Gannett New Jersey Newspapers Win Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting
An eight-day series by the Asbury Park Press and six other Gannett New Jersey newspapers that exposed how some state legislators profited from their jobs has won the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting, one of the highest honors in journalism.
The “Profiting from Public Service” series, which was published in September, was recognized in the Selden Ring competition as the best investigative report in the nation for 2003. Only one award is granted. The Wall Street Journal and The Blade of Toledo were named finalists among the 98 entries.
The Selden Ring Award is the third national honor the series has won this year. It is a finalist for the Goldsmith Award for Investigative Reporting from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The series also won a rare honorable mention in the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism.
“The seven Gannett New Jersey newspapers did nothing less than bring ethics to government in the state of New Jersey,” the seven Selden Ring judges wrote in their citation. “There have been many stories over the years about individual incidents of corruption in New Jersey. This series distinguished itself by focusing on a system that made the outrageous legal. The newspapers buttressed their reporting with strong editorial support, and voters responded. This is a classic story in the finest tradition of the Selden Ring Award.”
In addition to the Asbury Park Press, the Gannett New Jersey newspapers that ran the articles were: Courier News (Bridgewater), the Courier-Post (Cherry Hill), the Home News Tribune (East Brunswick), the Daily Record (Morristown), the Ocean County Observer (Toms River), and the Daily Journal (Vineland).
“The citizens and taxpayers of New Jersey will be better off, thanks to the work of the Gannett newspapers in the state,” said Gary L. Watson, president of the Newspaper Division. “This is exactly the watchdog role our Founding Fathers envisioned for newspapers and is the very essence of what we do.”
The series found that key New Jersey state legislators used their public positions to pad their pensions, win no-bid contracts for their law firms and hand out millions of dollars in taxpayer money to employers, friends and party bosses. Of the eight incumbents defeated in the November election, six lost because of ethics issues.
The award, which comes with a $35,000 prize, is administered by the School of Journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communications in Los Angeles.
The prize was established in 1989 by the late Selden Ring, a Southern California real estate developer and philanthropist, who felt a strong, free press was vital to the survival of the nation.
“The breadth, scope and quality of the entries was the strongest in years,” said Michael Parks, director of USC Annenberg’s School of Journalism. “Investigative journalism is alive and well at America’s newspapers.”
Past winners of the Selden Ring Award are The Boston Globe, the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, The Seattle Times, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, The Albuquerque Tribune, Newsday, The Greenville (S.C.) News, The San Francisco Examiner, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader.
Gannett Co., Inc. is a leading international news and information company that publishes 101 daily newspapers in the USA, including USA TODAY, the nation’s largest-selling daily newspaper. The company also owns more than 500 non-daily publications in the USA and USA WEEKEND, a weekly newspaper magazine. Gannett subsidiary Newsquest is the United Kingdom’s second largest regional newspaper company. Newsquest publishes more than 300 titles, including 17 daily newspapers, and a network of prize-winning Web sites. Gannett also operates 22 television stations in the United States and is an Internet leader with sites sponsored by its TV stations and newspapers including USATODAY.com, one of the most popular news sites on the Web.
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