The winners include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s audacious novel “Americanah” (Alfred A. Knopf), a love story, immigrant’s tale and acute snapshot of our times; and Sheri Fink’s “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” (Crown), an extraordinary reconstruction of the chaotic days following Hurricane Katrina.
Frank Bidart was awarded the poetry prize for “Metaphysical Dog” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), which continues his life-long exploration of the big questions. The criticism award was presented to Franco Moretti for “Distant Reading” (Verso), which proposes boldly unorthodox methods for studying literature.
Amy Wilentz’s “Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti” (Simon & Schuster) was given the prize in autobiography; it is a gritty, surprising memoir based on years of reporting from Haiti. The biography prize went to Leo Damrosch for “Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World” (Yale University Press), a spellbinding life of a complicated, contradictory subject.
Anthony Marra’s novel “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” (Hogarth) was the debut recipient of the John Leonard Prize, established in 2013 to recognize an outstanding first book in any genre. Named to honor the memory of founding NBCC member John Leonard, the prize is uniquely decided by a direct vote of the organization’s nearly 600 members nationwide, whereas the traditional awards are nominated and chosen by the elected 24-member board of directors. The Leonard Prize carries with it a $500 cash prize, generously donated by longtime NBCC member Linda Wolfe.
The recipient of the 2013 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing was Katherine A. Powers, contributor to many national book review sections, including the Boston Globe, the Washington Post and the Barnes and Noble Review. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the editor of “Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J. F. Powers, 1942–1963.” For the second time in its 27-year history, the Balakian Citation carries with it a $1,000 cash prize, generously endowed by NBCC board member Gregg Barrios.
The recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award was Rolando Hinojosa-Smith. At 84, Hinojosa-Smith is the dean of Chicano authors, best known for his ambitious Klail City Death Trip cycle of novels. He is also an accomplished translator and essayist, as well as a mentor and inspiration to several generations of writers. A recipient of the 1976 Premio Casa de las Americas, Hinojosa-Smith is professor of literature at the University of Texas, Austin, where he has taught for nearly three decades.
Winners include four reporters who broke the story on secret NSA surveillance.
Four reporters who revealed the extent of secret surveillance and massive data collected by the National Security Agency are winners of the 65th annual George Polk Awards in Journalism announced today by Long Island University. The four – from the British newspaper The Guardian and The Washington Post – were among 30 recipients from 15 news organizations who were recognized in 13 categories for work in 2013.
Reporting by those honored also triggered probes of statehouse corruption in Virginia and political payback in New Jersey, explored the gap between rich and poor in urban and rural locales, produced telling accounts of mass death in Bangladesh and civilian killings by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, exposed dark sides of pro football and major league baseball and examined community responses to mental illness that ranged from ineffective to absurd.
Columnist, author and editor Pete Hamill, a New York institution for nearly half a century, was honored with the George Polk Career Award, which is named in memory of Professor Robert D. Spector, chair of the George Polk Awards for 32 years until his death in 2009. Hamill joins such prior career honorees as James Reston of The New York Times, Fred Friendly of CBS and Bill Moyers of PBS.
“In the tradition of George Polk, many of the journalists we have recognized did more than report news,” said John Darnton, curator of the awards. “They heightened public awareness with perceptive detection and dogged pursuit of stories that otherwise would not have seen the light of day. Repercussions of the NSA stories in particular will be with us for years to come.”
The George Polk Awards in Journalism are conferred annually to honor special achievement in journalism. The awards, which place a premium on investigative and enterprise reporting that gains attention and achieves results, were established in 1949 by LIU to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war.
The 2013 George Polk Awards will be presented at a luncheon at The Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan Friday, April 11. Associated Press correspondent Kimberly Dozier will be the citation reader at the event. Three award recipients — Andrea Elliot of the New York Times, Eli Saslow of the Washington Post and Alison Fitzgerald of the Center for Public Integrity — will discuss their reporting with Darnton in the David J. Steinberg Seminar, “Covering Inequality in America,” the preceding evening, Thursday, April 10. The seminar, at LIU Brooklyn’s Kumble Theater for Performing Arts, is free and open to the public.
These are the George Polk laureates for 2013:
Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras of The Guardian and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post will receive the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting for investigative stories based on top-secret documents disclosed by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden. The reporters conferred with Snowden to negotiate release of the material and then used their extensive backgrounds covering national security to explore the purloined files and reveal their stunning import on the Website Guardian US, describing how the NSA gathered information on untold millions of unsuspecting — and unsuspected — Americans, plugged into the communications links of major Internet companies and coerced companies like Yahoo and Google into turning over data about their customers.
The Guardian: “Timeline of articles”
James Yardley of The New York Times will receive the George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting for coverage of the disastrous Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, which dwarfed the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in its immensity, claiming the lives of more than 1,100 clothing workers. Barred from Bangladesh after his prior reporting on deplorable factory conditions there, Yardley found his way to the scene from India. After initially depicting the depth and scope of the tragedy for its victims and their families in highly personal terms, his stories documented oppressive conditions that continue to exploit workers at the hands of politically connected Bangladeshi manufacturers supplying a global network of brand-name distributors and giant retailers.
The George Polk Award for National Reporting will go to Eli Saslow of The Washington Post for six stories delving into the lives of some of the 47 million Americans who receive aid from the $78 billion federal food stamp program, which has tripled in the past decade. Reporting on a corner of Rhode Island where one in three families qualifies for aid, desperate seniors who must be convinced to swallow their pride to apply for aid, a rural Tennessee town where children go hungry when school is out, a Congressman who wants to require recipients to work for food stamps, a Texas county where processed food is so prevalent obesity and diabetes are double the national average and a mother of six in Washington, D.C., facing the largest cuts to the program in 50 years, Saslow has painted an indelible portrait of American poverty.
Shawn Boburg, who covers the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for The Record of Northern New Jersey, will be recognized in the State Reporting category for articles on lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September that created a monumental traffic jam in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Boburg, who has written extensively about patronage and cronyism at the Authority for three years, wrote as early as December that the closings may be traceable to powers outside the agency, setting the stage for subsequent stories on the involvement of Governor Chris Christie’s office, which made national headlines.
Andrea Elliott of The New York Times will receive the George Polk Award for Local Reporting for “Invisible Child,” her riveting five-part series focusing on one of 22,000 homeless children in New York City. After encountering an engaging 11-year-old girl, Dasani Coates, outside a Brooklyn homeless shelter, Elliott spent 15 months virtually living with Dasani and her family to produce an unsparing inside-out account of the realities of urban poverty that has echoes of Charles Dickens.
The George Polk Award for Political Reporting will go to Rosalind Helderman, Laura Vozzella and Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post for revealing the relationship between Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and a wealthy entrepreneur. Starting with a tip to Helderman, reporters uncovered $165,000 in gifts and loans to McDonnell and his wife Maureen apparently in exchange for promoting a food supplement. Their stories became a major topic in the election of McDonnell’s successor, led to calls for tighter financial disclosure laws in Virginia and spurred a federal investigation that resulted in a 14-count indictment of the McDonnells.
Two entries examining aspects of the crisis in treating the mentally ill will share the George Polk Award for Medical Reporting. Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will be honored for a series of stories on the Milwaukee County mental health system so revelatory, analytical and conclusive that they amount to a definitive study of a system that barely functions, and Cynthia Hubert and Phillip Reese of the Sacramento Bee will be cited for turning one man’s account into a shocking exposé of a Las Vegas psychiatric hospital’s practice of exporting patients — 1,500 over five years — to locales across the country via Greyhound bus.
The New York Times reporters Frances Robles, Sharon Otterman, Michael Powell and N. R. Kleinfield will receive the George Polk Award for Justice Reporting for uncovering evidence that a Brooklyn homicide detective used false confessions, tainted testimony and coercive tactics to convict dozens of defendants. After a story by Otterman and Powell based on a tip she received that the man convicted in a rabbi’s murder was framed, Robles discovered that the lead detective in that case used the same “witness” in half a dozen unrelated murders and put similar phraseology in the mouths of a number of suspects he swore had confessed. After her stories were published, two men were released from prison and Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, whose office prosecuted all of the dubious cases, lost a bid for re-election. More than 50 additional convictions are under review.
Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times will receive the George Polk Award for Sports Reporting for revealing that Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, supplied some of baseball’s biggest stars with performance-enhancing drugs. Elfrink deciphered and traced records from a disgruntled investor to customers like “Cacique” and “El Mostro” (code names for sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera) in a three-month investigation. His explosive stories led to the suspension of 13 players, created a sea change in how baseball owners and players approach drug use and explained how Florida Governor Rick Scott’s laissez-faire approach to regulation allowed clinics like Biogenesis to operate with little or no oversight.
The George Polk Award for Business Reporting will go to Alison Fitzgerald, Daniel Wagner, Lauren Kyger and John Dunbar of The Center for Public Integrity for “After the Meltdown,” a three-part series demonstrating that regulators and prosecutors have failed to hold a single major player on Wall Street accountable for the reckless behavior that sparked the 2008 financial crisis, allowing them to live lavishly in its aftermath and permitting some to resume the sort of investment activity that plunged the nation into a deep and debilitating recession.
Matthieu Aikins, a freelance journalist who has reported from Afghanistan for five years, will receive the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting for “The A-Team Killings” published in the November 21 issue of Rolling Stone. In the course of five months of dogged reporting from one of the country’s most dangerous areas, Aikins developed convincing evidence that a 12-man U.S. Army Special Forces unit and their Afghan translators rounded up and executed 10 civilians in the Nerkh district of Wardak province, where allegations of extrajudicial killings had emerged in early 2013. The army, which initially denied the charges, opened a criminal inquiry, and human rights organizations called for thorough and impartial investigations.
The George Polk Award for Network Television Reporting will go to Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore, Mike Wiser, Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada for “League of Denial,” a “Frontline” documentary aired on PBS that traced the National Football League’s longstanding efforts to quash evidence linking head injuries suffered by players to an inordinately high level of the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The program detailed how physicians on the NFL payroll dismissed independent medical research and demeaned the researchers in a concerted effort to hide the truth.
Noah Pransky of WTSP, a CBS affiliate in the Tampa Bay area, will receive the George Polk Award for Local Television Reporting for discovering and disclosing how state and local officials and a contractor bilked Floridian drivers out of millions of dollars in fines by reducing the period of time before yellow caution lights turn to red at intersections monitored by cameras. Pransky noticed a fast yellow at the scene of an accident and pursued the story with more than 40 reports that sent officials into reverse, lengthening yellows and vowing to legislate the practice out of existence.
Brooklyn-born Pete Hamill, winner of the George Polk Career Award, joined the New York Post in 1960 and later wrote for the New York Herald Tribune, the Post again, the Daily News, the Village Voice and New York Newsday as well as the Saturday Evening Post, New York Magazine, the New Yorker, Esquire, Playboy and Rolling Stone. He served as editor of the Post and editor-in-chief of the News. He earned early acclaim for unflinching coverage of America’s urban riots in the 1960s, wars in Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Lebanon and Nicaragua, and the ups and downs of everyday New Yorkers. Hamill edited a two-volume collection of the work of A.J. Liebling and his extended essay, “News Is a Verb: Journalism at the End of the 20th Century,” was published in 1998. “A Drinking Life,” a 1994 memoir detailing his belated route to sobriety and all that came before, received wide critical acclaim. Hamill, who has also written passionately and extensively about art, photography and boxing, has lived in Barcelona, Dublin, Mexico City, San Juan, Rome, Los Angeles and Santa Fe but always returned to New York where he lives with his wife, the writer Fukiko Aoki. He will be 79 in June.
(Not the Boston Marathon bombers, for the record; just a prime example of media error in 2013)
Here are two trends in media-related errors for 2013:
Breaking-News Errors — Labeling this a trend is admittedly problematic, in that breaking-news errors are as old as breaking news. Events such as natural disasters or crisis situations strike suddenly, and confusion is a natural byproduct. (Related: I’m editing a free Verification Handbook aimed at helping journalists and humanitarian agencies deal with emergency and crisis situations. Sign up to get a free copy early next year.)
Last year’s error of the year was the breaking-news breakdowns by CNN and Fox News in their coverage of the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) decision. This year, breaking-news mistakes warrant a collective mention because they happened again and again. There were mistakes made during the initial coverage of the Boston bombings, the Navy Yard shootings, the shooting at LAX (which included a Canadian newspaper falling for a hoax tweet claimed the former head of the NSA was dead), the crash landing of a Korean Air flight in San Francisco (see Best Naming Error below)… and on and on.
It’s become such an expected scenario, with similar mistakes being made over and over again, that I decided to write a template article with lessons and advice, “This is my story about the breaking news errors that just happened.”
High-Profile Journalists Dumped for Inaccuracy — AP fired three journalists after they played a role in publishing a report that falsely accused current Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe of lying to federal investigators. (The accusation was published shortly before the election, thereby possibly affecting the outcome.) Reporter Bob Lewis, who wrote the erroneous story, was fired along with editors Norman Gomlak and Dena Potter. I noted at the time how surprising it was to see three staffers dismissed, especially the long-tenured Lewis, who hadn’t been party to a big error before. I also listed other recent firings to highlight how inconsistently punishment is applied by news organizations.
Foe more errors and corrections, see The best and worst media errors and corrections in 2013 | Poynter..
Internet Monitor is delighted to announce the publication of Internet Monitor 2013: Reflections on the Digital World, our first-ever annual report. The report—a collection of essays from roughly two dozen experts around the world, including Ron Deibert, Malavika Jayaram, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Molly Sauter, Bruce Schneier, Ashkan Soltani, and Zeynep Tufekci, among others—highlights key events and recent trends in the digital space
The full report and individual chapters are available for download from the Internet Monitor website.
About Internet Monitor
Internet Monitor, based at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, is a research project to evaluate, describe, and summarize the means, mechanisms, and extent of Internet content controls and Internet activity around the world. The project compiles and curates data from multiple sources, including primary data collected by the Berkman Center and our partners, as well as relevant secondary data. Internet Monitor will create a freely available online fact base that will give policy makers, digital activists, and user communities an authoritative, independent, and multi-faceted set of quantitative data on the state of the global Internet. The project also produces annual reports that compile this information and provides expert analysis on the state of the global Internet.
EFF’s 2013 Holiday Wishlist
As we did last year and the year before, EFF welcomes the winter season with a new wishlist of some things we’d love to have happen for the holidays—for us and for all Internet users. These are some of the actions we’d most like to see from companies, governments, organizations, and individuals in the new year.
- Citizens, organizations, privacy officials, and governments should unite around the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance and add their voices to declare that mass surveillance violates international human rights.
- The U.S. Congress should create a new Church Committee to find out what intelligence agencies are actually doing; since mass surveillance is a global problem, we also need parliamentary commissions of inquiry around the world to look into the same question.
- Congress should pass meaningful reform to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
- The Department of Justice should notify everyone who’s been convicted of a crime using evidence derived—directly or indirectly—from warrantless surveillance programs (not just a cherry-picked handful of defendants).
- All communications companies should publish transparency reports showing the scope and nature of government requests for user information. The Internet industry, led by Google, has made this a standard for corporate transparency, but telecom companies are still totally missing in action.
- All Internet sites should adopt cryptographic best practices for every connection, every time, including PFS, STARTTLS, HSTS, and encrypted traffic between data centers.
- In 2014, every certificate authority and web browser should commit to adopt Google’s Certificate Transparency system to detect and stop the issuance of fake certificates that facilitate spying on web users.
- Companies that sell books, movies, music, or other digital media should commit to the principle that if you bought it, you own it. That means no DRM and no sneaky license agreements.
- Every wireless device should let you change its MAC address (a hardware serial number), and no new technology standards should be designed to transmit any persistent hardware serial numbers over the air or on a network. (If your device keeps sending the same hardware serial number, like wifi devices and cell phones, among others, whoever’s at the other end or listening in can recognize you and track your location. Businesses and governments are already taking advantage of this to build massive databases of our devices.)
- Web sites should publish historical versions of their terms of service and privacy policies, with their effective dates, to help users understand what’s changed over time. At a bare minimum, companies like Facebook should stop blocking the Internet Archive from creating and displaying a historical record of their policies.
- Governments should come clean about how they’ve weakened computer and communications security, clean up the damage, and stop doing it.
- Companies entering the secure communications space (as well as those that have been there a while!) should explain exactly how secure they are and why. They should get public technical audits by experts and clearly explain how they handle classic, fundamental security challenges. They should clearly and publicly explain whether and to what extent they could be compelled to record or turn over user data or to help break users’ security (including by disclosing cryptographic keys or passwords, by issuing false digital certificates, or by modifying their software).
- The surveillance industry should take responsibility for ensuring that it’s not assisting mass surveillance and other human rights violations.