The BGA congratulates the winners of The 2011 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Investigative Reporting. To learn more about the Awards and to see previous winners, visit our website www.bettergov.org.
First Place Award
Bob Segall, Bill Ditton & Cyndee Hebert
“Reality Check: Where are the Jobs?”
During the worst recession of our lifetime, Indiana’s Economic Development Corporation boasted about creating 100,000 new jobs and billions of dollars in economic development deals for the state. After the state denied records requests, three journalists at WTHR-TV in Indianapolis decided they had to see it for themselves to believe it. The crew hit the road, logging 8,000 miles visiting Indiana’s economic success stories. What did they find? Abandoned factories, empty cornfields, and laid-off workers! This 18-month investigation exposed how state leaders inflated Indiana’s job numbers, and how companies that received publicly funded tax incentives had actually laid off hundreds of workers. The investigation and the creation of a massive job-numbers database prompted reforms and demanded transparency.
In Second Place, a piece about a hidden budget in Chicago worth more than $500 million dollars a year. There was no public budget for the TIF Fund. No itemized expenses. So when reporters got a tip that a secret ward-by-ward budget existed, they jumped on it. For the first time ever, the city’s secret slush fund was exposed. The Chicago Reader investigation revealed that 60 percent of the money raised through the anti-poverty TIF program was actually spent in the some of the city’s wealthiest communities.
Last year, Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader won third place for their investigation into the privatization of Chicago’s Parking Meters. This year, they take home second place for “The Shadow Budget: Who Wins Daley’s TIF Game.”
In Third Place, the story of an elected official who allegedly cashed-in on hard times.
Imagine this, the recession hits and you can’t afford to pay your property taxes. An investor or tax buyer comes along and purchases your delinquent tax debt. You pay a penalty interest rate. The legal limit is 18 percent interest. But in Madison County, Illinois, hundreds of property owners were paying as much as 100-percent interest. In 2009, that added up to $2 million dollars in interest to tax buyers. Conveniently, those same tax buyers contributed heavily to the campaign of the man who arranged the tax sales… Madison County Treasurer, Fred Bathon. As a direct result of “Tax Buyers, Politicians Benefit from Tax Sales,” the US Attorney for Southern Illinois and the Illinois Attorney General are investigating.
Meritorious Award for Commitment to Investigative Journalism
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
For the first time, we honor a single media outlet for dedicating a significant amount of resources to in-depth investigative journalism. While many news organizations have limited or abandoned investments in investigative reporting, this year the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel submitted three notable entries by five journalists: