness to abide by the court's final decision.
If he refuses the only assumption will be that he is embarked upon a course deliberately designed to test the powers of his state office against those of the federal government. Having used force himself he would thus invite the federal government to reply in kind--with consequences that defy the imagination.
Gene Roberts, NF '62
"The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation"
(co-authored by Hank Klibanoff)
The former executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, where his staff won 17 Pulitzers, Roberts--along with co-author Klibanoff--probe press coverage of the civil rights movement, revealing how newspapers and the broadcast media came to recognize the importance of the struggle and brought it to the nation's attention.
Massive and passive resistance were born ten days apart in the same incubator of the South.
Massive resistance emerged on the editorial pages of the Richmond News Leader on November 21, 1955. In the weeks that followed, the idea was welcomed with great excitement as it rolled across the South.
Passive resistance was ushered into the world quietly on December 1, 1955, greeted the next day by a five-paragraph news story at the bottom of page nine of the Montgomery Advertiser beneath the headline "Negro Jailed Here for 'Overlooking' Bus Segregation."
Massive resistance was delivered by James Jackson Kilpatrick, the young, brash Richmond newspaper editor who christened it "interposition," after a 157-year old doctrine. Interposition was presented on that day--and for the next six weeks--in the form of lengthy, pedantic and passionate editorials that declared the right and obligation of the individual states to stand between the people and their federal government in order to take back powers seized unconstitutionally from the states.
Passive resistance was midwifed by a Negro seamstress and NAACP activist, Rosa Parks, who violated city ordinance and Alabama state law by refusing to give up her seat on a municipal bus to a white man. Her decision to challenge the laws inspired Montgomery's 48,000 Negro residents to launch a bus boycott that was immediately 90 percent effective and that continued for an extraordinary 381 days, constituting the first large-scale and enduring modern protest for Negro rights.
Both massive and passive resistance were conceived from the same seed: Supreme Court verdicts that upheld desegregation. Massive resisters sought to nullify such verdicts; passive resisters sought to expand them. Neither attracted much national attention. They differed in the attention they received in the South. As the tactic of interposition stormed through every Southern state capital, the press covered it as if a supernatural force had been discovered to save a troubled region; but the birth of passive resistance received little notice.
Excerpt from THE RACE BEAT: THE PRESS, THE CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLE, AND THE AWAKENING OF A NATION by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff, copyright [c] 2006 by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
EDITORIAL WRITING, 1992
Maria Henson NF '94
What started out as a single editorial, written after a Lexington woman was fatally shot by her abusive husband, turned into a series of editorials about battered women in Kentucky. Henson's work incited a statewide discussion about domestic violence and prompted legislative reforms. Now associate vice president and editor at large at Wake Forest University, Henson recently recalled what motivated her.
What drove me as a 29-year-old journalist reporting editorials about battered women and their children? Burning outrage and abiding sorrow. How could Kentucky have laws that promised protection but delivered unequal, lackadaisical enforcement by police, prosecutors and judges? Why should women have to "judge shop" by traveling to several counties for a protective order or, in one case, face a judge whose idea of relief was ordering a beaten woman and her batterer to church on Sundays? How could the law fail to help young women whose boyfriends beat them? How could it exclude in custody decisions the damage suffered by children who witnessed the violence?
Those questions haunted me as I traveled the state. With superb guidance by Lexington Herald-Leader editor John Carroll, NF '72, and editorial page editor David Holwerk, I was able to publish a modern-day crusade that we termed investigative editorials. Beginning in December 1990, the editorials in the "To Have and To Harm" series appeared off and on for more than a year. We identified the problems and offered solutions. The beaten women themselves, named and appearing in photographs on the editorial page (a practice unheard of at the time), allowed me to tell their stories.
My constant faith in what is possible with journalism dates to that time. I remember being asked to speak to a tiny women's group in rural Kentucky. The president thanked me, presenting me with a red velvet cake that must have tipped the scales at six pounds and promising her group would work on the issue. Businesswomen lined up support. My favorite to this day is Clayton Bradley. She owned Scotty's Pink Pig Bar-B-Que not five minutes from the state capitol. When she realized she knew one of the women in the series, she mounted her own campaign. She handed out "To Have and To Harm" reprints with every order of barbecue and hush puppies and, in turn, ordered her customers to call legislators to support domestic violence bills. The toll-free number was on the whiteboard behind the counter.
Robert A. Caro NF '66
"Master of the Senate"
In "Master of the Senate," the third installment of "The Years of Lyndon Johnson" biography (of which there are currently four published volumes; a fifth is expected), Caro explores Johnson's rapid ascent in the U.S. Senate. Interwoven into the narrative is an examination of how legislative power works in America, details Caro gleaned from years of research that included examining thousands of documents and interviewing hundreds of sources, from senators to coatroom clerks.
Lyndon Johnson once told a friend: "I'm just like a fox. I can see the jugular in any man and go for it, but I always keep myself in rein. I keep myself on a leash, just like you would an animal." That self-assessment is only half true. Power corrupts--that has been said and written so often that it has become a cliche. But what is never said, but is just as true, is that power reveals. When a man is climbing, trying to persuade others to give him power, he must conceal those traits that might make others reluctant to give it to him, that might even make them refuse to give it to him. Once the man has power, it is no longer necessary for him to hide those traits. In his use of power during his Senate years, Lyndon Johnson sometimes reined himself in--and sometimes he didn't. He used the powers he found and the powers he created with a raw, elemental brutality. Studying something in its rawest and most elemental form makes its fundamental nature come clear, so an examination of these sources of power that Johnson discovered or created, and of his use of them, should furnish insights into the true nature of legislative power, and into its potentialities.
Excerpt from MASTER OF THE SENATE: THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON by Robert A. Caro, copyright [c] 2002 by Robert A. Caro, Inc. Used courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
GENERAL NONFICTION, 1990
Dale Maharidge NF '88
"And Their Children After Them" (photos by Michael Williamson)
Maharidge and Williamson revisited rural Alabama to find out what happened to the families of the poor sharecroppers chronicled by another writer-photographer pair, James Agee and Walker Evans, in the 1941 book "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men." In the process, they reported on the collapse of the tenant farming system.
Frank points to twenty acres of tall grass across the road, an overgrown field between the pavement and the distant tree line. By squinting, one can faintly see finger pines poking through the matted blades in the fading light of dusk.
"You see that lan' over there? I was workin' it. Now it's 'n pine. They planted them a few years ago. That white woman won' sell it. And she won' rent it. She jus' planted it 'n pine. It's like that all roun' here. Them whites jus' won' rent the lan', let anyone farm."
They are landlocked by white landowners on all sides. Those landowners control vast holdings, and Gaines views them as their largest difficulty. That twenty-acre section is part of the cotton land he worked for Mr. Gumbay long ago. It is still owned by Mrs. Gumbay. He'd like to plow it again in order to raise food on it to feed his family. If he could plant com there, he says, they'd be able to survive better. "Me and my fam'ly can do it, but it ain' 'nough," says Frank of the farming they used to do to supplement their scant income. Now, in summer, a plane descends and sprays that land with herbicides, to kill the weeds that might compete with the pines.
The Gaineses are trapped in this bend of the river, still affected by a plantation matriarch. In 1986, the cycle of change brought by the collapse of the cotton empire is not complete. Rural blacks like Gaines are still trying to cope. The old ones are stuck here. Many of the young ones can no longer go north for jobs. That escape valve has been closed to them. The land, more and more of it now forested, is off-limits and unavailable as an instrument of support for them. There seems to be no easy solution in sight for people like the Gaineses.
Excerpt from AND THEIR CHILDREN AFTER THEM by Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson. Originally published by Pantheon, 1989; now published by Seven Stories Press.
LOCAL INVESTIGATIVE SPECIALIZED
Gene Miller NF '68
The Miami Herald
Miller won the first of two Pulitzers for his investigations into the cases of two people wrongfully convicted of murder. Both were released from prison as a result of Miller's work.
This is a personal account of a 21/2-year failure. It is about a girl imprisoned for two murders in Louisiana. Her name is Mary Hampton. I believe she can be proved innocent.
I want to label this newspaper story clearly. It is opinion.
Let me make something else clear at the beginning. Most newspapers, this one included, try hard to be fair. I sometimes think that if the 20th Century press could report the crucifixion of Christ, the second paragraph would be an explanation from Pontius Pilate.
The point I am trying to make is this: In the case of Mary Hampton, I am personally far beyond a position of so-called journalistic fairness.
The State of Louisiana, I believe, is inflicting a terrible wrong upon Mary Hampton; a wrong judicial and moral. Somehow, by incompetency, by ignorance, by stupidity, by ineptitude, perhaps by sheer carelessness, or possibly by deliberate design, the State of Louisiana erred judicially.
Mary Hampton, in my opinion, no more committed the crimes for which she is incarcerated than did Grandma Moses or Mamie Eisenhower.
Yet, worse perhaps than her imprisonment, is the attitude of the State of Louisiana. It refuses to examine the possibility of error, let alone acknowledge or rectify error.
My opinions, I also realize, are meaningless in a court of law.
NATIONAL REPORTING, 1986
George Rodrigue NF '90
The Dallas Morning News
Rodrigue and Craig Flournoy won The Dallas Morning News's first Pulitzer for their investigation into the racial discrimination and segregation pervading public housing in East Texas and across the country.
Despite federal laws prohibiting racial discrimination, the nearly 10 million residents of federally assisted housing are mostly segregated by race, with whites faring much better than blacks and Hispanics.
In a 14-month investigation of the country's 60,000 federally subsidized rental developments, The Dallas Morning News visited 47 cities across the nation and found that virtually every predominantly white-occupied housing project was significantly superior in condition, location, services and amenities to developments that house mostly blacks and Hispanics.
The News did not find a single locality in which federal rent-subsidy housing was fully integrated or in which services and amenities were equal for whites and minority tenants living in separate projects.
In the blistering heat of Kern County, Calif., local public housing officials provide one overwhelmingly white-occupied project with central air conditioning and the other white project with new air coolers. Tenants at five of the seven predominantly minority projects and the one integrated project have neither.
In the southern Georgia community of McRae, the white project has a well-equipped playground, offstreet parking and paved streets. The black project has none of these amenities, and its tenants say the housing authority fails to make repairs. Leona Hurst, head of the McRae Housing Authority, said black tenants are responsible for most of the maintenance problems because "the blacks just don't keep the property up."
In Marshall, Mo., there are four white projects and one black project. On a snowy day in December 1983, housing authority Executive Director Jack McCord illegally tried to evict all the tenants in the black project. McCord said the eviction was necessary because the black tenants refused to tell him who was responsible for "vandalism, parties, harassments, breakins, etc."
Although he later agreed to halt the eviction process, McCord said he is moving only white tenants into the black project instead of the "yahoos." Said tenant leader Ylantha Erby of such treatment, "You feel like a dog, like you're less than human."
[c] 1986 The Dallas Morning News, Inc.
LOCAL REPORTING, 2010
Raquel Rutledge NF '12
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
In the investigative series "Cashing in on Kids," Rutledge exposed the poor oversight and fraud that were hallmarks of Wisconsin's $350 million taxpayer-subsidized child-care system. Her stories prompted a crackdown on fraudulent daycare providers.
The two-story house on 17th St. looks typical of the working-class homes on Racine's west side. Three bedrooms, one bath. Assessed by the city at $122,000.
Yet inside, a young woman has tapped into a home-based money-making operation that netted her and her three sisters more than half a million in taxpayer dollars since 2006.
And they did it with the blessing of the state.
All four had been in-home child-care providers. Collectively they have 17 children. For years, the government has paid them to stay home and care for each other's children.
Nothing illegal about it under the rules of Wisconsin Shares, the decade-old child-care assistance program designed alongside Wisconsin's welfare-to-work program.
"It's a loophole," said Laurice Lincoln, administrative coordinator for child care with the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services. "Do we have concerns about it? Yes, it can be a problem. But if it's allowed, it's allowed. We really can't dispute it." The Journal Sentinel spent four months investigating the $340 million taxpayer-supported program and uncovered an array of costly problems--including fraud. But the investigation also revealed a system rife with lax regulations that have paved the way for abuse by parents and providers.
* Sisters or other relatives can stay home, swap kids and receive taxpayer dollars. The four Racine sisters took in as much as $540,000 in taxpayer dollars in less than three years, mostly to watch each other's kids.
* Rules allow parents to be employed by child-care providers and enroll their children at the same place. At some centers, children of employees make up the majority of kids in day care. In one Milwaukee location, an employer and parents are accused of teaming up to bilk the system out of more than $360,000.
* Child-care subsidy recipients have been allowed to work for almost any type of business. Payments were made when moms claimed to work ironing a man's shirts, drying fruit and selling artwork they made during art class.
INTERNATIONAL REPORTING, 2003
Mary Jordan NF '90
The Washington Post
Jordan and her husband Kevin Sullivan, co-bureau chiefs of the Post's Mexico City bureau, were recognized for their exposure of the treacherous and unjust conditions in the Mexico criminal justice system.
The cop looked Jimmy Salguero in the eyes and asked the question that would change his life.
"What's your name?" he said.
"Jimmy Salguero," said Jimmy Salguero.
The officer clicked a few keys on his computer keyboard.
"No, you're Jaime Garcia," he said.
"No I'm not," he insisted.
But it was no use. It was a Friday night, and the police would look good ending the week with a prize arrest. So a Guatemalan painter named Jimmy Salguero became Tijuana robber Jaime Garcia.
Telling the story later, Salguero, 32, said that he had been just another face in Tijuana, living in a Salvation Army shelter and trying to scheme his way across the border into the United States.
To pick up some cash, he had taken a job painting apartments. As he left work that evening in May 2000, the police stopped him and four Mexican painters and asked for their identification. The others produced ID cards. Salguero had none.
The officers whispered among themselves, then hauled him to the station, gave him a new name and sent him to La Mesa, one of the most notorious prisons in Latin America.
When Salguero protested, the cops punched him. They told him to shut up.
Behind bars, month after month, everyone called him Jaime.
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING, 1985
William K. Marimow NF '83
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Marimow's series of articles exposed that city police dogs had attacked more than 350 people--often without justification--and led to investigations of the Philadelphia Police Department's K-9 unit, resulting in the removal of more than a dozen officers.
It was nearly 1 o'clock in the morning last May 31 when an exuberant Matthew Horace bounded up the subway staircase on the east side of City Hall.
Like thousands of others, Horace had come to Center City to celebrate the Sixers' sweep of the NBA Championship Series. He was looking for a good time. He never found it.
As he stepped out of the stairwell, Horace saw a snarling German shepherd, followed by four or five police officers, moving rapidly toward him. Alarmed, he turned and began walking fast. It was too late. Moments later, Horace was clinging to a traffic light and screaming as Macho, a police K-9 dog, ripped his right sneaker off and sank his teeth repeatedly into Horace's foot.
Police officer Daniel Bechtel finally pulled the dog off and shouted at Horace to "get the f- out of here," Horace recalls. Then, as fast as they had appeared, Bechtel and the dog disappeared into the crowd. But Matthew Horace was in no shape to go anywhere. After bystanders helped him hobble to 13th and Market Streets, two other police officers drove him to Hahnemann University Hospital. He would remain there for a week.
Matthew Horace, a man with no criminal record, then or now, has plenty of company. A three-month Inquirer investigation has found that a hard core of errant K-9 police officers, and their dogs, is out of control.
Furthermore, the Police Department has made no attempt to hold these men, or their colleagues, to any sort of written guidelines or standard procedures spelling out when to attack and when to hold back.
Nor has the department shown any interest in monitoring the performance of its 125-man K-9 unit or trying to keep track of unjustified attacks by dogs.
The problem is severe enough that Anthony Taff, the man who founded the Philadelphia K-9 unit 22 years ago, disavows the manner in which the dogs are currently trained. He also believes that a small but significant minority of officers are failing to contain their dogs or are commanding them to attack and maul citizens needlessly.
FEATURE WRITING, 2000
J.R. Moehringer NF '01
Los Angeles Times
Moehringer's "Crossing Over" is a portrait of Gee's Bend, Alabama, an isolated river hamlet that is home to many descendants of slaves. A proposal to bring back ferry service to the mainland prompted soul-searching among whites and blacks.
[The Rev. Martin Luther] King delivered a message that amounted to Revelation for Mary Lee: He told her that she might not speak with perfect grammar, might not own more than one dress, might not be more than a dirt farmer descended from slaves, but she was every bit as good as those white folks across the river. Tears filled his eyes as he shouted, 'I come over here to Gee's Bend to tell you--you are somebody.'
No one had ever said that to Mary Lee before.
Another time, Mary Lee saw King in Camden and gave him a big hug. She met him again in Selma and watched in awe as he drank from a 'whites only' fountain.
'I never saw a black person do a thing like that!' she says. 'I was so glad. I said, 'I'm going to get me a taste my own self.' My sister tried to hold me back by the coat. I said, 'You're welcome to that coat. I'm getting me some of that water.'
She savors the memory.
'You know,' she says, 'it was no more different than other water. But it was colder.'
Her heart drummed hardest when King described the future. Like Mary Lee, he saw the future in his dreams. I have a dream, he kept saying,
I have a dream.
I have them too, Mary Lee thought.
It was around then that white folks got together and decided the ferry had to go. Maybe they couldn't stop King, or his movement, but they could sure as hell keep a bunch of troublesome Negroes on Gee's Bend.
There was no public meeting, no notice in the newspaper. Mary Lee and others just went down to the river one day and found their link to Camden cut. Though cars were rare, and the dirt roads of Gee's Bend were impassable much of the year, Benders now would be forced to drive around the river whenever they needed to buy a hoe or see a doctor.
'We didn't close the ferry because they were black,' Sheriff Lummie was rumored to have said. 'We closed it because they forgot they were black.'
SPECIALIZED REPORTING, 1987
Alex S. Jones NF '82
The New York Times
"In bringing up my children, I somehow did not get across to them that people have to make compromises, " said Barry Bingham Sr., patriarch of a Kentucky family known for its 20th-century media empire. Jones provided a portrait of the powerful family whose dynasty was crushed by bickering between siblings.
"It's a sad day for all of us," said Paul Janensch, executive editor of The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times, hoarsely addressing several hundred somber co-workers who had jammed the company cafeteria to consider their uncertain future. It was 3 P.M. on Friday, Jan. 10, the day after the abrupt announcement that the Bingham family, the glamorous and tortured clan that had owned the newspapers for almost 70 years, was selling out.
The decision to sell was a shock, but not a surprise. For two years the staff had watched as the Binghams warred with each other over the family holdings. Finally, in desperation, Barry Bingham Sr., the 79-year-old patriarch, decided to sell, hoping that his decision would somehow bring a semblance of peace to the family. What it brought initially was a blistering accusation of betrayal from Barry Bingham Jr., the son who has run the family companies since the early 1970's.
Barry Jr. resigned in anger and was in the cafeteria to speak. "In my proprietorship here," he said, "I've tried to operate these companies so that none of you would be ashamed of the man you work for."
When he had finished, the employees rose as one in a standing ovation. Many wept. But the applause was not entirely for Barry Jr., it was also for his stand against selling. And the tears were for themselves, for the uncertain future of the newspapers, for the tragedy of the Binghams and for the passing of an era.
News of the sale prompted a flood of expressions of grief, mostly from Kentuckians, mourning the end of the Bingham stewardship. Under the Binghams, the Courier-Journal won eight Pulitzer Prizes, establishing the newspaper as one of the finest in America.
For large families struggling with the problems of multi-generational ownership of a business, the saga of the Binghams and their failure to hold together was particularly poignant. And for the dwindling number of families still operating their own newspapers, the news from Louisville was chilling.
For the proud Binghams--a clan of southern patricians who are often compared to the Kennedys because they share a history of tragic death and enormous wealth--the pain of selling was redoubled because it may have been avoidable. It is not financial duress forcing the sale, but implacable family strife, as ancient as the struggle between Cain and Abel.
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING, 1988
Ann Marie Lipinski NF '90
In the series "The Spoils of Power," Lipinski, Dean Baquet, and William Gaines revealed the waste, self-interest, and profiteering that dominated the proceedings of the 50-member Chicago City Council During their six-month investigation, they examined land transactions, zoning changes, and vouchers reflecting expenditures of all 28 council committees over an 18-month period.
On Sept 17, 1985, as the Chicago City Council prepared for its annual budget hearings, Aid. Edward Burke (14th), chairman of the council's Committee on Finance, warned that the city was facing a $50 million revenue gap.
Thirteen days later, Aid. Patrick Huels (11th) sent his secretary to a Wabash Avenue store to pick up office supplies for his Committee on Licenses. The secretary returned with five picture frames and two pen-and-pencil sets, including a 10-karat gold-filled, green onyx Cross desk set. Taxpayers picked up the bill for $326.29.
Between that date and the end of the year, Huels' committee, with a budget of $107,044 in public funds, met only twice and approved no legislation, although 11 ordinances were pending before it.
In the following year, Huels used committee funds to pay for monthly car-phone bills ranging from $38.80 to $327,744 a $22-a-month beeper service; a $350 "hands free duplex" to allow him to use the phone outside his car; a $155 telephone delivered to his ward office; $100 in cab fare coupons; a $103 Polaroid camera; an oak computer cabinet, chair and hutch priced at $312; and a $621 unitemized Diners Club International charge for "office equipment."
Huels' purchases were typical of how the $5.3 million in taxpayers' funds budgeted for city council committees are spent by the aldermen who run them.
And although they are spending, most of the committees aren't working. Last year, fewer than half of the council committees met more than six times.
INTERNATIONAL REPORTING, 1981
Shirley Christian NF '74
The Miami Herald
Christian was recognized for her dispatches from Central America. Her specialty was reporting on the human dimensions of political strife.
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala--"If you want to cry out for the dignity of the human being, in this country they say you are a Communist. I am Communist as Jimmy Carter, but here, liking Carter instead of Reagan means you are on the left. What is certain is that Guatemala is going to explode, sooner or later, whoever is president of the United States."
Irma Flaquer, establishment woman, is speaking. Private secretary to former President Julio Cesar Mendez Montenegro in the late 1960s, she now is assistant editor of a newspaper that plays by the rules. She knows the right people. Establishment, but outspoken.
Last December, she and some equally establishment acquaintances founded the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission. The idea was that they, as people representing neither extreme right nor extreme left, nor political parties, would try to shed some light on the two-pronged violence sweeping Guatemala--on one hand, virtual war between guerrillas and the army in three rural provinces; on the other, unsolved political assassinations that are averaging more than a hundred a month. The plan was to gather facts and figures, with cold objectivity,
However, Flaquer says officialdom blocked their efforts to investigate clashes in the countryside. At the same time, the commission members began receiving anonymous death threats, by mail and telephone. Some members fled to safety in exile, including a retired army colonel.
Flaquer says she told Carlos Toledo Vielman, information secretary for the military president, Gen. Romeo Lucas Garcia, about the threats she was receiving.
"He told me to be careful," she said with a half-smile.
A month ago, the Human Rights Commission gave up. The remaining members dissolved it with a warning that Guatemala is headed for self-destruction.
PUBLIC SERVICE, 1972
Hedrick Smith NF '70
The New York Times
Smith recalls his time as a member of the team at the Times that worked on the Pentagon Papers.
For three months, Neil Sheehan and I disappeared into the mass anonymity of a 24th-floor suite at the New York Hilton while we dug through 20 years of Top Secret/Eyes Only documents.
By 1971, we had each had our fill of the dupery and deceptions of U.S. officialdom from generals in Saigon to the briefers in Washington. Like millions of Americans, we had lost faith in the government as well as the Vietnam War.
What we quickly learned was that behind his confident facade, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had undergone his own soul-searching disenchantment. Understanding that the war was lost, McNamara had commissioned a secret history of the war from Eisenhower through Kennedy to Johnson to find out what went wrong.
Disillusioned as we were, we were still shocked by how the files documented two decades of prevarications, double-dealing, and manipulations of friends, allies, Congress, and the American public by the highest U.S. officials. "Rick, another lie!" Sheehan would shout as he pounced on some new chicanery. "They were lying to us all the time."
We decided not to tap the report's "diplomatic annex" because that might endanger ongoing peace negotiations and we had no intention of risking harm to national security. But most of this vast trove amounted to a massive "after-action" report on military and political history that, however embarrassing to the U.S. government and its leaders, posed no threat to ongoing military operations or to national security.
Fearing discovery, we never used our own names on the phone or hotel records. We ordered and paid for everything in the name of Jerry Gold, a Times editor who led the team that selected the most telling top-secret documents for publication. And while we toiled in secrecy, the Times masthead leadership was embroiled in a monumental battle.
Executive Editor Abe Rosenthal, though a supporter of the war, was rock solid with us in arguing that publishing the Pentagon Papers was an essential mission of the media--to hold three presidential administrations to account.
The darkest moment came when we heard that Lord, Day & Lord, the Times's venerable law firm, had walked out, refusing to defend the Times and warning publisher Arthur Sulzberger that publishing the Pentagon Papers would be illegal and perhaps treasonable.
But advocates of publication had a powerful ally in Scotty Reston, the legendary Times columnist whose personal influence with the Sulzberger family was strong. Floyd Abrams, a noted First Amendment lawyer, was hired to prepare the legal case.
In his most courageous decision, the publisher decided to go-ahead. But lest he get cold feet at the 11th hour, Foreign Editor Jim Greenfield took the publisher for a round of golf on Saturday morning before the presses rolled. And on Sunday, June 13, 1971, the Times struck a blow for press freedom and public accountability of government for a war that had gone bad.
PUBLIC SERVICE, 1990
Gilbert M. Gaul NF '83
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Gaul's five-part investigative series "The Blood Brokers" exposed safety issues and lax federal regulation of the blood industry.
Last December, the Community Blood Center in Appleton, Wis., made a public appeal for blood. Residents were asked to "dig farther, wider and deeper" than ever before to keep local blood supplies at desired levels.
"We've never had it quite this tough," Alan W. Cable, executive director of the nonprofit blood bank, told the local newspaper.
The citizens did dig deep; last year, 15,000 pints of blood were donated by Appleton residents to help save the lives of their friends and neighbors.
What they didn't know, though--don't know to this day--was that the same month the blood bank was appealing for blood, it sold 650 pints--half its monthly blood collection--at a profit to other blood banks around the country.
Or that last year the blood center in Appleton contracted to sell 200 pints a month to a blood bank 528 miles away in Lexington, Ky.
Or that Lexington sold half the blood it bought from Appleton to yet a third blood bank near Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Which in turn sold thousands of pints it bought from Lexington and other blood banks to four hospitals in New York City.
What began as a generous "gift of life" from people in Appleton to their neighbors ended up as part of a chain of blood brokered to hospitals in Manhattan, where patients were charged $120 a pint. Along that 2,777-mile route, human blood became just another commodity.
The buying and selling of blood has become big business in America--a multibillion-dollar industry that is largely unregulated by the government.
Each year, unknown to the people who give the blood, blood banks buy and sell more than a million pints from one another, shifting blood all over the country and generating an estimated $50 million in revenues.
EDITORIAL WRITING, 2007
Heidi Evans NF '93
New York Daily News
Evans and her fellow editorial board members Arthur Browne and Beverly Weintraub won a Pulitzer for their editorial series "9/11: The Forgotten Victims," which documented how the government failed to address the growing medical problems of Ground Zero workers.
Forty-thousand-strong, they labored at Ground Zero under miserable conditions in a time of crisis, working to and 12 hours a day to search for the lost, extinguish underground fires and haul off 2 million tons of rubble. As a direct result, well over 12,000 are sick today, having suffered lasting damage to their respiratory systems.
In increasing numbers, they are the forgotten victims of 9/11. The toll has risen steadily over the past five years, yet no one in power--not Gov. Pataki, not Mayor Bloomberg, not the state and city health commissioners, not the U.S. government--has acknowledged the epidemic's scope, much less confronted it for the public health disaster that it is.
Their heads and faces pound with the pressure of swollen sinuses.
They lose their breath with minor exertion.
They suffer the suffocation of asthma and diseases that attack the very tissues of their lungs.
They endure acid reflux, a painful indigestion that never goes away.
They are haunted by the mental and emotional traumas of having witnessed horror.
Many are too disabled to work. And some have died. There is overwhelming evidence that at least four Ground Zero responders--a firefighter, two police officers and an Emergency Medical Service paramedic--suffered fatal illnesses as a consequence of inhaling the airborne poisons that were loosed when the pulverized remains of the twin towers erupted seismically into the sky.
The measure of how New York and Washington failed the 9/11 responders starts with the fact that after a half-decade, no one has a grip on the scope of the suffering. The known census of the ill starts at more than 12,000 people who have been monitored or treated in the two primary medical services for Ground Zero workers, one run by the Fire Department, the other by the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring Program based at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Typical is the case of NYPD Officer Steven Mayfield, who logged more than 400 hours at the perimeter of what became known as The Pile and suffers from sarcoidosis, a disease that scars the tissues of the lungs; shortness of breath; chronic sinusitis, and sleep apnea. "My lungs are damaged; they will never be the same," said Mayfield, 44.
Still more frightening: Serious new conditions may soon begin to emerge. Top pulmonary specialists say lung-scarring diseases and tumors generally begin to show up five to 20 years after toxic exposure, a time frame that's about to begin.
[c] Daily News, L.P. (New York). Used with permission.
FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY, 1985
Stan Grossfeld NF '92
The Boston Globe
In 1984, Grossfeld and Globe reporter Colin Nickerson hooked up with a rebel group bringing a food convoy from Sudan to Ethiopia. As Grossfeld recalls, they traveled at night and hid by day to avoid detection.
I can still remember the smell of death and the pinpricks of light streaming through the tent at one refugee camp we visited. The emaciated children were too weak to shoo away moisture-seeking flies. Their cries sounded like cats wailing. I watched one beautifully regal Ethiopian mother lovingly comfort her starving child. My camera's viewfinder filled with tears. I forced myself to think about technical issues--the light was low and a very slow shutter speed was necessary--but the tears didn't stop. The child died later that day.
When I returned home, I saw a TV feature on gingerbread candy houses at the mall and I was disgusted. The only difference between those refugees and us was our birthplace on planet earth. It's just the luck of the draw.
The photographs heightened global awareness that drought plus civil war cause famine. Good things happened. Catholic relief services said the Madonna and child photo raised more money for hunger relief than any other image. I donated all my award winnings and joined the New England board of Unicef.
But I am still haunted by that mother and child and the fact that we have failed to eradicate world hunger. Currently, according to Save the Children, more than 10 million people in Ethiopia--including 5.75 million children--are in urgent need of emergency food aid. Millions of people still die because they have neither food nor access to clean water. Although the Internet and social media have shrunk the world, our collective intelligence has also declined. Compassion fatigue is increasing and a dangerous xenophobia is emerging. Instead of building bridges, one party's candidate for president wants to build a big wall.
It's enough to make you cry.
NATIONAL REPORTING, 1962
Nathan G. Caldwell, NF '41
Gene S. Graham, NF '63
The Nashville Tennessean
Caldwell and Graham spent half a dozen years reporting on the undercover deal between United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis and billionaire financier Cyrus Eaton, who had major interests in the coal industry.
Almost unnoticed by the rest of the country, the story of an amazing conspiracy in the coal industry has been unfolded in a federal court in Tennessee. The trial record and the verdict have incalculable implications--for business, for union members, for every taxpayer, and perhaps even for the future of American law and politics. It is too early to say whether the consequences will be good, evil, or a mixture of both. But testimony at the trial discloses, among other things, that:
1. The United Mine Workers--whose chieftain, John L. Lewis, is an almost mythical hero of American labor--quietly became a big stockholder in some of the nation's largest coal mines.
2. A union-controlled company broke a strike of the UMW's own members. They worked in small "inefficient" mines which compete with those mechanized through the use of UMW money.
3. The union was found guilty of conspiring with large coal companies to monopolize the soft-coal industry and drive small firms into bankruptcy.
For more than five years the men most deeply affected refused to believe what was happening. The story has now been confirmed under oath. And on May 19, 1961, a federal jury in Knoxville found the United Mine Workers guilty of violating the antitrust laws--although hitherto all unions had been exempt from such prosecutions. In effect, the case held that the exemption does not apply when a union becomes part of ownership or conspires with its ancient enemies in restraint of trade.
Reprinted with permission from The Tennessean.
LOCAL REPORTING, 1957
William Lambert NF'60
Wallace Turner NF'59
Lambert and Turner's stories about efforts on the part of union and underworld figures to wrest control from municipal officials in Portland, Oregon helped spur investigations into organized crime in cities across the country.
Seattle gambling figures closely associated with certain top officials of the teamsters union have been trying for the past 18 months to take over law enforcement policies in Portland in order to establish illegal enterprises here, an investigation by The Oregonian has established.
The police and other officials stopped them. Peculiarly, the local underworld also fought them and was instrumental in halting their plans, at least temporarily.
The plotters' attempt to "set up the town" to control the rackets has failed, largely because of their inability to trust one another and because of police determination that no mob was to move into Portland.
They dabbled in attempts to deal in certain illegal enterprises and they might have become more deeply involved had they not become embroiled in a bitter fight among themselves. The plotters began spying on each other, checking on one another's activities.
[c] 1957 Oregonian Publishing Co. Reprinted with permission.
FEATURE WRITING, 1980
Madeleine Blais NF '86
The Miami Herald
In the 1970s World War I veteran Edward Zepp frequently showed tip in Florida newsrooms, trying to interest a reporter in his battle to get his military release status upgraded from "general discharge" to "honorable discharge." For a story in the Herald's Sunday magazine, Blais rode the train with the 83-year-old Zepp from Deerfield Beach, Florida to Washington, D.C., where he had a hearing at the Pentagon.
When Ed Zepp was drafted in 1917, he told his draft board he had conscientious objections to fighting overseas. The draft board told him his objections did not count; at the time only Quakers and Mennonites were routinely granted C.O. (conscientious objector) status. "As a Lutheran, I didn't cut any ice," he said. Zepp was one of 20,873 men between the ages of 21 and 31 who were classified as C.O.'s but inducted nonetheless. Of those, only 3,999 made formal claims once they were in camp. Zepp's claim occurred on June 10, 1918, at Fort Merritt, N.J., the day before his battalion was scheduled overseas. Earlier, Zepp had tried to explain his position to a commanding officer, who told him he had a "damn fool belief." On June 10, Zepp was ordered to pack his barracks bag. When he refused, sergeant--"Sgt. Hitchcock, a real hardboiled guy, a Regular Army man"--held a gun to his head: "Pack that bag or I'll shoot."
"Shoot," said Zepp, "you son of a bitch."
Conscientious objection has always been a difficult issue for the military, but perhaps less difficult in 1917 than in recent times. Men who refused to fight were called "slackers" and "cowards." It was patriotic to despise the Kaiser. It was patriotic to sing: "Over There;" "Oh I Hate To Get Up In The Morning" and "Long Way to Tipperary." A new recruiting poster pointed out that "Uncle Sam Wants You." The war's most important hero was Sgt. York, a conscientious objector who was later decorated for capturing Germans. They made a movie of Sgt. York's heroics.
They made an example of Pvt. Edward Zepp, a kid from Cleveland.
Zepp was formally released from the Army 60 years and two days ago.
But Zepp has never released the Army.
At his upcoming hearing at the Pentagon, Zepp was after a subtle distinction, two words really, "honorable discharge," meaningless to anybody but himself. It would be a victory that couldn't even be shared with the most important person in his life, his wife, Christine, who died in 1977.
PUBLIC SERVICE, 2001
Richard Read, NF '97
Brent Walth, NF '06
Read and Walth were members of a team that conducted a meticulous examination of abuses and systematic problems, including harsh treatment of foreign nationals, within the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Their work prompted reforms.
Murder suspects have more rights than many people who encounter the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)--and not just the 1.6 million the agency catches trying to sneak across the Mexican border each year.
While its role as protector of the nation's borders shapes the INS's most visible and enduring image, its heavy hand falls on people most Americans will never see.
They are children as young as 8 who are held in a secretive network of prisons and county jails.
They are parents and spouses of U.S. citizens, who are deported or imprisoned without due process of law; the asylum seekers who are greeted not with the promise of haven, but with jail.
They are people for whom the Statue of Liberty stands not as a beacon of hope and welcome, but as a symbol of iron-fisted rejection.
"The INS is like an onion," says U.S. Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill., whose constituents complain more about the agency than anything else. "The more you peel it away, the more you cry."
[c] 2001 Oregonian Publishing Co. Reprinted with permission.
Stanley Karnow NF '58
"In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines"
Karnow chronicled America's involvement in the island nation, beginning with the Spanish-American War of 1898.
By September 1986, after four years as secretary of state, George Shultz had grown accustomed to presiding over official dinners for foreign dignitaries visiting Washington: the rigorous protocol, the solemn oratory, the contrived cordiality. But he could not recall an occasion equal to this night. He was honoring Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, the new president of the Philippines, and a spontaneous charge of emotion electrified the affair. Americans and Filipinos had shared history, tragedy, triumph, ideals--experiences that had left them with a sense of kinship. Shultz captured that spirit exactly: A "Cory" doll pinned to his lapel, his Buddha-like face beamed and his nasal voice lilted with rare elation. Breaking with routine, he delivered his toast before the banquet--in effect telling the guests to relax and enjoy. "This," he said, "is a family evening."
Cory's appeal transcended her American connections. Seven months earlier, she had toppled Ferdinand Marcos in an episode almost too melodramatic to be true--a morality play, a reenactment of the Passion: The pious widow of Marcos's chief opponent, the martyred Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, she had risen from his death to rally her people against the corrupt despot, his egregious wife and their wicked regime. Throughout the world she became an instant celebrity, a household icon: the saintly Cory who, perhaps through divine intervention, had emerged from obscurity to exorcise evil. Elsewhere in Asia, in Taiwan and in South Korea, demonstrators invoked her name in their protests against autocracy.
Most Americans may have forgotten, perhaps never even knew, that the Philippines had been a U.S. possession; for those who remembered, Cory symbolized anew that special relationship. During its half-century of colonial tutelage, America had endowed the Filipinos with universal education, a common language, public hygiene, roads, bridges, and, above all, republican institutions. Americans and Filipinos had fought and died side by side at Bataan and Corregidor and perished together on the ghastly Death March. The United States was still in the Philippines, the site of its two largest overseas bases, and more than a million Filipinos lived in America. By backing Marcos, even as an expedient, the United States had betrayed its proteges and its own principles, but, as if by miracle, Cory Aquino had redeemed her nation--and redeemed America as well.
Excerpt from IN OUR IMAGE: AMERICA'S EMPIRE IN THE PHILIPPINES by Stanley Karnow, copyright [c] 1989 by Stanley Karnow. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
INTERNATIONAL REPORTING, 1951
Keyes Beech NF '53
Chicago Daily News
Six foreign correspondents from three news outlets shared the prize for their reporting on the Korean War. Recognized alongside Homer Bigart, Marguerite Higgins, Relman Morin, Fred Sparks, and Don Whitehead, Beech was cited for his graphic, informed, and concise dispatches from the front.
A fog of defeatism and despair hangs over this shattered capital of Seoul, Korea like an oppressive cloud.
Among U.S. Army and South Korean government officials there is undisguised gloom as never-ending columns of Army vehicles rumble through the streets headed in one direction.
Gen. MacArthur's communique says the morale of United Nations troops is high despite their smashing defeat by the Chinese Communists. Evidently the general and I haven't talked to the same people.
The atmosphere around 8th Army headquarters is about as cheerful as a wake. So far as news is concerned the lid is on. Nobody wants to talk. This could be worse since the only military news is the 8th Army's prodigious effort to avoid contact with the Chinese forces.
At the cozy press billet near the Capitol building correspondents were routed out of bed one morning this week by G.I.s with orders to pack the beds they were sleeping in.
A British correspondent philosophized that perhaps it was just as well since he wouldn't want the beds to fall into the hands of the enemy to be used against us.
Everybody, of course, hopes the war will be ended at Lake Success.
Meanwhile, recriminations are floating about. The Americans blame the disintegration of the 2d ROK (Republic of Korea) Corps for their defeat. I don't know what happened to the 2d Corps, but I do know that earlier in the war when I was with the ROKs they fought bravely and well, with considerably less to fight with than our own troops.
Among British and Turkish forces there is resentment toward the American command for what appears to them needless surrendering of territory without a fight.
Korean peddlers are doing a thriving business selling departing G.I.s silk handkerchiefs labeled "Return From Hell."
EDITORIAL CARTOONING, 1988
Doug Marlette NF '81
The Atlanta Constitution
The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer
Marlette, who died in 2007, is remembered by Christopher Weyant, NF '16, a cartoonist for The New Yorker.
Of the thousands of political cartoons I've read over the course of my career, one of the very best belongs to the brilliant Doug Marlette. When Pope John Paul II rejected the idea of allowing women to serve as priests in the Catholic Church, Marlette drew a cartoon of the Pope with his prominent forehead exaggerated for comic effect. An arrow points to his head and the caption, echoing Jesus' words to St. Peter, reads, "Upon this rock I will build my church."
This was Marlette at his best. Popes. Presidents. Congressmen. Evangelical preachers. The Supreme Court. No one with power could avoid the sharp end of Doug Marlette's pen. He skewered the corrupt and the unjust, no matter who they were or how sacrosanct the issue.
Marlette, born and raised in North Carolina, hated hypocrisy in all its forms and never wasted an opportunity to expose it. Effortlessly, he distilled complex issues to their core and, when combined with his inventive visual imagery, would create a cartoon whose impact you would not soon forget. His bold line had an unusual openness about it, inviting the reader in before delivering its punch.
And that punch could be deadly. A cartoon from his 1988 Pulitzer Prize-winning selection depicted a Supreme Court justice seated at the bench. On either side of the bench are two doors. To the left, we see a jail cell with a sign above that reads "White." To the right, an open execution chamber, complete with electric chair and a sign that says "Colored." As powerful and relevant today as it was when it was when it was first published--this is an example of a master of his craft.
During my year as a Nieman Fellow, I have thought of him often, of his extraordinary talent, his wit, and his fearlessness. And although I wish I had the opportunity to seek his counsel, I'm grateful that his cartoons and his legacy live on.
Anja Niedringhaus NF '07
The Associated Press
Santiago Lyon, NF '04, vice president/photography of The Associated Press, recalls his longtime friend and colleague Niedringhaus, who was shot and killed in Afghanistan in 2014.
She made it her life's work to document war and conflict around the world; those situations where military power prevails and differences are settled with brute force rather than with the ballot, or through debate and consensus.
She sought accountability and found abuse, time and time again. Over the years she honed her skills as a professional witness and became a very good one--at great personal risk.
She was with the U.S. Marines as they fought their way into Fallujah, Iraq, street by bloody street, for the U.S. military's final assault on the city in November 2004. It was there that she made this image of a Marine leading away a captured Iraqi man. The detainee is barefoot, his hands tied behind his back. The Marine, a determined expression on his face, has him firmly by the shirt collar, pushing his neck downward as they both walk toward the camera. Whatever that prisoner did, or didn't do, that Marine was holding him accountable. And for that moment in time at least, Anja was holding the Marine accountable for ensuring the prisoner wasn't mistreated or abused. The image was one of 20, shot by a team of AP photographers, that won a Pulitzer Prize.
Good photography looks natural, almost easy, to the uninitiated, but pick up a camera--even in peacetime--and it quickly becomes apparent how difficult it is, requiring a balance of light, shutter speed, aperture and sensor sensitivity on the technical side, coupled with positioning, anticipation, and creativity. It's a highly complex dance and requires a special sort of journalist. Anja's considerable achievements as a photojournalist were due in large part to her tenacity and focus, coupled with her ability to put her subjects at ease. This image reflects her determination in a difficult circumstance and here, as in so many other places, she managed to obtain the elusive but highly sought after condition of near invisibility, becoming the proverbial fly on the wall, showing us how people live and die the world over, too often in violent ways, as power is abused.
INTERNATIONAL REPORTING, 1967
John Hughes NF '62
The Christian Science Monitor
Hughes, the paper's East Asia correspondent, covered the attempted Communist coup in Indonesia in 1965 and the purge that followed.
Like one of its own tropical island volcanoes, Indonesia is rumbling with torment and upheaval.
The capital itself has become a monument to disorder and ignored presidential authority.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports are filtering in of unrest elsewhere in the island archipelago--of student clashes, power failures, and even whispers of a new breakaway movement in Makassar, chief city on the island of Sulawesi (Celebes).
Even as President Sukarno summoned leaders of all political parties to his palace in Jakarta Thursday, the capital was swept by new disorder.
In a wave of anti-communist fury, student squads launched a series of violent attacks on diplomatic offices and houses belonging to Communist China.
Rival leftist groups rallied and fought back. Western embassies went on alert in anticipation of new attacks against them.
Meanwhile, student protests continued outside Indonesian government buildings in various parts of the city. And hundreds of cars were dragged across streets and their tires deflated to form temporary road blocks.
Armed police and troops raced to the Embassy of Communist China to head off angry student crowds bent on ransacking it Thursday morning. The police turned the students away, blocked off the road, and for the rest of the morning the Embassy remained sealed, barred, and shuttered under the protective guns of Indonesian armored cars.
However, the students did sack the Chinese Communist Consulate General building as well as the residence of the Chinese commercial attache elsewhere in the city, using trucks to first batter down the gates and walls.
All this followed an assault Wednesday on the villa housing Peking's New China News Agency (NCNA) bureau in Jakarta.
NCNA's bureau chief, Chang Hai-tao, told this correspondent, "They were rightest hooligans. They swarmed over the fence and cut the telephone line so we could not call for help. They told me, 'If you don't open the doors, you will die.' The fire brigade came half an hour later and the troops an hour later."
By John Hughes. Excerpted with permission from the March 11, 1966 issue of The Christian Science Monitor. [c] 1966 The Christian Science Monitor (www.CSMonitor.com).
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING, 1987
Daniel R. Biddle, NF '90
H.G. Bissinger, NF '86
Fredric N. Tulsky, NF '89
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Biddle, Bissinger, and Tulsky's series on the Philadelphia court system documented an array of incompetence, politicking, and other transgressions, leading to federal and state investigations.
Behind the scenes, Common Pleas Court Judge George J. Ivins privately agrees to take a case from a defense lawyer who is a longtime friend--and then sentences the lawyer's client, convicted of killing a young nurse in a car crash, to probation.
In another courtroom, on another day, Municipal Court Judge Joseph P. McCabe reduces bail for a murder defendant--without legal authority and without informing the prosecutor.
In yet another courtroom, Common Pleas Court Judge Lisa A. Richette sentences a convicted killer to prison--and then, after the victim's gratified family has left the scene, changes the sentence to probation.
In a fourth courtroom, Municipal Court Judge Arthur S. Kaffissen gets up from the bench at 10:45 a.m. and walks out for the day, leaving behind baffled witnesses, police officers and lawyers. In the words of Clifford Williams, a disgusted witness, it was "complete chaos."
Day by day, this is the Philadelphia court system, where many judges and lawyers freely admit that, all too often, what is delivered is anything but justice.
It is a system in which many defense lawyers help finance judges' campaigns--and then try criminal cases before those judges. It is a system in which those same lawyers have remarkable success, with statistics showing that in Municipal Court, from 1979 to 1984, defense lawyers who had a role in judges' campaigns won 71 percent of their cases before those judges. By contrast, during the same years, only 35 percent of all Municipal Court defendants won their cases.
It is a system in which witnesses are sent to the wrong places by incorrect subpoenas, and in which a judge dismisses a case because a witness isn't in the right courtroom.
It is a system in which defense lawyers get convictions overturned on the ground of their own incompetence by claiming they made errors that would shock a first-year law student.
It is a system in which the amount of money awarded in civil verdicts has skyrocketed and in which a person can win $143,500 for a broken toe suffered on the job.
It is a system in which hallways smell of urine, benches are carved with graffiti and stairways are missing railings.
And it is a system in which many judges feel overwhelmed, bereft of hope for improvement and wistful for other employment.
PUBLIC SERVICE, 2008
Anne Hull NF '95
The Washington Post
The Washington Post's investigation into the neglect and mistreatment of wounded veterans and the deplorable conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center incited a public outcry and prompted a number of reforms. Hull and colleague Dana Priest spent more than four months interviewing hospital outpatients. Some declined to go public with their complaints because they feared retribution from the Army.
Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.
This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The common perception of Walter Reed is of a surgical hospital that shines as the crown jewel of military medicine. But five and a half years of sustained combat have transformed the venerable 113-acre institution into something else entirely--a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients.
GENERAL NONFICTION, 1986
J. Anthony Lukas NF '69
"Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families"
Lukas scrutinizes race relations in Boston in the 1960s and 1970s by tracing how court-ordered busing aimed at desegregating city schools affected a white middle-class family and two working-class families, one African-American, and the other Irish.
Alice [McGoff] had heard that sound before. A rhythmic slap, like the wings of a giant bird trapped in a closet. But what was it? The mad flapping echoed somewhere near the base of her skull, and try as she might, her sluggish brain couldn't decipher it.
Abruptly she came awake. Outside her window, eerie blue lights played on the brick facade of the housing project. A siren wailed over the hill. And there was that sound again. Chock, chock, chock.
A garbage truck? An airplane? A helicopter?
That was it. But what was a goddamn helicopter doing in Charlestown at six o'clock in the morning?
Groping to the window, Alice could see a cluster of kids in the street, pointing up the hill toward the Monument. A police car blocked the roadway, its blue light pulsing. The sound was louder here, but still she couldn't see anything. Stumbling into the parlor, Alice pulled back the curtains. Peering into the steel-gray sky, she saw not one but three helicopters circling the towering white shaft of the Bunker Hill Monument, hovering over the town.
It was Monday, September 8, 1975, the opening day of school, the start of Arthur Garrity's Phase II plan for Boston, the first day of busing in Charlestown, a day Alice had been anticipating with apprehension bordering on hysteria. The day before, she had awakened with a neck so stiff that by midafternoon her son Danny had to take her to Massachusetts General Hospital, where an emergency room doctor could find no physical source for her ailment.
"Are you suffering from any particular nervous stress or strain?" he had asked.
"Not that I know of," she replied.
"Oh, no," Danny chimed in. "She's only got seven kids and busing begins tomorrow."
Ah, said the doctor, she was the fourth mother he'd had in there that weekend; like the others, Alice was probably suffering an anxiety attack. He gave her some muscle relaxants and encased her neck in a huge foam-rubber Thomas Collar, which eased the discomfort somewhat but made it impossible to sleep. Eventually, she'd taken it off, but the neck was throbbing and aching worse than ever.
Gazing out the parlor window now at the helicopters, she thought: It's like we're the Nazis and they're the Americans, and they're going to shoot us. It's crazy!
Excerpt from COMMON GROUND by J. Anthony Lukas, copyright [c] 1985 by J. Anthony Lukas. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
SPOT NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY, 1977
Stanley Forman, NF '80
Boston Herald American
Forman won the Pulitzer for Spot News Photography two years in a row, the second time, in 1977, for "The Soiling of Old Glory." In a recent interview, he talks about the photo--taken at a demonstration against court-ordered desegregation busing in Boston--one that captures a defining moment of race relations in America.
It was an ugly time in Boston, an ugly time in the country, and anti-busing demonstrations were commonplace. The day I captured that photo started with a routine question and a routine answer. I got into the office early and asked the city editor what was going on. He said there was an anti-busing demonstration outside City Hall so, I asked if I could go. After running an errand, I headed over to the plaza.
As I arrived, some anti-busing demonstrators were coming out of the building following a meeting with City Councilor Louise Day Hicks, a staunch opponent to court-ordered busing and school desegregation. At the same time, a group of black students was getting ready to go on a tour of City Hall, and the two groups got into a scuffle on the steps. As some of them moved away from the courthouse, Ted Landsmark, a black attorney on his way to a meeting, happened to be caught in the melee and was assaulted by Joseph Rakes, a white teenager participating in the demonstration. Rakes used the flag he was carrying as a weapon, a moment I captured on film.
The photo is misleading. Rakes looks like he is using the flag as a lance, and that Landsmark is being held by another man as a target, but Rakes wasn't trying to stab the attorney. He was swinging the pole, and the other man was actually trying to get Landsmark out of harm's way. It is nonetheless a racially charged photo, whites attacking blacks. But I had no clue I had gotten such a powerful shot.
Police broke up the fighting, and the anti-busing demonstrators made their way through downtown. I stayed with them, not realizing the magnitude of the altercation at City Hall until a reporter came up to me and asked if I had heard what happened. I told him I had been there taking photos, and he exclaimed, "What? They're going crazy! Get to the office."
I think "The Soiling of Old Glory" would have had a greater impact today. If there's a shot like that nowadays, it could start a riot. Rakes would have gone to jail. I'd be afraid to have taken it.
EXPLANATORY REPORTING, 2016
Ken Armstrong NF '01
The Marshall Project
Armstrong and ProPublica's T. Christian Miller investigated the case of an 18-year-old woman who said she was raped at knifepoint, then said she made it all up. In the process, the pair exposed law enforcement's systematic failures to understand the trauma victims endure. The rapist is now serving time for raping the woman and four others.
No one came to court with her that day, except her public defender.
She was 18 years old, charged with a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.
Rarely do misdemeanors draw notice. Her case was one of 4,859 filed in 2008 in Lynnwood Municipal Court, a place where the judge says the goal is "to correct behavior--to make Lynnwood a better, safer, healthier place to live, work, shop and visit."
But her misdemeanor had made the news, and made her an object of curiosity or, worse, scorn. It had cost her the newfound independence she was savoring after a life in foster homes. It had cost her sense of worth. Each ring of the phone seemed to announce another friendship, lost. A friend from 10th grade called to ask: How could you lie about something like that? Marie--that's her middle name, Marie--didn't say anything. She just listened, then hung up. Even her foster parents now doubted her. She doubted herself, wondering if there was something in her that needed to be fixed.
She had reported being raped in her apartment by a man who had bound and gagged her. Then, confronted by police with inconsistencies in her story, she had conceded it might have been a dream. Then she admitted making the story up. One TV newscast announced, "A Western Washington woman has confessed that she cried wolf when it came to her rape she reported earlier this week." She had been charged with filing a false report, which is why she was here today, to accept or turn down a plea deal.
Her lawyer was surprised she had been charged. Her story hadn't hurt anyone--no suspects arrested, or even questioned. His guess was, the police felt used. They don't appreciate having their time wasted.
The prosecution's offer was this: If she met certain conditions for the next year, the charge would be dropped. She would need to get mental health counseling for her lying. She would need to go on supervised probation. She would need to keep straight, breaking no more laws. And she would have to pay $500 to cover the court's costs.
Marie wanted this behind her.
She took the deal.
Cynthia Tucker NF '89
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tucker was recognized for her columns exhibiting a strong sense of morality and connection to the community, such as the one excerpted here about former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, who was the target of a seven-year federal investigation into corruption during his time in office. Campbell was convicted on three counts of tax evasion and spent more than two years in prison.
[F]ormer Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell['s] trial on corruption charges began this week with jury selection. During his tenure, Campbell was combative with critics--flying into a rage, denouncing his enemies, calling for retribution.
But his oddest defense was to portray himself as a downtrodden black man being persecuted by powerful white forces--another Kunta Kinte. Lashing out at federal investigators nearly six years ago, Campbell said, "The FBI has never been a friend of the African-American community, and they're not a friend now ... I don't know that African-Americans have ever had any confidence in the FBI."
There is nothing downtrodden about Campbell. He is polished, sophisticated and well-educated, a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the School of Law at Duke University. He is currently a partner at the Stuart, Fla., law firm of Willie Gary, renowned as a plaintiff's attorney.
Before he was elected mayor, he was a federal prosecutor, then an attorney in private practice. He was also elected to the Atlanta City Council, where he was floor leader for former Mayor Maynard Jackson.
In Atlanta, Campbell lived in a middle-class, predominantly white neighborhood, Inman Park, and sent his children to a trendy (and expensive) private school, Paideia. Because of security protocols, police officers were often posted just outside his home. His lifestyle was redolent of success.
Campbell was the man.
But, like so many high-profile criminal defendants before him, Campbell wants observers to believe he is the innocent victim of racist, overzealous prosecutors who won't tolerate successful black men. That defense is almost as dated as wide ties and leisure suits.
NATIONAL REPORTING, 1955
Anthony Lewis NF '57
Washington Daily News
Lewis wrote a series of articles about Abraham Chasanow, a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy who--deemed a security risk for allegedly having communist associations-- was suspended from his job for 14 months. The articles helped clear Chasanow's name and got him reinstated to his job. The Navy ultimately acknowledged that it committed a grave injustice and apologized to Chasanow.
Abraham Chasanow, Navy employee who has been fighting security charges for more than a year while suspended from his job, today won his battle.
The Navy officially and finally dismissed all its charges against him, ordered him reinstated at his old job at the Hydrographic Office and publicly acknowledged that a "grave injustice" had been done him.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy James H. Smith Jr., at a press conference attended also by Mr. Chasanow, said the case already has resulted in some changes of procedure in the Navy security program and further action is being contemplated.
Mr. Chasanow will receive all pay and allowance for the period he was suspended, less what he managed to earn on the outside.
The press conference was a dramatic and entirely unprecedented occasion. No one could recall another time when Government officials called reporters in to admit a mistake.
"We want to see what we can do to restore him not only his job in the Navy but in his reputation with the public," Secretary Smith said.
He said the case revealed the following flaws in the security program procedure.
* The case took too long to handle--"a great disadvantage to both the Government and the employee." He said procedures have been considerably speeded up, "but we don't want to hurry the jury."
* A hearing board fully cleared Mr. Chasanow, but an appeal board overruled that finding without giving Mr. Chasanow or his lawyer a chance to appear before it in person. Mr. Smith said personal appearance is now guaranteed in any case in which an appeal board is planning to make an unfavorable finding.
* Anonymous informants, who made derogatory statements about Mr. Chasanow originally, failed to back up their charges when questioned about them.
Mr. Smith put greatest emphasis on this problem of anonymous accusers.
He said he is now "looking into ways and means of preventing delivery of evidence which people are unwilling to stand up and back."
He said he personally would favor requiring all such derogatory statements to be given under oath.
Eugene Robinson NF '88
The Washington Post
Robinson's eloquent, insightful columns on the 2008 presidential race explored what the election of the first African-American president would mean--for him, for African-Americans, and for the country as a whole.
It's safe to say that I've never had such a deeply emotional reaction to a presidential election. I've found it hard to describe, though, just what it is that I'm feeling so strongly.
It's obvious that the power of this moment isn't something that only African Americans feel. When President Bush spoke about the election yesterday, he mentioned the important message that Americans will send to the world, and to themselves, when the Obama family moves into the White House.
For African Americans, though, this is personal.
I can't help but experience Obama's election as a gesture of recognition and acceptance--which is patently absurd, if you think about it. The labor of black people made this great nation possible. Black people planted and tended the tobacco, indigo and cotton on which America's first great fortunes were built. Black people fought and died in every one of the nation's wars. Black people fought and died to secure our fundamental rights under the Constitution. We don't have to ask for anything from anybody.
Yet something changed on Tuesday when Americans--white, black, Latino, Asian--entrusted a black man with the power and responsibility of the presidency. I always meant it when I said the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I always meant it when I sang the national anthem at ball games and shot off fireworks on the Fourth of July. But now there's more meaning in my expressions of patriotism, because there's more meaning in the stirring ideals that the pledge and the anthem and the fireworks represent.
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|Date:||Jun 22, 2016|
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