Cambridge, MA – The $25,000 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting from the Shorenstein Center has been awarded to Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan of The Associated Press for their investigative report “Seafood from Slaves.”

Additionally, the Shorenstein Center awarded the Career Award for Excellence in Journalism to Walter Isaacson. The Goldsmith Book Prizes were awarded to Harold Holzer for Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion and to Erik Albæk, Arjen van Dalen, Nael Jebril and Claes H. de Vreese for Political Journalism in Comparative Perspective.

The Associated Press uncovered extensive use of slave labor in the Thai seafood industry, which supplies major U.S. supermarkets, restaurants, and food suppliers, such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Sysco, Nestle, Whole Foods and Red Lobster. The investigation led to the freeing of more than 2,000 enslaved fishermen from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, the jailing of perpetrators, congressional hearings and the proposal of new laws. The U.S. State Department used the series as part of its decision to give Thailand the lowest rating for human trafficking and has discussed the findings during diplomatic talks.

“‘Seafood from Slaves’ is investigative journalism at its best,” said Thomas E. Patterson, the Shorenstein Center’s interim director. “The story was extraordinarily difficult to uncover and its impact on people’s lives and public policy will last far into the future.”

Launched in 1991, the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting honors journalism which promotes more effective and ethical conduct of government, the making of public policy, or the practice of politics by disclosing excessive secrecy, impropriety and mismanagement.

The other five finalists for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting were:

The Guardian US
Jon Swaine, Oliver Laughland, Jamiles Lartey, Ciara McCarthy and Guardian US interactive staff
“The Counted”
The Guardian documented the number of people killed by police in the U.S., telling the stories of who they were, and establishing the hidden trends in how they died, through a database, special reports, and multimedia. The investigation’s final tally for 2015 of 1,134 deaths was two and a half times greater than the last annual total recorded by the FBI. After the publication of “The Counted,” the FBI announced at the end of 2015 that it would overhaul its system of counting killings by police. The Department of Justice also began testing a new program for recording arrest-related deaths, drawing on Guardian data.

InsideClimate News
Neela Banerjee, John H. Cushman Jr., David Hasemyer and Lisa Song
“Exxon: The Road Not Taken”
InsideClimate News reported that Exxon conducted cutting-edge climate research decades ago, and then, without revealing to shareholders and the broader public what it knew about the effects of climate change, worked to manufacture doubt about the scientific consensus that its own research had confirmed. As a result of the reporting, New York’s attorney general has launched a probe of Exxon. Other lawmakers around the country and environmental leaders have also urged the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to conduct investigations of Exxon.

The New York Times
Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Michael Corkery and Robert Gebeloff
“Beware the Fine Print”
The New York Times investigated clauses in numerous consumer and employee contracts and reported that they deprive Americans of their ability to sue, insulating companies whose business practices are deceitful or illegal. The Times revealed how a coalition of credit card companies and retailers enshrined class-action bans in contracts. They also reported that some companies require disputes be settled according to biblical principles or by company-related arbitrators. Bills have since been introduced in Congress to exempt secular disputes from religious arbitration; to prevent nursing homes from requiring arbitration in residents’ contracts; and to bar for-profit schools from using arbitration clauses in enrollment agreements.

Tampa Bay Times
Michael LaForgia, Cara Fitzpatrick and Lisa Gartner
“Failure Factories”
The Tampa Bay Times exposed how the Pinellas County School Board abandoned integration, then deprived black schools in poor neighborhoods of resources until they were awash in violence and academic failure, making Pinellas County the most concentrated site of academic failure in the state of Florida. As a result of the series, officials enacted reforms including increased funding, improved teacher training, and the converting of three of the affected schools into magnets. The Florida Department of Education opened an investigation into the district’s use of federal Title I dollars to ensure that money is spent properly.

The Washington Post
The Washington Post staff
“Fatal Shooting by Police”
The Washington Post launched an effort to tally every fatal shooting in the U.S. by an on-duty police officer in 2015. Their database chronicled shootings in real time, using news reports and other public sources – compiling a record more extensive than that of the FBI, which spurred the agency to take action to enact better federal recordkeeping. The FBI’s new approach will reflect that of the Post’s, capturing shootings and other violent incidents in real time and logging many of the same details. The Post‘s coverage also was cited by two senators when they introduced legislation in June to force states to report officer-involved shootings to the FBI.

The judges for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting were Karen de Sá, San Jose Mercury News; Mike Greenfield, the Greenfield Foundation; Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald; Bill Mitchell, affiliate faculty member, Poynter Institute for Media Studies; Michael Rezendes, The Boston Globe; and Debra Adams Simmons, current Nieman Fellow. Thomas Patterson, Shorenstein Center interim director, chaired the meeting as a non-voting member of the committee.

The Goldsmith Book Prize is awarded to the academic and trade books that best fulfill the objective of improving democratic governance through an examination of the intersection between the media, politics and public policy.

The Goldsmith Book Prize for best academic book was awarded to Erik Albæk, Arjen van Dalen, Nael Jebril and Claes H. de Vreese for Political Journalism in Comparative Perspective, Cambridge University Press.

The Goldsmith Book Prize for best trade book was awarded to Harold Holzer for Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion, Simon & Schuster.

The Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism was awarded to Walter Isaacson, former chairman of CNN, former editor of TIME, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, and author of bestselling books on Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin.


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