Newsday Captures Five Medallions,
Peter Kihss Award Goes to Tony Mancini
In November 1945, the Society of the Silurians established its tradition of paying tribute to outstanding journalism when it presented the first of its annual awards to William L. Laurence of The New York Times. Laurence was cited for his eyewitness coverage of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, an event that helped bring about the end of World War II and at which Laurence was the sole representative of the world press.
On May 17, that tradition continued, as the Silurians honored the work of newspapers and national magazines, broadcast and cable television stations, local radio programs and online media at the 2017 Excellence in Journalism Awards Dinner at the National Arts Club. Some 130 members and guests filled the room.
In addition to the medallions and merit certificates handed out for work done in 2016, the Society presented its Peter Kihss Award to Anthony (Tony) Mancini, director of the journalism program at Brooklyn College for his 20-year career as a distinguished reporter at The New York Post and his subsequent work as a teacher and mentor to budding journalists. Both qualities embody the virtues of the late New York Times reporter for whom the award is named. As a reporter, Mancini covered a wide swath of stories at The Post, reporting on everything from street crime to political corruption, all while nurturing younger colleagues, a prelude to a longer career as a teacher whose students went on to distinguish themselves in the news business. (See Clyde Haberman’s profile of Mancini 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 2017 scholarship went to Will Mathis, currently working as a stringer for The Associated Press.
This year’s awards were dominated by Newsday, with five Medallions and two Merit Certificates, and The (Bergen) Record of northern New Jersey, winner of three Medallions and three Merit Certificates. Newsday won the Public Service Medallion for its investigation into possible corruption in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, plus medallions for Sports Reporting; Science/Health; Feature Photography; and Multimedia Reporting. The Record won the Breaking News Medallion for its coverage of a New Jersey Transit train crash at Hoboken Terminal; another for exposing patient abuses at the Bergen County Medical Center; and a third for a series on transgender high school students. In the magazine category, Vanity Fair took medallions for Feature Writing, Investigative Reporting and Business Reporting.
Here are the winners:
NEWSPAPER, WIRE SERVICE AND ONLINE
Medallion: The Record, “Hoboken Train Crash.”
Soon after a fast-moving train packed with passengers crashed into Hoboken Terminal during the morning rush hour of Sept. 29, the north New Jersey newspaper went into action and covered the catastrophe from all angles. It was a brilliant and comprehensive effort. News articles, columns, photographs and graphics filled the paper for the next several days.
Merit Award: DNAinfo.com, “Coverage of the Chelsea bombing” by Murray Weiss;
DNAinfo reporters broke the story that two Egyptian tourists inadvertently helped investigators crack the Sept. 17 Chelsea bomb case when they removed an unexploded device from a suitcase and walked off with the suitcase. That bomb ultimately led to the arrest of Ahmad Khan Rahimi.
Medallion: Associated Press, “Candie Hailey’s Rikers Island Story” by Jake Pearson.
Pearson tells the harrowing tale of how Candie Hailey spent three years behind bars at the women’s prison on Rikers Island, two and a half of them in solitary confinement. Charged with attempted murder, a mentally impaired Hailey was a difficult prisoner. She often physically and verbally challenged guards, broke prison rules and on several occasions attempted suicide, conduct that consistently landed her in solitary. When her case finally came to trial, she was acquitted. Since leaving Rikers, Hailey has often been homeless. She is unable to find work, to regain her Housing Authority apartment or the custody of her two sons.
Merit Award: Associated Press, “Babies Behind Bars” by Colleen Long.
This is a moving look at the mother/child program at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, one of the few prisons in the country to allow infants to live with their incarcerated mothers.
Merit Award: The Wall Street Journal, “Exoneration” by Kate King.
A fascinating report on how exoneration of those who have served time for crimes they did not commit affects their families.
Medallion: The Record, “A Climate of Violence at Hospital of Last Resort” by Mary Jo Layton.
Mary Jo Layton’s story about abuses at Bergen County Regional Medical Center is a model of inspired investigative reporting that prompts corrective action from county and state officials. With the help of The Record’s general counsel, Layton used the New Jersey Open Records law, the federal Freedom of Information Act and other legal procedures to unearth police and administrative records that the state’s largest public hospital wanted kept secret. Her determined reporting of first-person accounts of violence at the hospital documented how the county-owned 1,000-bed institution was well below public health standards and in need of corrective governmental action. The follow-up stories have kept up the pressure.
Merit Award: Newsday, “The Curious Case of Robert Macedonio” by Gus Garcia-Roberts and Will Van Sant.
Garcia-Roberts and Van Sant dug out the hidden details of a fraud and drug investigation of Robert Macedonio, one of Suffolk County’s most influential and flamboyant lawyers. He was convicted of a felony, yet was able to get that sentence reduced to a misdemeanor and obtain reinstatement of his license to practice law. The stories uncovered possible improprieties in the handling of Macedonio’s case by the District Attorney and the county sheriff.
Medallion: Newsday, “Suffolk County Legal System” by Sandra Peddie, Will Van Sant and Gus Garcia-Roberts.
The team examined possible corruption in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, illegal concealment of judicial records and questionable procedures in the selection of county judges. Taken together, Newsday’s reports sounded the alarm about the need for total overhaul of the Suffolk County judicial system and replacement of those in charge.
Merit Award: The Record, “Christie Book Deal” by Salvador Rizzo, Charles Stile and Dustin Racioppi.
The Record’s Trenton Bureau exposed a secret deal between Gov. Chris Christie and top state legislators to change the ethics law to allow him to profit from writing a book. In return, the legislators would get raises. For good measure, Christie would also punish his media enemies by rolling back state legal ads in newspapers. The sunlight from The Record disinfected the deal and it blew up once the stories made it public.
Medallion: Newsday, “High School Girls Soccer: Tallying the Risks” by Jim Baumbach.
People sometimes laughed when a player was “knocked silly” — eyes rolled back, slurred speech, and then, went the cliché, a request by the athlete to get back in the game. But concussions have become among the most serious issues in the world of sports, recognized as something with long-term effects. Baumbach’s remarkable piece, involving a look at the concussions in four sports at more than 100 Long Island high schools, concentrates on girls’ soccer. He found that they suffer concussions at almost twice the rate of the boys, and his story is filled with interviews of players and medical personnel who have ideas that can change the game.
Medallion: Bloomberg News, “The New Wall Street” by Hugh Son, Matt Leising and Annie Massie.
The Bloomberg team wins for a deeply reported and well-written series of articles examining the technological and strategic developments that are dramatically changing the operations of the global financial industry and the face of its work force.
SCIENCE/HEALTH REPORTING. ANY MEDIUM
Medallion: Newsday, three articles by Delthia Ricks.
Ricks’ wide-ranging set of crisply explained, artfully crafted stories explores both the problems and promise of modern-day medical advances – to wit: the difficulty of finding round-the- clock, institutional care for a growing population of “medically fragile” young adults who, at 21, are “aging out” of pediatric facilities with nowhere to go; a serendipitous discovery, stemming from basic studies of “junk” DNA, that points to novel metastatic breast cancer therapy; and development of an ingenious technique, using 3-D printing in league with GPS-guided surgery, for tailor-made, minimally invasive removal of large, precariously lodged tumors.
ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTING, ANY MEDIUM
Medallion: City Limits for “Green Jobs Go Missing.”
This is a thoroughly researched series of articles, as well as video and radio sidebars, produced by a team of investigative reporters led by editor-in-chief Jarrett Murphy and including students from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. The series documents how an ambitious New York State plan to increase “green” jobs and power use fell woefully short.
COMMENTARY AND EDITORIALS, ANY MEDIUM
Medallion: TheStreet.com, Susan Antilla, “An Advocate for Ordinary People.”
Antilla’s series of columns examines how policies adopted by companies, stockbrokers and politicians seriously damage the interests of ordinary Americans.
Merit Award: The Record, Alfred P. Doblin, The Record.
Editorial page editor Doblin penned a series of well-reasoned opinion pieces that steadfastly support LGBT rights.
Merit Award: The Daily Beast, Mike Daly.
Daly wrote a series of columns examining tales Donald Trump told about the many friends he lost on 9/11, the damage he suffered, and the rescues he helped with — stories with no basis in fact.
PEOPLE PROFILES, ANY MEDIUM
Medallion: The Associated Press, “Children of 9/11” by Jennifer Peltz.
Peltz tells the moving stories of children of 9/11 victims, some of them unborn at the time of the terror attacks, and how they have coped with the pain. One woman became a professional wrestler because she and her father enjoyed that sport together. Another works in the medical examiner’s office that identified her father’s remains.
REPORTING ON MINORITY ISSUES, ANY MEDIUM
Medallion: The Record, “Transgender Youth” by Andrew Wyrich, Abbot Koloff and Monsy Alvarado.
This moving, informative, well-written and evenhanded story pushes into places that needed exploration. With their combination of words, audio, video and photographs, the reporters bring to life the struggles that so many transgender young people deal with every day – struggles that too often lead to homelessness and suicide
Merit Award: Newsday, “Unaccompanied Minors on Long Island” by Victor Manuel Ramos
Long Island has been a major destination for the thousands of Central American young people who have crossed the Mexican border unaccompanied. Newsday examines the issues that the migration raises, especially for Long Island schools.
BREAKING NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY
Medallion: New York Daily News, “Climb Up Chump Tower” by James Keivom.
On an August afternoon last summer, three months before its namesake was elected president, Trump Tower was the scene of high drama and intense police activity when a 19-year-old man tried to climb the building using nothing but suction cups and straps. He reached the 21st floor. Keivom, with exquisite timing, captured the precise moment an NYPD officer grabbed the man and hauled him to safety.
Merit Award: New York Daily News, “The Naked City” by Marcus Santos.
Santos and his camera provided on-the-spot coverage of a naked man about to leap from the top of the TKTS booth stairs in Times Square.
Medallion: Newsday, “The Tardif Twins” by Thomas A. Ferrara.
Eighteen years ago, twins Joe and John Tardif of Cutchogue were born prematurely and given little chance to survive. Joe became a star athlete in three sports. John has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and cannot speak, but he is Joe’s biggest fan and never misses a game. In April 2016, the twins and their family talked about their relationship with one another and the community. Ferrara’s portfolio of photographs illuminates the special bond between the brothers and the love they have for each other.
Merit Award: New York Daily News, “Family in Mourning” by Debbie Egan-Chin.
Egan-Chin’s photo is a sensitive portrayal of the wife and children of fatally injured NYPD Deputy Chief Michael J. Fahy, as his casket passed by them at his funeral procession.
MULTIMEDIA REPORTING AND PRESENTATION
Medallion: Newsday, “Doubly Devoted, the Tardif Twins” by Thomas A. Ferrara, John Paraskevas and Matthew Golub.
This online version of the work that wins for Feature Photography includes photos, video and interviews with the Tardif family.
Merit Award: The Record: “9/11: Rising From the Ashes.”
A multifaceted presentation that examines the impact of 9/11 on its 15th anniversary. It takes a close look at five families who lost loved ones in the attack, plus stories, photos, videos and an interactive feature showing how the lower Manhattan skyline has changed since the Twin Towers were destroyed.
Merit Award: Field of Vision/The Intercept, “Project X” by Laura Poitras, Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke.
This online package of film and interviews reveals that the highly secure Manhattan skyscraper originally designed to protect New York Telephone’s equipment is now being used by the NSA to monitor communications.
Medallion: “A Place Called Charivari” by Ingrid Sischy, Vanity Fair.
Back in 1967, a quirky little clothing store was opened on Broadway and 85th Street by Selma Weiser, 42 and recently divorced, and her children, Barbara and Jon. It was called Charivari and it was like nothing that neighborhood had ever seen. It introduced avant-garde clothing to what was then an unfashionable part of town and helped gentrify the Upper West Side. It also spawned a mini retail empire with an impressive roster of international designers. Sischy’s richly detailed piece traces how overexpansion, the changing retail environment and some questionable decisions led to a sad ending in 1998.
Merit Award: Bloomberg Businessweek, “The Journalist and the Troll” by Dune Lawrence.
Lawrence tells the chilling story of how she was professionally maligned and personally smeared during two years of cyber assault — and how the law can enable such abuse under the cloak of “free speech.”
Medallion: Vanity Fair, “Roger, Over and Out” by Sarah Ellison.
Ellison illuminated the shadowy world inside the Fox News bunker: a place where Roger Ailes had security cameras trained on his office door and kept two guns at the ready and where Ailes was in unchallenged control even as whispers of sexual misconduct persisted. Ellison showed how Fox News intentionally limited its internal investigation into Ailes’ misconduct in order to keep the network’s powerful profit machine on track.
Medallion: Vanity Fair, “Snakes on a Campaign” by Nicholas Shaxson.
Shaxson, writing in mid-campaign when Donald Trump was still considered a dark horse candidate, discloses what was known at the time about the Trump Organization’s business operation and Trump’s personal wealth and tax returns. He conducted multiple interviews with Trump as he did his reporting, catching the future president in several lies. He notes, for instance, that on his FEC disclosure forms, Trump depicted his Scottish golf courses as immensely profitable, while on official Scottish documents the figure he had called net income was actually gross revenue. Shaxson, conferring with experts, says the misstatements may be prosecutable as a federal crime.
Medallion: MSNBC, “Not Wanted: Trump’s Racial Discrimination,” Cynthia McFadden, correspondent; Anna Schecter, producer; Rachel Maddow, host.
Before the presidential election, the NBC team transported viewers back decades to review federal charges of discrimination against Fred Trump’s housing empire in Queens. The story alleges that the discrimination continued after Trump handed over management responsibilities to his son, Donald. NBC tracked down two African-American women who described how they were denied apartments by the Trumps in both 1963 and 1973. NBC also talked to a white woman who went undercover to prove that apartments denied to blacks were actually available at the Trump properties.
Medallion: WNBC-TV, “CompStat,” Jonathan Dienst, correspondent; Robert Dembo, Rich McHugh and Evan Stulberger, senior producers.
WNBC got its cameras inside police headquarters to view one of the weekly meetings of top New York City police commanders while they were being grilled about how they were handling specific crimes in their precincts. The story provided a crystal-clear explanation of a crime-fighting program called CompStat that matches comprehensive data collection with on-the-street detective work to focus on suspects and secure arrests. Reporting over the course of a year, WNBC followed commanders in the Bronx as they struggled to find strategies to combat new waves of crime or account for their failures. These stories turned public service reporting into crackling good television.
Feature and Public Service Reporting
Medallion: 1010 WINS, “Generation H” by Rebecca Granet.
With a new heroin epidemic reaching crisis proportions, WINS reporter Granet produced a heartbreaking series about three women whose lives and those of their families were ripped apart by this drug.
Merit Award: 1010 WINS, “Chelsea Bombing.”
Shortly after West 23rd Street in Manhattan was rocked by an explosion on the night of Sept. 17, reporters from 1010 WINS flooded the area. In the hours that followed, the all-news station broadcast a series of updates that kept the public informed without indulging in speculation or inciting alarm.
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING, ONLINE
Medallion: New York Daily News, “How Safe is Your Child? New York City’s Day Care Nightmare,” by Greg B. Smith, with photographer Debbie Egan-Chin, video editing by Michael Sheridan.
This series by Smith takes us on a journey through the morass of risks that some children face every day and the failure of a system that is supposed to police 11,400 day-care centers. The Daily News stories, complete with photos, videos of grieving parents and impressive interactive graphics, put together — for the first time — records from several city and state agencies that enabled parents to get a complete look at violations by the day-care centers where their children were entrusted. As a result, the city added 30 new day-care inspectors and tougher penalties while the state began requiring the centers to post report cards about their status with regulators.
Merit Award: DNAinfo.com, “Investigations Into Mayor de Blasio’s Fundraising” by James Fanelli, Jeff Mays and Murray Weiss.
In a series of online stories, DNAinfo disclosed fundraising irregularities by the mayor’s campaign, including improper donations to his political non-profit and the hiring of fundraisers for City Hall jobs.
Awards Chairman: Michael S. Serrill. Co-chairs: Jack Deacy, Valerie S. Komor.
Judges: Linda Amster, Betsy Ashton, Kathy Brady, Suzanne Charlé, Jack Deacy, Bill Diehl, Jerry Eskenazi, Allan Dodds Frank, Tony Guida, Herbert Hadad, Fred Herzog, Myron Kandel, Valerie S. Komor, Bernard Kirsch, Tony Mancini, Steven Marcus, Ben Patrusky, Richard Phalon, Anne Roiphe, Michael Serrill, Gail Sheehy, Mort Sheinman.