Five Center for Public Integrity projects garner awards in journalism contests

Honors handed out for investigations in business, health care reporting

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Center for Public Integrity investigations involving the opioid crisis, state insurance commissioners, South Sudan, broadband access and offshore corporations have been honored in recent days by prestigious journalism competitions.

The Center was a winner in three categories of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers “Best in Business” competition, while taking a first place and a second place prize in the Association of Health Care Journalists’ awards for excellence.

“These wins showcased several deep-dive, investigative projects that covered a host of issues,” said John Dunbar, the Center’s chief executive officer. “The awards show it’s possible to write about complex topics in clear and compelling ways.”

In the business journalism contest, the Center was a winner in the international category for smaller publications for “Rape, murder, famine — and $2.1 million for K Street PR,” which detailed how Washington spinmeisters earned huge paychecks to help one of the world’s most murderous governments polish its image on Capitol Hill.

Judges noted that Erin Quinn’s story was enlivened “by featuring a former Sudanese ‘Lost Boy’ who called the fees received by K Street firms ‘blood money.’” The piece was edited by Gordon Witkin and John Dunbar.

The Center also won the technology category for smaller publications with “Rich people have access to high-speed Internet; many poor people still don’t.” The multimedia project showed that there is still a deep divide in America regarding access to high-speed Internet connections.

Judges commented that the “incredibly informative” package was “well-researched… enlightening and, at times, shocking.” The main story was written by Allan Holmes, with data reporting and visualizations by Ben Wieder and Chris Zubak-Skees. A companion video was produced by Eleanor Bell Fox. Gordon Witkin edited the package.  

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' “Panama Papers” project took top prize in the banking/finance category for large publications. Judges said the investigation represented “exceptional journalism on a topic of international importance.”

The business award marked the Panama Papers project’s fifth major American journalism prize. ICIJ was a project of the Center for Public Integrity when the series was written but has since separated.

The contest awarded prizes across 65 categories. Among other winners: Bloomberg News, Fortune and the Wall Street Journal. Honorees will be celebrated on April 29 at the business editors and writers’ annual convention in Seattle.  
 

In the health journalism contest, a Center for Public Integrity collaboration with The Associated Press — The “Politics of Pain” — was awarded first place in the health policy category. The project investigated the politics behind the ongoing opioid epidemic with a unique look at how drug makers and their allies sought to thwart steps intended to combat opioid abuse.

Center for Public Integrity reporters Liz Essley Whyte and Ben Wieder worked with AP reporters Geoff Mulvihill and Matthew Perrone for 10 months to piece together the series, digging into campaign contributions, lobbying reports, internal company documents and government emails key to understanding the role that politics played in shaping the response to the crisis. The series was edited by AP’s Kristin Gazlay, Tom Verdin and the Center’s Kytja Weir.

Judges said the project was a “tour de force” and a “golden example of exhaustive reporting that was not exhaustive to read because the stories are well-told, edited and organized — and tragically important.”

Another Center for Public Integrity investigation, on the insurance industry’s ties to state regulators, was awarded second place in the business category.

The insurance project, “Drink, dinners, junkets and jobs: how the insurance industry courts state commissioners,” illustrated the “cozy relationships, revolving doors and shady financial connections” between regulators and industry, judges said. The piece was written by Michael J. Mishak, with data assistance by Ben Wieder, and edited by Kytja Weir. An abridged version was co-published in the Washington Post, the Hartford Courant and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The health care journalists’ awards recognize the best health reporting across 11 categories. Winners included the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe and Spectrum.

The prizes will be presented on April 22 in Orlando during the association’s annual conference.

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