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Long Island University Announces Winners of 2010 George Polk Awards in Journalism

Rolling Stone honored for its history-making dispatch on the war in Afghanistan;
Associated Press wins for its extraordinary coverage of the Gulf oil spill


Brian Harmon,Director of Public Relations
Brooklyn Campus,
Long Island University

Long Island University has announced the winners of 13 George Polk Awards for 2010, including a Rolling Stone magazine reporter for producing an illuminating dispatch from the front lines of the war in Afghanistan and the Associated Press for its groundbreaking coverage of the Gulf oil spill.

The New York Times and the independent non-profit news organization ProPublica each earned two Polk Awards, while the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was honored with a Polk Award for the third-straight year. Judges twice awarded the collaborative efforts of multiple news organizations. ProPublica, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans and PBS’ “Frontline” won the George Polk Award for Television Reporting, while ProPublica and National Public Radio joined forces to produce work that garnered them the Polk Award for Radio Reporting.

“After a drought of several years, a number of major metropolitan newspapers produced significant investigative work during 2010,” said John Darnton, curator of the George Polk Awards. “And for the first time, there were some truly noteworthy collaborative projects across print, television, radio and the Internet.”

The George Polk Awards in Journalism are conferred annually to honor special achievement in journalism, with a premium placed on investigative and enterprise reporting. They were established in 1949 by Long Island University to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent who was murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war.

The 2010 George Polk Awards will be presented at a luncheon at The Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan on Thursday, April 7, 2011. Associated Press correspondent and former CBS News reporter Kimberly Dozier, who was seriously injured in a 2006 car bombing in Iraq that killed two of her colleagues, will be the citation reader. The program also will include a special presentation to Wilbert Rideau, a former death row inmate who earned the 1979 George Polk Award for Special Interest Reporting while working as the editor of his Louisiana prison’s magazine. The annual George Polk Seminar will take place the preceding evening, Wednesday, April 6, 2011, at the Kumble Theater for Performing Arts on Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus.

Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone will receive the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting for “The Runaway General,” a history-making piece that prompted President Obama’s dismissal of U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Mr. Hastings’ explosive magazine piece last summer revealed the strategic discrepancies and political infighting that underlies the American military mission. A veteran journalist who also has covered the Iraq War, Mr. Hastings followed Gen. McChrystal and his team of top advisers from Paris to Kabul to Kandahar, while building a profile that depicted Gen. McChrystal as an outsider who didn’t get along with many top officials in the Obama administration. The Rolling Stone piece also included an array of disparaging remarks made by the Gen. McChrystal’s loyal staffers about top officials in the Obama administration, including Vice President Joe Biden.

“Michael Hastings’ magazine piece captured a worrisome cowboy mentality among Gen. McChrystal’s inner circle,” said Mr. Darnton. “The general’s officers disparaged our allies, our diplomats and our top elected leaders – all of which pointed to a disconnect between Washington and the warriors that was disturbing and potentially dangerous.”

The George Polk Award for Environmental Reporting will recognize the colossal effort made by the Associated Press in covering last year’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The AP was the first news organization to report that the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig had sank following an explosion. Later, AP investigative reporters detailed how equipment failures and deference to the chain of command helped bring about the disaster. In response to an AP report that revealed that more than 27,000 abandoned oil wells existed in the Gulf and that their condition was unknown to the industry or the government, President Obama ordered oil companies to permanently plug 3,500 of the neglected wells. The AP’s multimedia coverage of the 206 million-gallon oil spill included a compelling video report that showed how it devastated the natural environment and the local economy.

The George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting will go to Clifford J. Levy and Ellen Barry of The New York Times for their courageous coverage of Russia throughout 2010. Based in Moscow, the two correspondents enlightened readers time and time again with hard-hitting reports that spurred candid discussion in Russia about how far the country had strayed from post-Soviet Union promises that no one would remain above the law. The Times’ “Above the Law” series provided gripping accounts of Russians harassed, beaten and jailed by the same authorities they had stood up against. The powerful reports from Mr. Levy and Ms. Barry in many cases helped these beleaguered Russian citizens achieve vindication and a measure of protection. The Times stories — which included video reports — were cited regularly inside Russia, where journalists often are punished for such muckraking.

“Top Secret America,” a two-year investigation that for the first time cast light into the shadows of the enormous ecosystem of military, intelligence and corporate interests spawned in the decade after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, earned The Washington Post’s Dana Priest and William M. Arkin the George Polk Award for National Reporting. Ms. Priest and Mr. Arkin revealed that the business of keeping Americans safe is an operation that involves 854,000 people with top-secret security clearances working on counter-terrorism and homeland-security issues for 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 privates companies in some 10,000 locations across the U.S. The government’s national security and intelligence system, the series showed, has grown so big and become so complex — and relies so heavily on private contractors — that it’s virtually impossible to know whether it’s fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping citizens safe.

The George Polk Award for Local Reporting will be given to the Los Angeles Times for its explosive report on the working-class city of Bell, where city officials were receiving some of the highest salaries in the country despite the fact that they were leading one of the poorest cities in Los Angeles County. Los Angeles Times reporters Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives and a group of other staff writers revealed that officials in the city of 37,000 had bilked its residents of millions of dollars and secretly enriched themselves, even as they cut services and fired workers. Bell’s city administrator was paid nearly $800,000 a year, and city council members made $100,000 annually for part-time jobs. As a result of the investigative reporting, eight current or former city officials were arrested on corruption charges. The Los Angeles Times stories on Bell also led the state controller’s office to order municipalities to post the salaries of officials on the Internet.

For a series of stories that blew the lid off the hidden world of steroid use and fraud among law enforcement officers across New Jersey, Amy Brittain and Mark Mueller of The Star-Ledger will receive the George Polk Award for Metropolitan Reporting. In “Strong at Any Cost,” the Newark-based paper revealed that hundreds of police officers, firefighters and correction officers regularly were using steroids and human growth hormones. Ms. Brittain and Mr. Mueller reported that, in most cases, the officers used their publicly funded health benefits to pay for the drugs, meaning state taxpayers footed the bill for millions of dollars in illegal prescriptions. The tenacious work of The Star-Ledger tandem resulted in a wave of action from state lawmakers and the presidents of New Jersey’s two largest police unions — including an investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office and calls for random drug testing for steroids.

Bloomberg News earned the George Polk Award for Education Reporting with an array of scathing reports that detailed how the for-profit college industry experienced tremendous growth in 10 years by targeting underprivileged students who qualify for federal financial aid. Reporters Dan Golden, John Hechinger and John Lauerman revealed that federal aid awarded to students enrolled at for-profit colleges skyrocketed to $26.5 billion in 2009 from $4.6 billion in 2000. These education companies marketed heavily to veterans and active-duty service men and women in order to profit from the GI Bill’s school funding. The for-profit colleges also recruited poor and homeless people in order to gain access to federal loan aid, Bloomberg News found. The “Education Inc.” series set the agenda for reforming an industry that had gone largely unnoticed despite educating 12 percent of all college students in the U.S.

The George Polk Award for Criminal Justice Reporting will be bestowed upon John Diedrich and Ben Poston of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for their compelling “Wiped Clean” series, which uncovered how infrequently the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives revoked the licenses of lawbreaking gun dealers and how easily those stores beat the system. The two reporters revealed how more than 50 gun shop owners facing federal scrutiny wiped away years of gun sale violations simply by changing ownership on paper, such as from father to son or from husband to wife. The impetus for the series came when Mr. Diedrich noticed a popular Milwaukee-area gun shop had changed its name from Badger Outdoors to Badger Guns. In “Wiped Clean,” the reporters also revealed that federal gun laws allow felons to practice at shooting ranges in gun stores, since Congress does not require background checks on gun rentals.

Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times won the George Polk Award for Military Reporting for a behind-the-scenes look at the war in Afghanistan. Through a seemingly constant flow of jaw-dropping scoops, the two correspondents disclosed the war’s deeper and darker currents and subsequently altered public perception of the conflict. Their reporting showed the great extent to which the war effort is relying on cross-border operations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the use of private contractors. While exposing the deceit and mistrust that lie at the core of the U.S. relationships with Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr. Filkins and Mr. Mazzetti demonstrated that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is far more corrupt and more anti-American than even his critics had understood. Their reporting also revealed that a so-called Taliban peace negotiator was an impostor.

The George Polk Award for Commentary will be given to New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez for columns that exposed a major scandal in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration — a corrupt technology project that grew into a $700 million boondoggle as City Hall ignored persistent signs of mismanagement. Mr. Gonzalez’s relentless reporting helped lead to the federal indictment of four consultants and two associates on charges that they orchestrated a fraud that cost city taxpayers more than $80 million. The city hired CityTime in 1998 to carry out a $63 million plan to overhaul the city’s electronic payroll system. Mr. Gonzalez showed how the project ballooned into a public trough for private consultants with few tangible results. This is the second Polk Award for the veteran Daily News columnist. Mr. Gonzalez also won a Polk Award in 1998.

The George Polk Award for Radio Reporting will acknowledge a collaborative project conducted by National Public Radio and ProPublica that found the U.S. military was falling woefully short in providing adequate diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers. In “Brain Wars,” T. Christian Miller of ProPublica and Daniel Zwerdling and Susanne Reber of NPR revealed that the military medical system is failing to diagnose brain injuries in tens of thousands of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many of the veterans receiving little or no treatment for lingering health problems. Their investigation found that 40% of soldiers suffering from concussions were not receiving a correct diagnosis from military doctors.

The George Polk Award for Television Reporting will be given to ProPublica, PBS’ “Frontline” and The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, La.) for a monumental collaborative effort that took an in-depth and unwavering look at the controversial and often brutal actions taken by the New Orleans Police Department in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “Law & Disorder” investigates charges that police officers shot at least 10 people — killing a minimum of four — in the week after the 2005 catastrophe.

The report raised questions about whether police officers needed to use such deadly force and documented the police department’s flawed and cursory investigations of the shootings. The news project revealed that in the midst of post-Katrina chaos, law-enforcement commanders issued orders to ignore long-established rules governing use of deadly force, reporting that a police captain told a group of officers that they had the authority “by martial law to shoot looters.” A.C. Thompson of ProPublica, Raney Aronson-Rath and Tom Jennings of Frontline and Laura Maggi and Brendan McCarthy of The Times-Picayune will be honored.

The George Polk Career Award will be presented to Sandy Close, executive director of New America Media, an alternative news source that supports thousands of ethnic media outlets. For 37 years, Ms. Close has guided the pioneering efforts of New America Media, formerly known as the Pacific News Service. She has mentored many journalists who now work in the mainstream press, including A.C. Thompson, one of this year’s winners of the Polk Award for Television Reporting. In 1995, Ms. Close received a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award" fellowship; and in 1997, she co-produced the Academy Award-winning short documentary, “Breathing Lessons.” Perhaps her proudest moment in journalism came in 2007, when she organized the Chauncey Bailey Project, a team of reporters whose investigative work led Oakland police to arrest those responsible for killing Mr. Bailey, who was a Polk Award-winning journalist.

On Wednesday, April 6, the annual George Polk Seminar, which is free and open to the public, will take place at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts on Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus, located at the intersection of DeKalb Avenue and Flatbush Avenue in downtown Brooklyn. A 5:30 p.m. reception will precede a panel discussion, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. The seminar, entitled “Piercing the Veil of Secrecy,” will feature Washington Post correspondent Dana Priest, winner of the 2010 George Polk Award for National Reporting; A.C. Thompson of ProPublica, who earned the 2010 George Polk Award for Television Reporting; and Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings, recipient of the 2010 George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting.

On Thursday, April 7, Long Island University will host the George Polk Awards Luncheon at noon at The Roosevelt Hotel, located in Manhattan at 45 East 45th Street (at the corner of Madison Avenue). A poster exhibit displaying work by the Polk Award winners will commence at 11:00 a.m. A limited number of tickets are available.

For reservations to attend the George Polk Seminar and for tickets to the George Polk Awards Luncheon, please contact Long Island University’s Office of Special Events at 516-299-3298 or e-mail

George Polk Awards
Ranked among America's most coveted journalism honors, the George Polk Awards have been administered by Long Island University since 1949.They memorialize CBS correspondent George W. Polk, who was slain covering the civil war in Greece in 1948. A committee of jurors made up of University faculty members and alumni select the winners from entries submitted by journalists and news organizations as well as nominations made by a panel of journalists and editors, including a number of former winners.

About Long Island University
In its ninth decade of providing access to the American dream through excellence in higher education, Long Island University is a multicampus, diverse, doctoral institution of higher learning. One of the largest and most comprehensive private universities in the country, Long Island University offers more than 550 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs and certificates, and educates over 24,000* students in degree-credit and continuing education programs in Brooklyn, Brookville (C.W. Post), Brentwood, Riverhead, Rockland and Westchester. The Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences prepares students for successful careers in the fields of pharmacy and health care. The University’s Global College provides a wide range of study abroad options at overseas centers in China, Costa Rica and India, and through program offerings in Australia, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey. Long Island University’s more than 600 full-time faculty members provide outstanding instruction, which is supplemented by internships and cooperative education opportunities. The accomplishments of more than 182,000 living alumni are a testament to the success of its mission – providing the highest level of education to people from all walks of life. The University’s NCAA Division I and II athletic teams, nationally renowned George Polk Awards in journalism and Tilles Center for the Performing Arts provide enrichment for students and the community.

*This number includes high school students enrolled in one or more degree-credit courses.

The Brooklyn Campus is distinguished by...
dynamic curricula reflecting the great urban community it serves. Distinctive programs encompass the arts and media, the natural sciences, business, social policy, urban education, the health professions and pharmacy, and include the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, the Ph.D. in Pharmaceutics, the D.P.T. in Physical Therapy and the Pharm.D. in Pharmacy. A vibrant urban oasis in downtown Brooklyn, this diverse and thriving campus offers academic excellence, personalized attention, small class size and flexible course schedules. In 2006, a $45-million Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center was opened to serve the Campus and the surrounding community. In 2007, the Cyber Café was launched, providing a high-tech hot spot for students and faculty members to meet and eat.

Posted 02/22/2011

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