The Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism have been awarded by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism since 2007. They recognize the best in print and online investigative business journalism and are named after two-time Pulitzer Prize winners Don Barlett and Jim Steele.
Here are all of the previous winners:
GOLD: “America’s Worst Charities,” by Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart in a joint project of the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting, received the top gold award of $5,000. Reporters identified charities that steered as much as 95 percent of donations to boiler-room operations and direct-mail companies, leaving only a token amount to help those in need. They assembled interactive databases to help readers examine the worst 50 charities and state enforcement actions against thousands more organizations.
SILVER: “The United States of Subsidies,” by Louise Story of The New York Times, received the silver award of $2,000. The project tabulated the $80 billion that local governments dole out to corporations each year in tax breaks and other business incentives – expenditures to recruit and keep businesses that may or may not produce results. Story methodically contacted revenue departments and agencies that administered incentives to compute the total cost to taxpayers, which had never been compiled before.
BRONZE: “Inside Game: How Corporate Insiders Profit Ahead of the Public,” by Susan Pulliam, Rob Barry, Michael Siconolfi and Jean Eaglesham of The Wall Street Journal, received the $1,000 bronze award. More than six months went into creating a database to examine how more than 20,000 corporate executives traded their own companies’ stock over the course of eight years. It revealed that more than 1,000 executives had generated big profits or avoided big losses. The FBI and SEC launched investigations the day after the initial article.
GOLD: “Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart after Top-Level Struggle,” by David Barstow of The New York Times, received the top gold award of $5,000. Barstow obtained hundreds of confidential documents and interviewed important players in the company’s internal inquiry. He discovered Wal-Mart had received powerful evidence that its Mexican executives used systematic bribery payments totaling more than $24 million to obtain zoning rulings and construction permits.
SILVER: “Ghost Factories,” by lead reporters Alison Young and Peter Eisler of USA Today, received the silver award of $2,000. The series involved a 14-month investigation that revealed locations of more than 230 long-forgotten smelters and the poisonous lead they left behind. Reporters used handheld X-ray devices to collect and test 1,000 soil samples to prove there was a serious threat to children living in dozens of neighborhoods.
BRONZE: “Prognosis: Profits,” by Ames Alexander, Karen Garloch, Joseph Neff and David Raynor, received the $1,000 bronze award for a joint project of The Charlotte Observer and The (Raleigh) News & Observer. Reporters dissected finances of large institutions through documents and sources to paint a compelling picture of nonprofit hospitals that function as for-profit institutions—often to the detriment of their care and charity missions. Discovered were inflated prices on drugs and procedures, lawsuits against thousands of needy patients and minimal charity care to poor and uninsured patients.
Gold: The Arizona Republic for “Public Pensions, A Soaring Burden” by Craig Harris. The series focused on questionable public-pension practices and their cost to taxpayers. The project, which involved 67 public-records requests, uncovered elected officials making more in retirement than when they were employed and pensions paid to convicted felons removed from office for official wrongdoing.
Silver: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for “A Case of Shattered Trust” by Raquel Rutledge and Rick Barrett. The series revealed how a firm with a decade of serious regulatory violations of sanitary conditions was allowed to operate while the Food and Drug Administration did nothing. As a result of the stories, the FDA revealed the name of the bacterium that it found in the manufacturer’s contaminated alcohol wipes. Following a permanent federal injunction against the firm, the product is no longer manufactured.
Bronze: The Seattle Times for “Seniors for Sale” by Michael J. Berens. The series investigated the growing trend toward seniors being moved from nursing homes into less expensive “adult family homes.” The investigation uncovered more than 230 deaths that indicated neglect or abuse in these homes but were not reported to the state. (The bronze award was added in 2011.)
Gold: Reuters for “Diagnosed with Breast Cancer, Dropped by Insurer” by Murray Waas, whose four-month investigation revealed that a giant health insurer had targeted policyholders recently diagnosed with breast cancer for aggressive investigations with the intent to cancel their policies. An exhaustive study of records, hearings and federal data, as well as dozens of interviews with experts, officials and patients led to the story.
Silver: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for “Side Effects: Money, Medicine and Patients” by John Fauber, whose stories uncovered conflicts of interest that can compromise a doctor’s judgment. An example was a surgeon receiving millions of dollars in royalties annually from a medical device company while serving as editor of a medical journal that published favorable research on the company’s projects.
Gold: The Miami Herald for “Borrowers Betrayed” by Jack Dolan, Matthew Haggman and Rob Barry, whose nine-month investigation and resulting series uncovered poor oversight by Florida mortgage regulators that permitted thousands of individuals with criminal records to conduct business in the state’s home loan industry.
Silver: Bloomberg Markets for “AARP’s Stealth Fees” by Gary Cohn and Darrell Preston, who found through public documents and scores of interviews, that the world’s largest organization for seniors collects hundreds of millions of dollars annually from insurers who pay for AARP’s endorsement of their policies.
Gold: BusinessWeek for “Prisoners of Debt” by Robert Berner, Keith Epstein, Brian Grow and Geri Smith, who revealed how large financial firms regularly collaborate with doctors and hospitals to turn unpaid medical bills into high-interest consumer debt.
Silver: The Seattle Times for “The Favor Factory” by Hal Bernton and David Heath, who uncovered thousands of purchases that the U.S. Congress has forced the military to make in recent years, including a $4.5 million Navy vessel that sits unused by a Seattle pier.
Gold: The New York Times for “A Toxic Pipeline” by Walt Bogdanich and Jake Hooker, who documented China’s role in supplying a counterfeit drug ingredient that killed at least 100 people in Panama and is suspected of killing thousands of others around the world.
Silver: The Baltimore Sun for “On Shaky Ground” by Fred Schulte and June Arney, who tracked how Baltimore’s arcane system of property fees initiated in Colonial times had evolved into a system of greed and lax oversight that preyed on the poor and elderly.
Learn more on how to apply for the annual Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism.