The Pulitzer Prizes were awarded to some outstanding journalists today. Long before the awards were announced, several of the reporters had already been interviewed about how they chased down difficult, complex stories that made a difference: Poynter’s Mallary Jean Tenore interviewed Daniel Gilbert about how he found the time at a small newspaper to uncover and master a complicated story no one had noticed. “During 13 months of reporting on a story that had been largely left untold, he found that lingering conflicts over the ownership of coal-bed methane gas meant thousands of owners weren’t getting paid for the use of their property. Instead, Virginia had funneled millions of dollars in royalty payments into an escrow fund that owners couldn’t access without first clearing significant legal hurdles,” Tenore wrote. Gilbert explains how he did it.Bruce Shapiro at the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma interviewed Sheri Fink, a reporter for ProPublica who wrote a 13,000-word narrative about how patients died at a New Orleans hospital that was isolated after Hurricane Katrina. I had recently blogged about Rosland Gammon’s interesting Q&A with investigative reporter Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who uncovered rampant fraud in a $350 million, taxpayer-subsidized child-care program. Her series of stories, Cashing in on Kids, led to criminal charges against the scammers.
A video profiling Rutledge offers a glimpse at the tedious grunt work required to get the story. Rutledge relied on insiders with access to key documents, and she staked out people who were abusing the system.NPR’s On Point interviewed the New York Times’ Michael Moss, who exposed the dangers of E. coli in hamburger meat: “Ground beef is usually not simply a chunk of meat run through a grinder. Instead, records and interviews show, a single portion of hamburger meat is often an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of cows and even from different slaughterhouses. These cuts of meat are particularly vulnerable to E. coli contamination, food experts and officials say. Despite this, there is no federal requirement for grinders to test their ingredients for the pathogen.”