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voiceofsandiego.org Wins National Investigative Journalism Award
IRE Judges Recognize Redevelopment Investigations
San Diego, California, March 31, 2009 — The pioneering nonprofit online daily voiceofsandiego.org captured one of investigative journalism’s most prestigious awards today for its year-long efforts exposing hidden bonuses and undisclosed conflicts of interest at two public redevelopment agencies.
The annual contest of Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. recognizes the best in investigative reporting — by print, broadcast and online media. voiceofsandiego.org‘s Will Carless, Rob Davis and Andrew Donohue won the award for outstanding investigative journalism which originated or was primarily published on the internet.
voiceofsandiego.org’s winning entry was entitled “The Redevelopment Investigations” and encompassed work done in 2008 exposing scandals at the city of San Diego’s two nonprofit redevelopment agencies, the Southeastern Economic Development Corp. and the Centre City Development Corp.
The stories uncovered relationships between redevelopment officials and developers with lucrative development contracts and exposed a clandestine bonus system at SEDC that the president used to pay herself and other employees $1 million over the course of five years. The result: The leaders of the agencies were fired or resigned, criminal investigations are underway, and the organizations have begun to undertake wholesale reforms.
IRE officials praised the work.
“The thing the judges loved about the voiceofsandiego.org series is that it was a classic, newspaper-style, shoe-leather investigation produced on a cutting-edge news Web site,” said James V. Grimaldi, chairman of the IRE contest committee and an investigative reporter at The Washington Post. “As metropolitan newspapers slash staff and inevitably scale back watchdog journalism, we hope to see more online news sites keeping local government honest.”
“voiceofsandiego.org represents what is possible when a small group of talented journalists dedicate themselves to covering their community, said IRE Executive Director Mark Horvit. “The focus is on holding government officials accountable, and the results have been dramatic.”
“The success that voiceofsandiego.org has achieved should be heartening to all those who believe in the value of enterprise and investigative reporting,” Horvit said. “In only a few years, this locally-focused, online-only newsroom has established itself as a journalistic force.”
The nonprofit news site hopes to continue expanding.
“The stories highlight the reason our founders started voiceofsandiego.org: To do meaningful stories that bring about change,” said Donohue, the organization’s editor. “That’s our clear mission and we find it even more relevant today as traditional news organizations struggle financially to do the sort of public-service reporting that communities need.”
This prestigious IRE award follows other recent successes for voiceofsandiego.org on the national level. In November 2008, The New York Times highlighted voice in a front page story discussing how non-profit online dailies are filling the gaps of declining newspaper coverage across the country and in January 2009, voiceofsandiego.org received significant funding from the Knight Foundation.
The award will be presented in June at the IRE annual conference in Baltimore.
About IRE and voiceofsandiego.org
Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting. IRE was formed in 1975 to create a forum in which journalists throughout the world could help each other by sharing story ideas, newsgathering techniques and news sources. www.ire.org
voiceofsandiego.org is a nonprofit, independent and insightful news website focused on issues impacting the San Diego region. Our mission is to consistently deliver ground-breaking investigative journalism for the San Diego region and to increase civic participation by giving citizens the knowledge and in-depth analysis necessary to become advocates for good government and social progress. Our content is free to access online. Our revenue model is based on public broadcasting, derived from individual memberships, sponsorships, foundation grants and online advertising. www.voiceofsandiego.org