The unnamed people who captured on video and made public the shooting death of an Iranian protester have been chosen as winners of a George Polk Award, the first time the journalism prize has honored work produced anonymously.
Other winners of the 2009 Polk Awards, announced Tuesday in New York, include David Rohde, a New York Times correspondent recognized for a five-part series detailing his kidnapping and imprisonment by the Taliban, and David Grann, whose New Yorker magazine piece throwing into doubt the guilt of an executed convict sparked a national outcry.
The awards, presented by Long Island University, are considered among the top prizes in U.S. journalism. They were created in 1949 in honor of CBS reporter George W. Polk, who was killed while covering the Greek civil war. They will be bestowed at an April 8 luncheon in Manhattan.
The curator of the awards, John Darnton, said in a statement that the footage from Iran, while anonymously recorded and distributed, had been seen by millions of people and had become “an iconic image of the Iranian resistance.”
“This award celebrates the fact that, in today’s world, a brave bystander with a cell phone camera can use video-sharing and social networking sites to deliver news,” he said.
The video of the death of music student Neda Agha-Soltan, shot during protests of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?a>??s disputed re-election, made her name a rallying cry for the opposition and sparked international outrage at the harsh response of security forces.
Grann’s article “Trial by Fire” dissected the Texas case against Cameron Todd Willingham and raised questions about the arson investigation methods that were used to convict him of setting fire to his home and killing his three daughters. The awards’ announcement said the piece “may be the first thoroughly documented case of the execution of an innocent man under the modern American judicial system.”
The other winners were:
- Gene Roberts, a former executive editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, who will receive the George Polk Career Award. Roberts covered the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War as a correspondent for The New York Times. Later, under his leadership, the Inquirer won seven Polk Awards and 17 Pulitzer Prizes.
- Bloomberg News reporters Bob Ivry, Alison Fitzgerald and Craig Torres and the late Mark Pittman for a series of stories that tracked the government’s and the Federal Reserve Board’s commitments to banks in bailouts worth trillions of dollars.
- Raquel Rutledge, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, for her coverage of criminal activity connected to Wisconsin’s $350 million child care program. The stories led to criminal investigations, indictments and new laws.
- George Pawlaczyk and Beth Hundsdorfer, of the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat, for an investigative series revealing tough conditions inside an Illinois prison where one-fifth of inmates were kept in solitary confinement 23 hours each day for more than a decade.
- Alan Schwarz, of The New York Times, who is the winner of the sports reporting award for his coverage of the danger presented by concussions and the National Football League’s approach to such injuries.
- CNN correspondent Dan Rivers and producers Kit Swartz, Kocha Orlan and Theerasak Nitipiched for “World’s Untold Stories: A Forgotten People,” which detailed mistreatment of Rohingya refugees in southeast Asia.
- Correspondent Steve Kroft and producer Leslie Cockburn, of CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” for “The Price of Oil,” in which they examined how oil speculation was boosting the price of oil.
- Kathy Chu, of USA Today, for stories examining how banks and credit unions have used large fees and other practices to make money off vulnerable customers.
- Charlie Reed, Kevin Baron and Leo Shane III, of Stars and Stripes, who reported on a secret Pentagon program meant to steer journalists toward positive coverage of the Afghanistan war. The Pentagon canceled the program less than a week after the report.
- Abrahm Lustgarten, of ProPublica, for his reporting on the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, a gas-drilling method that uses water contaminated with cancer-causing substances.
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