Five outstanding Midwestern journalists won top prizes for investigative journalism in a contest sponsored by the Better Government Association through a grant from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. The awards were presented by Mr. Driehaus at a reception at the Arts Club of Chicago on Tuesday night.
>> Raquel Rutledge won the first-place award for “Cashing in on Kids,” a series from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Rutledge and the Journal Sentinel spent more than a year investigating the taxpayer-financed child-care subsidy program. They reviewed thousands of public documents, found whistleblowers within the system, and interviewed dozens of sources, exposing a trail of phony companies, fake reports and shoddy oversight that allowed for system-wide scamming and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. The investigation produced more than 50 stories and continues to expose problems in the system. These stories prompted sweeping reforms, five new laws, and a crackdown on unscrupulous childcare providers — in addition to saving Wisconsin an estimated $45 million.
>> The second-place award went to Jennifer Dixon and Tina Lam for “Detroit’s Public Pensions: Shaky Deals and Globe-Trotting Trustees,” published in Detroit Free Press. Dixon and Lam discovered that the fiscal maintenance of both of Detroit’s public pension systems was grossly unmonitored and mismanaged, and that the two funds (with assets of $5.5 billion dollars) lost $90 million dollars in three failed investment deals.
>> Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke were awarded third place for their three-part series “FAIL: Chicago’s Parking Meter Fiasco,” a Chicago Reader piece which uncovered the inside story of how Chicago’s controversial and problem-plagued parking meter privatization program came about.
The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation grant enabled the winners to share a cash prize of $5,000.
“Investigative reporting is the lifeblood of journalism and a key to holding elected officials accountable,” BGA Executive Director Andy Shaw said. “We deeply appreciate the commitment of Richard Driehaus and his foundation to encouraging investigative reporting by underwriting the competition and the reception.”
The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation is also the major funder of the BGA’s investigative program, which is doubling in size with the addition of three award-winning veteran journalists: Bob Reed, Bob Herguth and John Conroy. Shaw introduced the BGA’s new investigative unit at the Arts Club reception.