The Center for Public Integrity’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists; The Wall Street Journal; and Los Angeles Times won gold, silver and bronze awards, respectively, in the 10th-annual Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Journalism, the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism announced today.
Named for the renowned investigative team of Don Barlett and Jim Steele, whose awards include two Pulitzer Prizes, the annual Reynolds Center awards celebrate the best in investigative business journalism.
GOLD: “The Panama Papers,”
By CPI’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 media partners worldwide, received the gold award of $5,000. As the largest investigation in journalism history, the papers are a trove of leaked documents from inside Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm that creates offshore companies to hide financial activities of the rich and powerful. A leak to Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung of 11.5 million documents involving 210,000 companies was shared with CPI’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which coordinated investigative work with media partners such as McClatchy, Fusion, The Guardian, Le Monde and the other media partners totaling more than 370 reporters. They found Mossack Fonseca created or managed companies for Ponzi schemes, drug kingpins and dozens of Americans accused of fraud or financial misconduct. Investigations have begun at federal and state level in the U.S., assisted by a searchable online database put together by ICIJ.
“The Panama Papers represents historic and unparalleled global cooperation that remarkably was kept a secret until publication,” said the judges. Dramatic results included Iceland’s prime minister resigning, Britain’s former prime minister releasing six years of tax returns and two Swiss raids that included one on the organization that oversees professional soccer in Europe.
SILVER: “Testing Theranos,”
By John Carreyrou, Christopher Weaver and Michael Siconolfi of The Wall Street Journal, whose 10-month investigation of Theranos Inc. exposed how the laboratory firm that claimed to test patient health by drawing just a few drops of blood with a finger prick seriously misled patients and investors. As a result of the stories, the company has revised or voided tens of thousands of inaccurate patient blood tests, closed its main laboratory and been sanctioned by federal health regulators. The investigation detailed that in late 2014 the lab instrument Theranos developed as the basis of its strategy actually handled just a small number of blood tests, using traditional lab machines for the rest. While facing contentious litigation threats from Theranos, the reporters also reported that former employees had filed complaints with regulatory agencies alleging the company concealed problems. The Journal detailed how the Walgreens drugstore chain began plans to launch Theranos blood-testing centers in thousands of its U.S. pharmacies without fully vetting the technology.
“This was incredible beat reporting which found that a company that had been lionized was actually a threat to the public because its promise of technology turned out not to be there,” said the judges. Founder Elizabeth Holmes faces criminal and civil investigations into whether she misled investigators and has been banned for two years from running a laboratory.
BRONZE: “OxyContin’s 12-Hour Problem”
By Harriet Ryan, Lisa Girion and Scott Glover of the Los Angeles Times, whose investigation found that OxyContin, the nation’s bestselling painkiller, for many patients wears off hours earlier than its claim of 12-hour relief, worsening the addiction epidemic surrounding the drug. The Times, which has been monitoring the product for five years, obtained thousands of pages of confidential records from more than three decades covering the drug’s development and marketing by privately held Purdue Pharma. These indicated the firm knew about the product’s problem even before its 1996 debut, then continued to insist that it worked for 12 hours in the face of growing evidence from doctors and others that it didn’t. More than half of long-term OxyContin users are on doses public health officials consider dangerously high, according to an analysis of nationwide prescription data conducted for The Times. The story was cited by U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey in calling for a federal investigation of the duration issue, the attorney general of New Hampshire cited it as he launched an investigation of Purdue Pharma’s role and two California counties sued it and other drug companies to recoup costs of the epidemic.
“The Los Angeles Times took a huge problem from its very beginning and provided heartbreaking examples of how something so human had been hidden for so long,” the judges said of the investigation that finally helped recovering OxyContin addicts and their families understand the addiction that had caused damage in their lives for the first time.
“This 10th anniversary of our awards impressed judges with the increasingly sophisticated nature of the investigations, as relentless journalists have an impact on the country and the world,” said Andrew Leckey, president of the Reynolds Center. “Money affects people at all levels and the many outstanding entries received from diverse news organizations shows investigative business journalism has never been more robust or widespread.”
The judges for this year’s awards were Paul Steiger, executive chairman of ProPublica, Dan Hertzberg, longtime financial journalist with The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News and Cesca Antonelli, executive editor for top news at Bloomberg News.