Congratulations to the past winners of the Watchdog Award, which were selected for their excellence in public interest reporting.
The 2016 Watchdog Award for Excellence in Public Interest Reporting went to Jamie Kalven for his story “Code of Silence,” released by The Intercept in October 2016. It is a 20,000-word, four-part investigation about two Chicago police officers who uncovered a massive criminal enterprise within the department.
The 2015 Watchdog Award for Excellence in Public Interest Reporting went to Jamie Kalven for “Sixteen Shots,” which he wrote for Slate. Kalven’s relentless work to get the autopsy report of Laquan McDonald uncovered how the black teenager was fatally shot 16 times by a white police officer, raising questions of excessive force and misconduct. Kalven kept on the story, pushing for the release of police video of the shooting, which eventually led to firing of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and to the officer being charged with murder. As one of the judges put it, “Jamie Kalven’s article ‘Sixteen Shots’ demonstrated investigative persistence that led to the truth in the death of Laquan McDonald.”
The 2014 Watchdog Award for Excellence in Public Interest Reporting went to Tim Novak, Chris Fusco and Carol Marin of the Chicago Sun-Times for their series, “A Little Justice for David.” David Koschman died in 2004 after a single punch by Richard “R.J.” Vanecko, the nephew of former longtime Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, during a late-night drunken encounter. The Sun-Times’ dogged pursuit of the story prompted officials to re-open the case, ultimately leading to Vanecko’s conviction nearly 10 years after Koschman’s death.
The 2013 Watchdog Award for Excellence in Public Interest Reporting went to Dan Mihalopoulos of the Chicago Sun-Times for “Clout in Session,” a series of stories on the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) and its misuse of public funding. What made Mr. Mihalopoulos’ submission stand out among the 17 entries from a wide spectrum of media outlets was the relentless pressure of his coverage according to one of the judges. Mr. Mihalopoulos didn’t quit digging when UNO made cosmetic changes and spun a show of reform.
The 2012 Watchdog Award for Excellence in Public Interest Reporting went to Christy Gutowski and Bill Ruthhart of the Chicago Tribune for their “Children at Risk” series. Their package of stories shined a light on new, treacherous risks to one of the most vulnerable populations and led to an overhaul of the state agency charged with protecting children.
Gary Marx and David Jackson of the Chicago Tribune were honored for work on “Fugitives from Justice” a series which documented failings in the U.S. justice system that allowed fugitives to flee the country and avoid capture.
Sam Roe and Jared S. Hopkins of the Chicago Tribune were honored for work on their “Deadly Neglect” series. This Tribune investigation, uncovered a pattern of harmful care at the Alden Village North, a home for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Thirteen times in the last decade residents have died under circumstances that led to state citations for neglect or failure to investigate.
Jodi Cohen, Stacy St. Clair and Tara Malone of the Chicago Tribune were honored for their work on “Clout Goes to College.” The series of investigations uncovered how some applicants to the University of Illinois received special consideration for acceptance between 2005 and 2009, despite having sub-par qualifications.
Dan Mihalopoulos, Robert Becker, Darnell Little, Todd Lighty and Laurie Cohen of the Chicago Tribune were honored for “Neighborhoods for Sale.” The series documented the correlation between millions of dollars in political contributions from developers and zoning changes granted by Chicago aldermen.