Newsday, The Record Top Prize Winners,
Kihss Award to David W. Dunlap of The Times
If anyone believes that the assaults on journalists and the numbing bleats of “fake news” from the highest ranks of government have somehow succeeded in reducing the media’s resolve, look no further than the Society of the Silurians’ 2018 Excellence in Journalism competition and be assured that honest, fearless and righteous reporting has not disappeared. The men and women who were cited for work done in 2017 at this year’s annual Awards Dinner have all produced stories and images that honor our profession. In the face of fiscal and political pressure, they and their news organizations continue to hold the powerful to account, they enlighten, they delight, and, sometimes, they even help to punish the guilty,
This year’s honorees were topped by Newsday, with five Medallion winners and four Merit awards, just ahead of The (Bergen) Record’s three Medallions and five Merit awards. They, as well as the more than 30 individual winners, were recognized on Wednesday, May 16 at the National Arts Club in front of some 140 colleagues, family and friends . The competition is open to print, broadcast and digital media.
In addition, the Society presented its Peter Kihss Award to David W. Dunlap in recognition of his career as a distinguished reporter at The New York Times and his record as a mentor to budding journalists. Both qualities embody the virtues of the late New York Times reporter for whom the award is named. As a member of the Metro staff, Dunlap — who joined The Times in 1975 as a clerk for James Reston — covered a myriad of beats, ranging from religion to local politics, and from gay and AIDS issues to real estate, especially the physical changes in the city following 9/11. He recently took a buyout, but he’s still at the paper, working in a special room in the Times Building, where he’s putting together a gallery of Times artifacts, some dating from the late 19th century. He calls the room “the Timeseum.” (See Clyde Haberman’s profile of Dunlap in the May Silurian News.)
Also on the evening’s agenda: The Dennis Duggan Memorial Scholarship Award, given annually to a student at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism whose work, like the late Newsday columnist’s, gives a voice to “ordinary” people. The 2018 winner is Samantha Maldonado, who came to the J-School last year after working in communications for the Free Library of Philadelphia. She’s since written about such unheralded New Yorkers as former prison guards who use art to keep kids out of jail and a guide who escorts visitors on candlelight catacomb tours beneath a old church on Mott Street, (See the May Silurian News for a profile of Maldonado by Jere Hester of the CUNY J-School.)
Following are summaries of all the winning entries:
BREAKING NEWS, newspaper, news service and online.
Medallion: The Record, “NYC Terror Attack” by The Record Staff.
The newspaper and NorthJersey.com provided meticulous and comprehensive coverage of the terrorist attack on Oct. 31 along a Manhattan bike path that killed eight people. The Record poured impressive resources into covering this attack, and the result was a compelling package of storytelling. In addition, the paper excelled precisely where a local news organization should, by diving deeply into the life of the suspect, a man from Paterson, N.J.
Merit Award: The Record, “Plane Crash in Teterboro” by The Record Staff.
The Record wins again for its coverage of a fatal plane crash last May near Teterboro airport. Two people were killed. Based not far from Teterboro Airport, The Record is all too familiar with covering plane crashes and other accidents. Its expertise was amply displayed as it chronicled the final moments of this ill-fated aircraft, the history of tragedy-plagued Teterboro and the fears of residents who live nearby, never free from fear that horror may fall on them from the sky.
FEATURE NEWS, Newspaper, news service, magazine and online.
Medallion: Richard Schapiro, The New York Daily News, “South Bronx Heroin Den.”
Schapiro’s gripping story, an up-close peek into the dark world of addiction, uses the alchemy of vivid dispassionate writing and rigorous reporting to achieve journalism that is simultaneously classic and timely.
Merit Award: Benjamin Weiser and Alan Feuer, The New York Times, “A Horrific Bus Crash, Three Years Later.”
Two veteran New York Times reporters revisit a devastating 2014 bus crash that killed three and seriously injured dozens. They focus on the surviving passengers, who continue to suffer through life-changing injuries and long rehabilitations, and a New York bus company that was woefully but legally underinsured, robbing survivors of adequate compensation for their injuries. Well written and superbly reported and researched.
Merit Award: Zeke Faux, Bloomberg News, “Bro, I’m Going Rogue.”
A fascinating look into the backroom of a pump-and-dump stock-promotion operation and the snare set by FBI agents who ultimately got their flamboyant man.
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING, newspaper, magazine, news service and online.
Medallion: Matt Clark, Newsday, “Separate and Unequal.”
This five-part series epitomized the art and science of a database investigation. Clark painstakingly scoured 2.5 million real-estate tax bills and revealed how Nassau County’s effort to reform its tax assessment system ended up raising the taxes of poor, elderly and minority homeowners by $1.7 billion over seven years and cut taxes for homeowners who could afford appeals. The reforms, he demonstrated, also enriched the county’s tax appeal firms, who were large contributors to County Executive Edward Mangano. Clark also put flesh on the numbers by interviewing residents who were harmed. As a result, newly elected county officials cited Newsday’s finding in their plans to again overhaul the tax assessment system
Merit Award: Thomas Zambito, The Journal News, “Metro-North Loses its Way.”
Zambito’s series showed how Metro-North, which prioritizes on-time performance, failed to anticipate a train crash in the Bronx in 2013 that killed four people, despite warnings from its own engineers that earlier incidents indicated that a backup system was needed for the curve where the accident took place. The reporters showed groundbreaking enterprise on an important story that received more conventional coverage in other publications.
PUBLIC SERVICE REPORTING , newspaper, magazine, news service and online.
Medallion: Brian M. Rosenthal, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Michael LaForgia and The New York Times Staff, “System Failure.”
The Times series, especially impressive in its online version, includes stories throughout 2017 that detail how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has systematically mismanaged New York City’s subway system for decades and up to the present day. State and city officials neglected maintenance even as ridership doubled, while, when construction and repairs are made, the flawed contract bidding process hikes costs to five times the international average. Includes stories on the much more efficiently run London and Paris systems.
SPORTS REPORTING AND COMMENTARY, newspaper, news service, magazine and online.
Medallion: Tara Sullivan, The Record, sports columns.
Whether writing about the life of an invalid ex-Jets and Giants coach, or going into the stands to see what the family and friends of a New England Patriots’ player are up to, Sullivan brings a remarkable depth of insight, reportage and, quite simply, humanity, to her columns. And never lost in her features is a work ethic. When she puts together a story, she seems to have interviewed every person who has been touched by, or had an effect on, her subject.
Merit Award: Jim Baumbach, Newsday, “Sports Safety.”
Newsday has been a leader in looking at the effects of concussions and other injuries in scholastic football. Baumbach spearheads the search, doggedly using the Freedom of Information Act to get high schools’ statistics. We learn that an increasing number of Nassau County schools don’t even field junior-varsity teams any longer because the kids aren’t turning out.
BUSINESS/FINANCIAL REPORTING: Newspaper, news service, magazine and online.
Medallion: Caleb Melby and David Kocieniewski, Bloomberg News, “Unmasking the Kushner Real Estate Empire.”
The duo dug into the troubles of Kushner Cos., the real estate firm controlled by Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner’s troubles stem largely from his ill-fated 2007 purchase, for $4 billion, of 666 Fifth Avenue, an aging and unstylish commercial and residential building that has lost much of its value since the financial crisis. That and other Manhattan purchases have pushed Kushner Cos. into deep debt. Analysts don’t see an easy exit. Could bankruptcy be in the Kushner future?
Medallion: Jen Wieczner, Fortune magazine, “Whatever It Takes to Win.”
This intriguing story looks inside Elliott Management, the secretive New York hedge fund founded by Republican donor Paul Singer. Elliott’s aggressive style of so-called shareholder activism has brought a series of companies, and countries, to their knees. Its insistence on getting full price for Argentina’s bonds kept that country out of the international debt market for years. Its battles with South Korea’s Samsung arguably helped land both a top Samsung executive and the President of South Korea in prison for bribery.
Merit Award: Susan Antilla for The Intercept in partnership with The Investigative Fund, “The Advice Trap.”
Antilla’s story exposes the seven-year fight by the financial industry to prevent implementation of a tough new Department of Labor rule requiring financial advisors to put retirement investors’ interests first when investing their money. The rule finally went into effect last June, but the Trump Administration is doing everything it can to quash it.
SCIENCE AND HEALTH REPORTING: Newspaper, news service, magazine and online.
Medallion: Ruth Ford, Janaki Chadha and Jarrett Murphy, City Limits, “Death Disparities: Health Inequality in New York City.”
This crisply written four-part series by a trio of enterprising reporters brings to light the complex mesh of interlocking factors that underlie the growing disparity in health and life expectancy between poor and wealthier neighborhoods of New York City over the past decade. In doing so, the series — based on a meticulous examination of a thicket of public documents and interviews with community leaders and experts from a broad range of disciplines and supplemented by highly instructive sidebars and graphics — provides a roadmap for ways to significantly reduce these glaring inequities, were there the public will to do so.
Medallion: Lindy Washburn, The Record, “Miracle on Ice” and other stories.
Washburn is a sure-handed health reporter who knows how to captivate. Whether covering cutting-edge clinical advances or reporting on medicine’s enduring mysteries, she seasons her finely wrought stories with gripping human dramas that hold the reader rapt. That mastery is amply demonstrated in her account of how a teenage hockey player, incapacitated by pain, finds life-affirming relief thanks to a neurosurgeon cum amateur pilot who assembles an array of high-tech strategies that allow him to “fly” through the brain, locate and root out a precariously lodged tumor, the pain’s source. The same goes for Washburn’s reports on efforts to better understand still unexplainable sudden infant death and, on a related matter, the search for an explanation as to why babies born of African-American women die at a far greater rate than those of their white counterparts. Sown into each of these stories are poignantly drawn portraits of affected family members struggling to cope with unfathomable loss.
ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTING: Newspaper, news service, magazine and online.
Medallion: Thomas C. Zambito, The Journal News, “After Indian Point: The Challenges Ahead.”
After decades of generating electricity for Westchester County and New York City, the Indian Point nuclear plant is slated for shutdown in 2021. What then? Energy reporter Zambito sought answers. The result: a string of far-ranging stories that address the likely environmental, economic and political impact — not just on communities around Indian Point but also towns and villages across the nation as more and more nuclear facilities cease operation, in part due to the rise of solar power.
Merit Award: Emily Dooley, Newsday, “Contaminated Water.”
In a series of stories based on critical documents obtained through New York’s Freedom of Information Act, environmental reporter Dooley makes a strong case, in the face of vigorous company denials, that the defense contractor Grumman Aerospace Co. (now Grumman/Northrup) did handle radioactive materials during its years manufacturing warplanes and space exploration equipment (the 1930s through the 1990s). The paper names Grumman as the likely source of contamination detected in groundwater wells around Bethpage, Long Island. The series sparked official demands for additional answers from the company and further testing of the former production site.
ARTS AND CULTURE REPORTING: Newspaper, news service, magazine and online.
Medallion: Michael Cooper, The New York Times, “James Levine Sexual Abuse Allegations.”
Cooper’s series on sexual misconduct charges against the esteemed Metropolitan Opera conductor, published over three consecutive days, reveals details of Levine’s alleged abuse in interviews with his now-adult victims, who were his students. It also reports on the subsequent turmoil at the Met, as it scrambled to protect its reputation and assuage its donors.
Merit Award: Michael Paulson, The New York Times, “Race, Money and Broadway: How the ‘Great Comet’ Burned Out.”
Paulson tells the story, in vivid detail, of how messy and complicated Broadway has become by following a big musical production from beginning to end. Presenting a Broadway show has always been a mix of artistic vision and big money, but today the theater has two new explosive elements — race and the influence of social media.
COMMENTARY AND EDITORIALS: Newspaper, news service, magazine and online.
Medallion: Joyce Wadler, The New York Times, “I Was Misinformed.”
Wadler’s columns in the metro section of The Times take a whimsical, offbeat look at some of the central elements of life in New York City. Twice a month, Wadler delivers her own unique perspective, taking everyday events in our lives, stepping around to the side, cocking her head and delivering an elegantly written, often hilarious but trenchant vision of how our world functions.
Merit Award: Mike Kelly, The Record, columns from four states.
A series of columns on the Trump administration that began with an interview with Kellyanne Conway at her home in Alpine, N.J., and carried Kelly on a road trip through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. He spoke to cops, clerics, machinists, funeral planners, teachers, steel workers and coal miners, many of whom had voted for Donald Trump. What emerged was a portrait of a nation divided, but in a nuanced way that didn’t always conform to the red/blue stereotypes.
PEOPLE PROFILES: Newspaper, news service, magazine and online.
Medallion: Marie Brenner, Vanity Fair, “Deal With the Devil.”
An illuminating look into the fear-inducing tactics and dubious ethics of the late Roy Cohn, the lawyer, fixer and political thug whose counsel was a major influence on Donald Trump from the early 1970s until his death in 1986. Revealing how much the two men had in common, Brenner, a writer-at-large for Vanity Fair, touches on everything from Cohn and Trump’s partnership in fighting against fair housing practices to Cohn’s personal financial woes. She concludes that the two men are one and the same, writing, “Everything about [Cohn] suggested a curious combination of an arrested child and a sleaze.”
Merit Award: Christopher Maag, The Record, “Garden State of Mind.”
Here’s proof that not everyone has to be a celebrity to become the subject of an engaging profile. For the past year or so, reporter Maag has been producing a column called “Garden State of Mind” for The Record. Its mission: to find and write about the people who make the suburbs just west of New York City “a singularly interesting place to live.” They include a Paterson poet inspired by Jack Kerouac, a high school student whose family’s financial crises motivated her to become class valedictorian, and an unemployed 25-year-old Teaneck man who hopes to one day be a professional wrestler — though for now he simply isn’t very good at it.
Merit Award: Evgenia Peretz, Vanity Fair, “The Lady and the Scamp.”
Peretz gives us a rare glimpse into the life of Nan Talese, one of the most successful book publishers in America and one of the first women to break barriers in the literary world’s old boys’ club. She has her own imprint and an impressive list of distinguished authors and she is the wife of New Journalism legend Gay Talese. Together, Nan and Gay — married since 1959 — are one of New York’s most glamorous and celebrated literary couples, yet the durability of their somewhat unconventional marriage remains a mystery to many of their friends and colleagues. Peretz, drawing on sources in and out of the Talese household, sheds lots of light on the subject.
REPORTING ON MINORITY ISSUES: Newspaper, news service, magazine and online.
Medallion: Matt Clark, Newsday, “Separate and Unequal.”
Clark’s database investigative report on Nassau County’s tax assessment system is especially relevant on the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. This package of stories is thoroughly researched and compellingly and clearly written.
Merit Award: Thomas Maier and Ann Choi, Newsday, “Unequal Justice,” a Newsday/News 12 Special Report.
This two-day multi-media series, which included a television news program produced jointly by Newsday and News 12, takes the first systemic look at race, ethnicity and Long Island’s criminal justice system. In their analysis of police and court records from 2005 to 2016, Maier and Choi found that non-whites are nearly five times as likely as whites to be arrested on “stop and frisk”-like charges and spend time in jail. Their second report found racial disparity in Long Island’s system of dealing with criminal drug possession. Whites, the reporting says, were far more likely than minorities to receive a lighter charge and penalty when arrested for possession. Moreover, minorities are often not told about the options for rehabilitation and treatment.
Merit Award: Monsy Alvarado and Hannan Adely, The Record, “Plight of the Immigrant.”
In one of a series of stories, immigration and diversity reporters Alvarado and Adely tell the story of the death of Salvadoran detainee Carlos Mejia-Bonilla in the Hudson County Jail after he was denied medications and the jail failed to relay crucial medical information to the hospital where he was taken before he died. The story resulted in a public outcry and dismissal of two members of the jail’s medical staff. Alvarado also told the story of Jose Estrada Lopez, a Guatemalan immigrant from Fairview who was ordered deported under the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration after having lived in the United States for more than 15 years.
BREAKING NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY: Newspaper, news service and online.
Medallion: Alejandra Villa, Newsday, “Mourning the Victims of MS-13.”
The deep anguish of the parents and friends of Michael Lopez Banegas, one of four young Latino men whose battered bodies were found in a heavily wooded area of Central Islip last year, is vividly captured by Villa in this heartbreaking photo taken at Michael’s funeral. Ironically, Michael had come to the U.S. three years earlier to escape gang violence in Honduras.
FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY: Newspaper, news service, magazine and online.
Medallion: J. Conrad Williams, Newsday, “Fighting Parkinson’s.”
A portfolio of photos illustrates how a group of men and women on Long Island is dealing with Parkinson’s Disease by taking part in a non-contact boxing program called “Rock Steady.” The images are a striking depiction of the grit and determination displayed by patients fighting to counteract the effects of a degenerative disease.
Merit Award: Kevin Wexler, The Record, “Imam.”
Imam Mohammed Ibn Ahmed is one of four chaplains at the Bergen County Jail. Photojournalist Kevin Wexler of The Record spent several days inside the jail, observing and recording Ahmed teaching the Quran and interacting with the inmates. The imam wears western clothes — sport shirts and dark trousers — and says about traditional dress: “It was the norm in Arabia. It’s not the norm here. It’s got nothing to do with Islam.” An unusual look at an unusual man.
SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY: Newspaper, news service, magazine and online.
Medallion: Thomas A. Ferrara, Newsday, “Altuve the MVP.”
Pictures of baseball players sliding across home plate are common, but the overhead angle of Thomas Ferrara’s shot of the Houston Astros’ José Altuve arriving safely at home with the game-winning run is what makes it a prize-winner. And the look on the face of Altuve, the AL’s 2017 Most Valuable Player, reflects the excitement and importance of that moment: a walkoff 2-1 victory over the New York Yankees during last year’s AL Championship Series.
TELEVISION: Best Feature Reporting.
Medallion: John Bathke, News12 New Jersey, “On the Scene.”
Bathke has produced a compelling portrait of the transformation of Robert Sundholm, a down-on-his-luck former janitor, who in his retirement has become a celebrated artist.
TELEVISION: Public Service & Investigative Reporting.
Medallion: Walt Kane, News 12 New Jersey. “Kane in Your Corner. The Animal Police.” Producer: Karin Attonito; Photographer/Editor: Anthony Cocco
News12’s year-long investigation of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals exposed serious conflicts of interest, potential corruption and clear mismanagement at the agency the public depended on to police stray animals. The series was so powerful that it prompted the state legislature to abolish this agency.
BEST MULTI-MEDIA REPORTING AND PRESENTATION
Medallion: NBCNewYork.com and WNBC, “Lyme Wars.”
This week-long collaboration gave viewers a comprehensive look at the many perils of ticks bearing Lyme disease and other infectious threats. The multi-media presentation, which included a 13-minute video and numerous graphics to help identify ticks and the ailments they may cause, gave the public real guidance about how to prepare for this public health threat.
Medallion: Reporter James O’Neill and visual journalist Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com, “The Morris Canal.”
This nine-chapter feature rolled back time to give readers and viewers a multi-media education about how a now long-forgotten canal stretching across 102 miles was the foundation for the early economy of New Jersey.
Merit Award: Newsday, “A Day in the Life of Long Island.”
Newsday’s inventive effort enlisted 70 staffers and dozens of volunteer news collectors in a vast multi-media look at June 21, the longest day of the year. The presentation, with stories, photographs and videos from 100 locations, has something for everyone, from hard news to slice-of-life features.
Awards co-chairmen: Michael Serrill, Jack Deacy.
Judges: Linda Amster, David A. Andelman, Joseph Berger, Suzanne Charlé, Jack Deacy, Bill Diehl, Gerald Eskenazi, Allan Dodds Frank, Tony Guida, Clyde Haberman, Herbert Hadad, Myron Kandel, Valerie Komor, Carol Lawson, Tony Mancini, Ben Patrusky, Anne Roiphe, Wendy Sclight, Michael Serrill, Mort Sheinman.