2008 Philip Meyer Award winners

The awards were presented at the 2009 CAR Conference in Indianapolis.

The contest, for work published or broadcast between October 2007 and October 2008, attracted entries from across the country. Stories are available to IRE members through the IRE Resource Center. Click on a story link below or contact us at 573-882-3364.

First Place

Scripps Howard News Service, “Saving Babies: Exposing Sudden Infant Death”. Scripps Howard national reporters Tom Hargrove, Lee Bowman and Lisa Hoffman did a masterful job in exposing bureaucratic lapses that hinder the search for causes of Sudden Infant Death. Making good use of strong statistical tools, the team analyzed the sharp differences in cause-of-death diagnoses among the states and produced the first rigorous proof of the value of the local and state child death review boards that only some jurisdictions use. A few months after the project ran, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama introduced national legislation that would require medical examiners to make death scene investigations in all cases of unexpected infant death.

Second Place

Kansas City Star“Fatal Failures”. Reporters Mike Casey and Rick Montgomery analyzed 1.9 million records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to uncover NHTSA’s failure to consider non-deploying airbags as being a significant safety issue. The work by Casey and Montgomery suggested that nearly 300 people are killed each year in accidents when airbags didn’t inflate when they should have. Initially, NHTSA strongly disputed the findings, but finally did its own analysis and came to the same conclusions. This project combined the best of the kind of techniques Phil Meyer has championed and the investigative mindset that refuses to take “no” for an answer when the stakes (in this case, life and death) are high.

Third Place

Philadelphia Inquirer“Too Tough: Tactics in Suburban Policing”, Mark Fazlollah, Dylan Purcell, Melissa Dribben and Keith Herbert. The Inquirer’s team studied arrest and court data from police departments in the suburbs that surround Philadelphia and found towns where blacks were being arrested in extraordinary numbers for minor offenses like loitering or jaywalking. Their followup reporting uncovered jails where thousands of illegal strip searches were being done, police dogs being used to control black children walking home from school, and traffic citations that were filled out in advance of arrests.