Liz Essley, a reporter for The Washington Examiner, is the winner of this year's Robert D.G. Lewis Watchdog Award, the top prize in the annual Dateline Awards competition of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Washington, D.C., Pro chapter.
The Lewis Award carries a $1,000 check for the winner. It was presented to Essley on Tuesday during the chapter’s annual Hall of Fame induction dinner at the National Press Club.
Journalists from dozens of others news organizations also received awards for their work on Tuesday. The winners and finalists are listed below.
Essley’s entry was a series of stories focused on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. In selecting Essley, the judges — from SPJ’s Central Ohio Pro chapter — wrote: “The award stands for ‘protecting the public from abuses by those who would betray the public trust.’ That’s exactly what this series of stories did by exposing the wasteful spending and sweetheart dealing by a board charged with overseeing, among other things, the Dulles Rail, one of the nation’s largest public works projects.”
The D.C. Pro chapter inducted four prominent journalists into its Hall of Fame on Tuesday: NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell, Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell, author and political journalist Haynes Johnson (who died on May 24) and New York Times/CBS News/PBS correspondent Terence Smith.
Also, the chapter gave its 2013 Distinguished Service Award to Steve Geimann, deputy team leader at the Bloomberg News Washington bureau.
For more about the Hall of Fame inductees and Distinguished Service Award winner click here.
The D.C. SDX Foundation awarded scholarships to three University of Maryland students and one American University student. You can read about them here.
Winner: “Benghazi,” Adam Entous, Margaret Coker, Jay Solomon, Siobhan Gorman, Carol E. Lee and Evan Perez, The Wall Street Journal.
Judge’s comment: “Wow. A team of reporters delves into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and pulls fact from an incident wrought with fiction. This is the kind of work that sparks national dialogue.
“Senate Showdown,” Steve Contorno, The Washington Examiner
“Santorum's home,” Steve Contorno, The Washington Examiner
Winner: “IG investigating two VA conferences that cost a combined $5M,” Stephen Losey, Federal Times.
Judge’s comment: Exposing public employees potentially receiving improper gifts in the course of spending millions of taxpayer dollars was a great scoop.
Finalist: “Maryland workplace shooting threat,” Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
Winner: “War’s Wake,” Michael M. Phillips, The Wall Street Journal.
Judge’s comment: Heart-wrenching series of stories on the ravaging effects of war. So filled with brutal emotion it was often difficult to read.
“Amateur Sleuth Helps Stop National Archives Thefts,” Jessica Gresko, The Associated Press
Judge’s comment: Gresko shows hustle and great instincts in tracking this amateur detective, who took down a government bureaucrat who had, as the judge put it, “taken our history.” Great narrative and telling details about this man round out the story.
“A Year Later, The Shocks Linger,” Meredith Somers, The Washington Times
Editorial, Columns and Commentary
Winner: “Columns on Pepco Electric Utilities,” Robert McCartney, The Washington Post
Judge’s comment: Impressive package doing what journalism does best — giving voice to the voiceless — in demanding accountability from the big utility.
Finalist: Rick Snider's Sports Columns, The Washington Examiner
Winner: “The Economy: A Closer Look,” Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers
Judge’s comment: This series on the state of the economy was a deep dive and expertly communicated how the statistics are affecting everyday life for much of the country.
“The Fed,” Jon Hilsenrath, The Wall Street Journal
“Cathedral in Crisis,” Brett Zongker, The Associated Press
Winner: “Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority accountability,” Liz Essley, The Washington Examiner
Judge’s comment: Outstanding work exposing the insider dealing, nepotism, unbid contract work and fiscal irresponsibility for a board charged with overseeing, among other things, the Dulles Rail, one of the nation’s largest public works projects.
“The Polygraph Files,” Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Newspapers
Judge’s comment: Deserved its place among the top in a very strong field of candidates. Investigative reporting at its finest.
“Metro Exits Blocked and Locked,” Kytja Weir, The Washington Examiner
“53 Youths In Killings Were D.C. Wards on ‘At-Risk’ List,” Jeffrey Anderson, The Washington Times
Winner: “Tiger Woods Celebrates,” William C. Workinger III, Voice of America
Winner: “Reel Talk,” Aaron Wiener, Washington City Paper
Judge’s comment: Good, crisp writing brings reader into an unfamiliar — and dangerous — world. Living off the land ain’t what it used to be.
“Hundreds March Against Anti-LGBT Violence,” Lou Chibbaro Jr., Washington Blade
“Lawmaker Chews Out Staffer For Riding Members-Only Elevator,” Judy Kurtz and Kris Kitto, The Hill
Winner: “Health Care Exchange Raises Conflict-Of-Interest Concerns,” Alexander Bolton, The Hill
Judge’s comment: Bolton’s revelation that a United Health Group purchase of an outside contractor for federal health exchanges exposed a core problem with the overhaul: time and oversight.
Winner: “At GSA, Everyone Rates A Bonus,” Stephen Losey, Federal Times
Judge’s comment: Interesting analysis of public records shows that even when times are tough, some federal agencies still take care of their own before taking care of the public.
Finalist: “1 in 6 Retired Lawmakers Get Six-Figure Pensions,” Stephen Losey, Federal Times
Winner: “At Long Last, Equality In Maryland,” Kevin Naff, Washington Blade
Judge’s comment: Crisp, emotional first-person account of the joys of advocacy journalism
Finalist: “Dare to be stupid,” Paul Fletcher, Virginia Lawyers Weekly
Winner: “Faith of Our Fathers,” Joey DiGuglielmo, Washington Blade
Judge’s comment: A well-researched, well-structured look at the gains — and setbacks — of LGBT acceptance within the Catholic religion on the 40th anniversary of Washington’s DignityUSA chapter.
Finalist: “In The Election Season, Voice-Over Artists Rake in the Cash,” Judy Kurtz, The Hill. Judge’s comment: Fun read
Winner: “Winning Big,” Harry Jaffe, Washingtonian
Judge’s comment: A nicely woven, tight narrative of how veteran reporter Dave Woods came to win a Pulitzer. It succeeds by focusing on the story behind the story, rather than on the prize itself. Nice work.
“Disorder in the Court,” Luke Mullins, Washingtonian
“Wanted: Rich Lawyers,” Marisa M. Kashino, Washingtonian
Winner: “The Memory Keeper,” Harry Jaffe, Washingtonian
Judge’s comment: A well-crafted story that shows the difference one person can make just by standing up. The story about Laura Amico’s fight for justice on behalf of homicide victims is structured well and has a nice narrative flow. The visuals and snippets from the website help drive the story home.
“Taking It to the Street,” Ariel Sabar, Washingtonian
“Apocalypse Meow,” Luke Mullins, Washingtonian
Winner: “Predator in the Ranks,” Harry Jaffe, Washingtonian
Judge’s comment: A chilling account of how multiple law enforcement entities united to track down a predator. The chronological timeline is used effectively here, and a nice layout contributes to the package’s readability. Solid reporting with numerous sources. A well-told story.
“High Society,” Alexandra Robbins, Washingtonian
“The Battle for the Cato Institute,” Luke Mullins, Washingtonian
Winner: “The Things They Leave Behind,” Rachel Manteuffel, Washingtonian
Judge’s comment: A revealing look into what happens to all the mementos left at the Vietnam Memorial and the caretaker who meticulously oversees and inventories them. The writer successfully intersperses anecdotes from memorial visitors and other sources while keeping the flow and structure readable and easy to follow. Nicely told.
“Playing with Fire,” Michael Gaynor, Washingtonian
“Aiden Ever After,” Kathleen Wheaton, Bethesda Magazine
Winner: “Did Football Kill Austin Trenum?,” Patrick Hruby, Washingtonian
Judge’s comment: A poignant, well-written story that explores a topic of growing importance. A good first-person story ropes you in, and lots of medical science rounds it out. This story should be a must-read for any parent whose child plays sports.
“Olympic Moments,” Mary Yarrison and Christopher Leaman, Washingtonian
“Still on Top of His Game,” Harry Jaffe, Washingtonian
Editorial, Columns, Commentary
Winner: “Bring Back the Booze,” Susan Milligan, Washingtonian
Judge’s comment: The writer offers a novel theory as to why Beltway politics have become so partisan and backs it up with solid background information and research. Her solution: more booze. The column is well written and grounded in fact, making for a compelling argument to reinstate happy hours on Capitol Hill. Cheers!
“Fish Tales,” Emmet Rosenfeld, Washingtonian
“Champagne and Sippy Cups,” Todd Kliman, Washingtonian
Winner: “First Lady of Defense,” Marisa M. Kashino, Washingtonian
Judge’s comment: A solid, traditional business profile that delves into the company as well as the leader who makes it tick. It features a good narrative about Linda Hudson interwoven with solid financials and an exploration of Hudson’s goals and strategy at the helm. Just the right length, too.
“Killer Apps,” Shane Harris, Washingtonian
“Power of Persuasion,” Kevin Charles Redmon, Washingtonian
Winner: “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” Sophie Gilbert, Washingtonian
Judge’s comment: A nice balance of background regarding John Malkovich’s involvement in this new theatrical production blended with insights about the actors and the production itself. It’s a well-written critique — the kind every theatergoer hopes for before plunking down money on a show.
“Electile Dysfunction: The Kinsey Sicks for President,” Sophie Gilbert, Washingtonian
“You for Me for You,” Sophie Gilbert, Washingtonian
Winner: “Fabulous!,” Eli Meir Kaplan and Ali Eaves, Washingtonian
Judge’s comment: A great study of before and after portraits of local drag queens in everyday clothes and all dolled up for a night on the town. The photos are well composed and let the subjects’ personalities shine through. Putting them all against the same background really allows the photos to stand out.
“The Nationals Play Ball,” David Deal and Harry Jaffe, Washingtonian
“Silent Witness,” Ron Blunt, Nicholas Hunt and Carol Ross Joynt, Washingtonian
“SOPA Sponsors Running For The Hills,” Bryce Baschuk, Washington Internet Daily
Judge’s comment: The ‘scoop’ and timeline these stories offer on such an important topic was truly enlightening and impressive. Well told and constructed coverage.
“Phoenix Company Prepares License Applications for Not-Yet-Available Spectrum,” Adam Bender, Communications Daily
“Blogs, Online Networks Pose Ethical Questions,” Rachel Boehm, Bloomberg BNA’s Daily Tax Report
“British Try Patent Grab on GPS Technology,” Dee Ann Divis, Inside GNSS
“Washington Correspondent,” Matt Canham, The Salt Lake Tribune
“An Economic Vote,” David J. Lynch, Bloomberg News
Winner: “Dirty D.C.,” news staff, WTOP 103.5 FM
Judge’s comment: Tenacity and follow-through bring journalistic light. Fine example of dogged reporting.
Winner: “Metro Bus Crashes,” Adam Tuss, WTOP 103.5 FM
Judge’s comment: Excellent use of FOIA. Tight focus. Compelling use of sound keeps grip on listener interest.
Winner: “A Date With Sandy,” news staff, WTOP 103.5 FM
Judge’s comment: First rate listener service. Shows how round robin reporting should be done when immediacy is needed.
Finalist: “Foosball Tourney,” Brennan Haselton, WTOP 103.5 FM
Winner: “Core Values,” Chris Core, WTOP 103.5 FM
Judge’s comment: More stations should do commentary. Core’s writing is crisp and it easily sparks community debate on current affairs.
Winner: “The Nationals Wild Ride,” news staff, WTOP 103.5 FM
Judge’s comment: Voices and on-scene audio captures tension and joy of successful pennant race.
Winner: “Let Teddy Win,” Brennan Haselton, WTOP 103.5
Judge’s comment: Haselton telescopes humor, history, baseball and politics into must-listen radio. The kind of audio treat that brings smiles.
Winner: “Campaigning For Any Job In The Land,” Alisa Parenti & Andrew O’Day, MarketWatch Radio Network
Judge’s comment: Impressive scope, excellently reported with wide range of sources.
Winner: “Home Invasion,” Gary Nurenberg, WUSA 9
Judges’s comment: Nurenberg demonstrates keen ability to ad lib developing story and then compose timely follow-up.
Winner: “Championing Impact Of Local Non-Profit Organizations/Institutions,” Elizabeth Jia, WUSA 9
Judge’s comment: Writing shines in giving inside perspective on menu of topics and organizations.
Finalist: “Grading Congressional Speech,” Gary Nurenberg, WUSA9
Winner: “Same Sex Marriage Battle,” Chris Gordon, WRC-TV
Judge’s comment: Gordon does excellent job of vetting views on hotly contested issue and then reporting results of vote. Viewers well served.
Winner: “Wasted: Young & Using,” Andrea McCarren, David Satchell, Kurt Brooks, Joe Martin, WUSA9
Judge’s comment: WOW! Rare report on consequences surrounding teen drinking. Nightmare exposed. Kudos to McCarren, Satchell, Brooks, and Martin.
Winner: “Blogs from MarylandReporter.com,” Len Lazarick, MarylandReporter.com
Winner: “Cronyism at VA,” Mark Flatten, The Washington Examiner
Winner: “Vandalism at a Chantilly Mosque,” Mary C. Stachyra, Patch.com
Winner: “Patrol Officer Leads Police Outreach to Local Korean-Americans,” Mary C. Stachyra, Patch.com
“Paranormal Investigator Leads Occoquan Ghost Tours,” Rachel Leon, Patch.com
“Occoquan Artist Breathes New Life Into Religious Icons,” Rachel Leon, Patch.com
Winner: “Federal Panel: Dirty Bomb Cleanup Need Not Follow U.S. Cancer Rules,” Douglas P. Guarino, Global Security Newswire
“Dead People Voted and Registered to Vote, Watchdog Group Finds,” Glynis Kazanjian, MarylandReporter.com
“Lake Ridge Community Swim Club Closes Doors to Lake Ridge Lancers,” Rachel Leon, Patch.com