Center's report on black lung wins prestigious Goldsmith Prize

Report sparked federal investigation

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A ground-breaking Center for Public Integrity investigation detailing controversial denials of black lung benefits to coal miners has been awarded the prestigious Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

The announcement was made at a ceremony Wednesday night.

The winning series, “Breathless and Burdened: Dying from Black Lung, Buried by Law and Medicine,” was a year-long investigation written by Center reporter Chris Hamby in partnership with the ABC News Brian Ross investigative unit. The series illuminated how doctors and lawyers working at the behest of the coal industry helped defeat benefit claims of coal miners who were sick and dying of black lung disease.

The Center reporting team explored previously classified legal filings and created a database of medical evidence revealing how lawyers withheld key evidence and how doctors at the John Hopkins Medical Institutions consistently denied the existence of advanced black lung on X-rays.

Following the online and network news reports, Johns Hopkins suspended its black lung program, U.S. senators began crafting reform legislation and members of Congress asked for a federal investigation. In addition, the Department of Labor recently announced a number of procedural changes in the federal benefits system that deals with black lung claims.

The award is given by the Joan Shorenstein Center for the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. The annual prize, widely considered one of the field’s most important, recognizes 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, or instances of particularly commendable government performance.”

"I am extremely proud of the Center for Public Integrity's year long investigative project on behalf of thousands of coal miners with black lung who have been denied their rights to federal compensation," said Center Executive Director Bill Buzenberg.

In addition to Hamby and Ross, also named for the prize were Ronnie Greene, Jim Morris and Chris Zubak-Skees of the Center and Matthew Mosk and Rhonda Schwartz of ABC News.

Other finalists for this year’s Goldsmith Prize included a Center report detailing the widespread use of offshore tax havens by the rich and famous. “Secrecy for Sale: Inside the Global Offshore Money Maze,” was produced by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a project of the Center.

Based on more than 2.5 million leaked files, the 50-story investigation involved 112 journalists and 42 media partners in 58 nations.

Other finalists were Miami New Times, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wall Street Journal and a collaboration involving the University of California’s investigative reporting program, The Center for Investigative Reporting, FRONTLINE, Univision Documentaries and KQED.