2007 IRE Awards winners
Honoring the best in investigative journalism
The annual IRE Awards recognize outstanding investigative work and help identify the techniques and resources used to complete each story. Entries are placed in the IRE Resource Center, allowing members to learn from each other. The IRE Awards were established in 1979. Winners from other years can be found on the winners page.
The highest honor IRE can bestow for investigative reporting is the IRE Medal. This year’s medal winners are:
- The Chauncey Bailey Project — A.C. Thompson, Thomas Peele, Josh Richman, Angela Hill, Mary Fricker, G.W. Schulz, Cecily Burt, Bob Butler, Paul T. Rosynsky, Harry Harris read judges’ comments)
FOIA Award: Pennsylvania Open Records — WTAE-Pittsburgh; Jim Parsons, Bob Longo, Kendall Cross, Mike Lazorko (read judges’ comments)
- Large newspapers (250,000-500,000): They Failed to Act — Newsday; Jennifer Barrios, Sophia Chang, Michael Ebert, Reid J. Epstein, Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Eden Laikin, Herbet Lowe, Joseph Mallia, Jennifer Maloney, Luis Perez, Karla Schuster read judges’ comments)
- Small newspapers (under 100,000): The Wait of Conviction — The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle; Sandy Hodson (read judges’ comments)
- Local Circulation Weeklies: The People Under the Bridge — Village Voice Media/Miami New Times; Isaiah Thompson (read judges’ comments)
- Top 20 markets: The Buried and the Dead — WFAA-Dallas; Brett Shipp, Mark Smith, Kraig Kirchem, Michael Valentine, Mark Ginther (read judges’ comments)
- Below top 20 markets: Radioactive Dumping — WSMV-Nashville; Demetria Kalodimos, David Sussman (read judges’ comments)
- Magazine/Specialty: Thanks for Nothing — The Nation; Joshua Kors (read judges’ comments)
- Radio: Toxic Traces Revisited — Minnesota Public Radio News; Lorna Benson, Michael Edgerly (read judges’ comments)
- Online: Collateral Damage: Human Rights and U.S. Military Aid after 9/11 — The Center for Public Integrity and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists; Nathaniel Heller, Ben Welsh, Marina Walker Guevara, Tom Stites, Sarah Fort, Patrick Kiger, Michael Bilton, Prangtip Daorueng, Ignacio Gomez, Andreas Harsono, Alain Lallemand, Yossi Melman, Mutegi Njau, Paul Radu, Gerardo Reyes, Leo Sisti (read judges’ comments)
- Book: Curveball: Spies, Lies and the Con Man Who Caused a War — Bob Drogin (read judges’ comments)
- Student (All Media): Public Payroll, Family Affairs: Aldermen Keep It Relative —creatingcommunityconnections.org; Allison Riggio, Hunter Clauss read judges’ comments)
Largest newspapers (more than 500,000) or wire service:
- The Other Walter Reed — The Washington Post; Dana Priest, Anne Hull
Judges’ comments: Dana Priest and Anne Hull penetrated the secretive world of the Army’s premier medical facility, Walter Reed Hospital, to document in chilling detail the callous mistreatment and neglect of America’s war-wounded. Their expose — fueled by immersion reporting and fine narrative storytelling — fired a shot heard around the world and led to decisive action at the Pentagon. Truly the project with the highest impact of 2007, this brilliant work proved how a local investigation can demand an international audience and provoke international outrage.
- Toxic Pipeline — The New York Times; Walt Bogdanich, Jake Hooker, Brent McDonald, Robert Harris, Andy Lehren
Judges’ comments: It started with a hunch about obscure poisonings in Panama. But through extraordinary effort and skill, reporters at The New York Times traced the deaths from a cough syrup back to China. In the process, they exposed a frightening new reality about globalization: You can no longer trust that simple household items such as cough syrup and toothpaste won’t be deadly. When the FDA learned of the Times’ story, it immediately halted all imports of Chinese glycerin. And more than 30 countries recalled Chinese made toothpaste containing anti-freeze. The project showed reporters tackling the highest level of difficulty to tell an astounding international story.
- MnDot Investigation — Star Tribune (Minneapolis); Paul McEnroe, Tony Kennedy, Laurie Blake, Pat Doyle, Dan Browning, Mike Kaszuba
- Hidden Hazards — Chicago Tribune; Patricia Callahan, Maurice Possley, Sam Roe, Michael Oneal, Evan Osnos, Ted Gregory
Large newspapers (250,000-500,000):
- They Failed to Act — Newsday; Jennifer Barrios, Sophia Chang, Michael Ebert, Reid J. Epstein, Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Eden Laikin, Herbet Lowe, Joseph Mallia, Jennifer Maloney, Luis Perez, Karla Schuster
Judges’ comments: Through tenacious shoe-leather reporting, the staff of Newsdaydocumented a danger long ignored by the Long Island Railroad and by state and federal regulators. Armed with Stanley tape measures, they found dangerous gaps between the platform and trains at the railroad’s busiest stations, holes large enough for passengers to fall through. Their reporting — accompanied by compelling visuals — brought a public outcry and led to long-overdue reforms.
- The Bupe Fix — The (Baltimore) Sun; Fred Schulte, Doug Donovan, Erika Niedowski
- Charter Schools: Missing the Grade — Orlando Sentinel; Vicki McClure, Mary Shanklin
- Could You Have Saved Ricky? — Detroit Free Press; Jack Kresnak
- Miracle Machines — The Seattle Times; Michael J. Berens, Christine Willmsen
- Lawless Lands — The Denver Post; Michael Riley, Barry Osborne, Barbara Hudson
Medium newspapers (100,000-250,000):
- American Imports, Chinese Deaths — The Salt Lake Tribune; Loretta Tofani
Judges’ comments: This ambitious project shows that the mundane creature comforts of American lives have debilitating and sometimes deadly consequences for the people of China who make them. Freelance reporter Tofani and The Salt Lake Tribune take readers to manufacturing plants where young workers touch and inhale carcinogens without gloves, masks or proper ventilation in order to make cheap products that are shipped to America. Through powerful writing, tenacious investigative reporting in often dangerous situations, Tofani exposes the abuse of Chinese workers while American industry conveniently fails to discover bogus safety audits and fake record keeping. Over 15 months of reporting, freelance reporter Tofani analyzed hundreds of pages of records written in Chinese and gained the trust of workers in a closed society. We are inspired by her determination, impressed with her precision and awed by the compassion she brought to this important work.
- The Terrorism Trade-off — Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Paul Shukovsky, Daniel Lathrop, Tracy Johnson
- Without Warning — The (Toledo, Ohio) Blade; Steve Eder, James Drew
- Last Chance — The Times-Picayune of New Orleans; Bob Marshall, Mark Schleifstein, Ted Jackson, Dan Swenson, Matthew Brown
- Rush to Judgment — The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer; Joseph Neff
Small newspapers (under 100,000):
- The Wait of Conviction — The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle; Sandy Hodson
Judges’ comments: This investigation uncovered the fact that many of the people convicted of serious crimes in Richmond County, Georgia, were not able to appeal their cases. By obtaining and reviewing hundreds of cases from a ten-year period, the reporter not only discovered a miscarriage of justice, but also affected change: the local judges responded with a promise to solve this serious problem. The piece was unique in that it focused on the administration of the justice system, not just the results of that system.
- Ticket Fraud — The (Shreveport, La.) Times; Alison Bath
- Child Care Nightmare — The (Vancouver, Wash.) Columbian; Erin Middlewood, Stephanie Rice, Elisa Williams
- Diploma Mill — The Virgin Islands Daily News; Ian Morrison
- Humans for Sale, “Dons” Exposed — The Crusading Guide (Accra, Ghana); Anas Aremeyaw Anas
Local Circulation Weeklies:
- The People Under the Bridge — Village Voice Media/Miami New Times; Isaiah Thompson
Judges’ comments: This unusual story turns all those warnings against sexual predators on its head. The laws on where sex offenders can live in Miami are so strict that — with no place else to go — authorities force offenders to live under a bridge. Reporter Isaiah Thompson got to know these people — some of whom had families willing to take them in but couldn’t. He does a masterful job showing the absurdity of their situation.
- Dianne Feinstein Series — North Bay Bohemian (Santa Rosa, Calif.); Peter Byrne
- Rudy Guiliani Series — The Village Voice; Wayne Barrett
- Muerte en El Desierto: El Rereso de Jesus — La Estrella de Tuscon/Arizona Daily Star; Mariana Alvarado Avalos, Jose Merino, Dean Knuth
- Who Killed Brad Will? — San Francisco Bay Guardian/Association of Alternative Newsweeklies; John Ross
- Mississippi Cold Case — MSNBC; David Ridgen, Michael Hannan, Brad Clarke, Judith Greenberg, Scott Hooker
Judges’ comments: This compelling documentary was aired by MSNBC and produced by David Ridgen of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The piece impressed the judges for its creative vision, thorough reporting and dramatic results. By literally digging up the past, following every lead and hounding key witnesses and participants, the producer showcased how original investigative reporting can solve cases. And by stirring up the interest of federal prosecutors, the piece also led to the prosecution of a key perpetrator of a long-forgotten murder of two African American men in 1964. By highlighting the emotional journey of the victim’s brother, the film told a story of reconciliation that gave larger meaning and context to the investigation. The medal was awarded for the originality of the work and the use of old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting.
- The Death of Timothy Souders — CBS News 60 Minutes; Scott Pelley, Solly Granatstein, Jan Mann, Jeff Fager, Patti Hassler, Richard Biddenhagen, Michael R. Whitney
- Gripen: The Secret Deals — SVT-Sweden; Sven Bergman, Joachim Dyfvermark, Fredrik Laurin
- In the Shadow of Justice — NBC News Dateline; Dan Slepian, Adam Gorfain, Rob Allen, Michael Nardi, Michelle Feuer, David Corvo
- Evidence of Injustice — CBS News 60 Minutes (with The Washington Post); Steve Kroft, Ira Rosen, Sumi Aggarwal, John Soloman, Jeff Fager, Patti Hassler, Bill Owens, Matt Richman
Top 20 markets:
- The Buried and the Dead — WFAA-Dallas; Brett Shipp, Mark Smith, Kraig Kirchem, Michael Valentine, Mark Ginther
Judges’ comments: WFAA-TV dug for a year into a story of deteriorating gas pipeline couplings, not a topic you’d expect to produce compelling video. But what they found was horrifying: An obsolete pipeline system. Gas leaks galore. Explosions that had already cost six lives and threatened tens of thousands more. The coverage was so explosive that it forced an entrenched bureaucracy to order the system replaced, costing the utility tens of millions of dollars and likely saving lives.
- Money for Nothing — WFAA-Dallas; Byron Harris, Mark Smith, Kriag Kirchem, Michael Valentine, Carlos Rosales
- Safety Second? — WXYZ-Detroit; Steve Wilson, Ross Jones, Ramon Rosario, Kristen Miller, Randy Lundquist
- The Taxman and the Truth — KDFW-Dallas-Ft. Worth; Paul Adrian, Joe Ellis, Maria Barrs, Glenn Dickson
- Sky Harbor Security Risks — KNXV-Phoenix; Lisa Fletcher, Jonathan Elias, Filip Kapsa, Vivek Narayan, Susan D’Astoli
- Missing Crime — KHOU-Houtson; Mark Greenblatt, David Raziq, Chris Henao, Keith Tomshe
Below top 20 markets:
- Radioactive Dumping — WSMV-Nashville; Demetria Kalodimos, David Sussman
Judges’ comments: This original investigation revealed that the state of Tennessee had for 20 years been allowing the dumping of low-level radioactive waste in ordinary landfills located around the state. They followed the story from the local level all the way to the national, including tracing the origin of much of the radioactive material. The pieces led to dramatic results, state government action and a moratorium on the dumping.
- $46 Billion Gamble — KOMU-Columbia (Mo.); August Skamenca, Ryan Luby, Scott Schaefer, Scott Schmidt (View Story Clip)
- NewsChannel 5 Investigates: 911 Emergency — WTVF-Nashville; Phil Williams, Bryan Staples (View Story Clip)
- Pennsylvania Open Records — WTAE-Pittsburgh; Jim Parsons, Kendall Cross, Mike Lazorko, Bob Longo (View Story Clip)
- Deadly Delay — WTHR-Indianapolis; Bob Segall, Bill Ditton, Holly Stephen (View Story Clip)
- Thanks for Nothing — The Nation; Joshua Kors
Judges’ comments: Some stories simply make your blood boil. This examination of Army soldiers who were denied benefits for being discharged under phony personality disorder diagnoses poignantly illustrates the impact this military policy had on soldiers’ lives and the difficulty Army officials had explaining the sharp rise in personality disorder cases. The magazine’s reporting showed that soldiers were not only denied benefits but also asked to repay their signing bonuses under an obscure discharge regulation. Many left the Army with several thousand dollars of debt.
- Hidden in Plain Sight — The Texas Observer; Nate Blakeslee
- The Insurance Hoax — Bloomberg News; David Dietz, Darrell Preston
- School of Shock — Mother Jones; Jennifer Gonnerman, Jen Phillips
- The Poverty Business — BusinessWeek; Brian Grow, Keith Epstein, Robert Berner
Judges’ comments: In a strong field, Bob Drogin’s “Curveball” stands out. The sourcing is clear and the writing compelling. The result is a detailed picture of the lies and mistakes that contributed to the Iraq War. Many of the key facts were first revealed in Drogin’s Los Angeles Times stories. Now he has added context and history.
- Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Is Better Than Yours — Phillip Longman
- Toxic Traces Revisited — Minnesota Public Radio News; Lorna Benson, Michael Edgerly
Judges’ comments: In 2005, MPR News documentary’s reporting forced the Health Department to lower the levels of perflourinated chemicals (PFCs) considered safe for humans after the chemical was found in Twin Cities drinking water. In 2007, the State Department of Health found the contaminant in the drinking water of yet another community. Once again, MPR delivered this complex environmental story to the public. Reporters obtained maps, internal government lists of possible toxic sites, fish testing results, and memos discussing the status of an investigation that seemed stalled. The result of the work was an indictment of a system that, without scrutiny and pressure, continued to fail in its duties.
- Sexual Abuse of Native American Women — National Public Radio; Laura Sullivan, Amy Walters, Steven Drummond, Maria Godoy
- Missouri’s Mental Health System — KCUR-Kansas City; Kelley Weiss, Laura Ziegler
- New Orleans Now: Immigrants, Labor and the Human Cost of Rebuilding an American City — Part 1 — National Radio Project; Tena Rubio, Phillip Babich, Steve Masar
- Violence Against Nursing Home Workers and Patients — Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; David McKie, Susanne Reber, Sandra Bartlett, Phil Harbord
- Collateral Damage: Human Rights and U.S. Military Aid after 9/11 — The Center for Public Integrity and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists; Nathaniel Heller, Ben Welsh, Marina Walker Guevara, Tom Stites, Sarah Fort, and Patrick Kiger, Michael Bilton, Prangtip Daorueng, Ignacio Gomez, Andreas Harsono, Alain Lallemand, Yossi Melman, Mutegi Njau, Paul Radu, Gerardo Reyes, Leo Sisti
Judges’ comments: A comprehensive and compelling examination of US military aid and assistance to foreign countries in a post- 9/11 world. The work of investigative journalists on four continents to track the origins of lobbying efforts and amounts of money involved was impressive by itself. But coupled with the power of an online database, readers were able to view unfiltered data broken into many categories. This made the project extremely accessible and easy to understand.
- Where Doubt Remains — wheredoubtremains.com; Justin McLachlan
- The War on Terror: Rorschach and Awe — Vanity Fair; Katherine Eban
- Cause for Alarm — MSNBC.com; Bill Dedman, Colin Hicks, Paige West, Mike Brunker
- Genarlow Wilson — ESPN.com; Wright Thompson, Kevin Jackson, Jay Lovinger
Tom Renner Award
- The Chauncey Bailey Project — A.C. Thompson, Thomas Peele, Josh Richman, Angela Hill, Mary Fricker, G.W. Schulz, Cecily Burt, Bob Butler, Paul T. Rosynsky, Harry Harris
Judges’ comments: These stories would have been difficult to pursue under any circumstances, but it took extreme dedication to get at the truth following the assassination of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey. In the tradition of the Arizona Project, this coalition of Bay area journalists delved into questionable real estate deals and contracts involving the owners of Your Muslim Bakery in Oakland. The reporters raised questions about the thoroughness of a police investigation into the group before Bailey’s murder. They probed the interrogation and confession of Bailey’s alleged killer. And they carried on the work that Bailey intended to pursue before his death.
(The Chauncey Bailey Project has received support from The John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, The Newspaper Guild, Sigma Delta Chi, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), George Washington Williams Fellowship and the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism)
- Miscarriages of Justice — The Herald (Glasgow, Scotland) and freelance work; Eamonn O’Neill
- Firefighter’s Explosion — The Kansas City Star; Mike McGraw
- Thanks for Nothing — The Nation; Joshua Kors
- The Big Eddy Club — David Rose
- Pennsylvania Open Records — WTAE-Pittsburgh; Jim Parsons, Bob Longo, Kendall Cross, Mike Lazorko
Judges’ comments: Investigative reporter Jim Parsons pushed open the front door of a closed government agency, PHEAA, Pennsylvania’s state-run student loan agency, revealing glaring examples of wasteful and abusive spending of taxpayer money. Travel documents revealed bureaucrats spent thousands of dollars on items and services such as tuxedo rentals, alcohol, flower arrangements, NFL tickets, aromatherapy massages and greens fees. Some employees ended up having to reimburse expenditures after Parsons’ stories aired. Parsons took his advocacy on behalf of open records beyond reporting. He organized the first of four statewide forums on the Pennsylvania’s Open Records Act and has been instrumental in obtaining legislative support in behalf of a new state Right to Know law.
- The ABCs of Betrayal — Columbus Dispatch; Jill Riepenhoff, Jennifer Smith Richards
- Dirty Little Secrets — Toronto Star; Robert Cribb, Dale Brazao
- The Great Empire Zone Giveaway — The (Syracuse, N.Y.) Post-Standard; Mike McAndrew, Michelle Breidenbach
Student Work (All Media)
- Public Payroll, Family Affairs: Aldermen Keep It Relative — creatingcommunityconnections.org; Allison Riggio, Hunter Clauss
Judges’ comments: After its genesis as a class project at Columbia College in Chicago, this story grew into an interesting expose of nepotism in city government. These student reporters used public records requests and numerous phone calls to identify relatives of city council members who are on the public payroll. Persistence and aggressiveness overcame the obstacle of not being taken seriously by some sources. Both the writing and the sourcing are clear. The importance to readers is high.
- New York University’s Election Scandal — Washington Square News (New York University); Jared Irmas
- No Room for Sex Offenders — The Register Guard (Eugene, Ore.); Whitney Malkin
- Bad Lawyers — Capitol News Service (University of Maryland); Anju Kaur
- Pokey Chatman’s resignation series — The Daily Reveille (Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge); Amy Brittain