CJR on the Polks

Past coverage of today’s winners

This morning, the administrators of the Polk Awards, one of journalism’s most prestigious prizes, announced 2009’s recipients.

We’ve structured this week’s News Meeting around the decision to grant a prize to the anonymous videographer and disseminators of the video of Neda Agha-Soltan’s shooting death during the summer’s post-election protests in Iran. Head on over to offer your thoughts on the pick.

Meanwhile, you can visit the Polk site for a full list of the winners. And keep reading for a selection of what CJR has published on the awardees, and to learn how a CJR writer helped bring the subject of one Polk winning series to the public eye.

New York Times reporter David Rohde won the award for foreign reporting for his five-part first-person series telling the tale of his capture and captivity by the Taliban. CJR interviewed Times editor Bill Keller on the paper’s efforts to spring Rohde. We also published a blog post pointing to unanswered questions about the Rohde episode, and asked readers for their thoughts on the Times’s decision to seek and maintain a blackout of coverage of their reporter’s kidnapping.

Bloomberg News’s Mark Pittman, Bob Ivry, Alison Fitzgerald, and Craig Torres won the award for national reporting for their work on the financial bailouts. Pittman, who died at the age of fifty-two late last year, and his reporting were the subject of voluminous coverage at CJR’s Audit desk. Start with this one-year-old Q&A, and then follow the links. Here are two Pittman remembrances from CJR, along with a eulogy that his now Polk-winning colleague Bob Ivry wrote and delivered. (And over at the Audit, Dean Starkman adds some fresh thoughts on today’s Bloomberg/Pittman win.)

The New York Times’s Alan Schwarz won in sports reporting for his series on concussions and other head injuries in the National Football League. CJR ran a Q&A with Schwarz on the subject in our January/February issue, which is available online in an extended version.

Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica won the award for environmental reporting for his work on safety and environmental concerns surrounding a novel form of gas drilling that involves injecting chemical-laced water deep into the earth. In July 2008, we took readers behind the scenes of early collaboration between Lustgarten and two New York outlets as state government developed the regulatory framework for such extraction.

And finally, CJR has a bit part in the tale that won Stars and Stripes its Polk award for military reporting. In August, Matt Mabe was invited on NPR’s On The Media to discuss a moving piece he wrote for our July/August issue on the challenges of transitioning into journalism after years in the military, and his regret in having to leave a reporting job at the Newark Star-Ledger this summer when the Army called him back for a third combat tour. (Unfortunately, the full text is no longer available online.) Mabe spoke with the program from Afghanistan, where he described the Army’s hiring of outside consultants to profile and evaluate the reporting of journalists seeking embeds, with a potential eye towards rejecting requests the consultants deemed likely to net tough coverage. A Stripes reporter heard the discussion, and decided to look into the allegation. The resulting series was recognized with a Polk today.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.