Updated 3/31/10 at 3:30 p.m.
Today Investigative Reporters and Editors honored two Investigative Fund stories published in collaboration with The Nation — A.C. Thompson's exposé of racial violence in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Aram Roston's probe into corruption in US contracting in Afghanistan. Plus another Investigative Fund project, on surrogate motherhood, which began while the reporters were students at the Columbia School of Journalism, was named a finalist for IRE's Student Award.
Thompson's pair of stories, “Katrina's Hidden Race War” and “Body of Evidence,” which won IRE's Magazine certificate, uncovered the hidden story of how, in the words of the IRE judges, “white vigilantes in the New Orleans neighborhood of Algiers Point shot and threatened African-American men with impunity after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.” As they point out, Thompson (who got additional support for his reporting from other nonprofits, including ProPublica) used autopsy reports obtained by means of a Nation Institute lawsuit, medical records, footage shot shortly after the storm, and interviews with both victims and perpetrators, including police officers, emergency room doctors, community members, and more. He “documented a disturbing picture of violence in a compelling investigative story,” the judges concluded.
Aram Roston's investigation, “How the US Funds the Taliban,” which was a finalist for the IRE Magazine certificate, “uncovered Taliban insurgents reaping millions of dollars in Department of Defense contracts,” in the judges' words. “These contracts have become an immense boon for the Taliban, as security firms found that paying off the insurgents was the only way to get supplies through hostile territory to US troops.”
And Hilke Schellmann and Habiba Nosheen's examination of the abuse-prone American surrogacy industry, Surrogacy: Wombs for Rent, which aired on PBS's Now, was a finalist for IRE's Student Award. Judges called it “an in-depth look into the world of commercial surrogacy, [a system that] leaves a lot of room for 'deceit and fraud.'” The two began their reporting under the tutelage of Sheila Coronel, director of Columbia University's Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.