Silurians Honor Journalism’s Best;
Kihss Award to The Record’s Dan Sforza
More than a dozen news organizations were honored at the Silurians’ annual Excellence in Journalism Awards dinner on May 18 at the Players, with The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times picking up top prizes in the Breaking News, Features and Public Service categories. A crowd of some 125 members and guests saw18 Medallion Awards and 10 Certificates of Merit presented to the men and women whose work was judged to be the best in print, broadcast and digital media during 2015.
Dan Sforza of The (Bergen) Record took home the 2016 Peter Kihss Award, named for the man whose reputation as a dogged reporter and mentor to younger colleagues at The New York Times became legendary. And Megan Cerullo won the Dennis Duggan Memorial Scholarship Award, named for the late Newsday columnist, and presented to a student at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism whose work, like Duggan’s, focuses on “ordinary” New Yorkers.
Sforza, who joined The Record as a news clerk in 1994, when he was fresh out of college, was appointed managing editor in January.
Megan Cerullo, whose articles for DNAInfo.com ranged from a profile of the lingering Italian community in the Belmont section of the Bronx to the effect of bike lanes on elderly residents of the Lower East Side, will intern this summer at The Daily News.
(For a list of all winners, see below.)
AND THE WINNERS ARE . . .
NEWSPAPER, NEWS SERVICE AND ONLINE
Medallion Wall Street Journal, “Metro-North Crash” by Andrew Tangel.
A wide-ranging tour de force of the crash and its after-effects, it is old-fashioned journalism at its best, from gathering quotes and information to recreating the horrific scene with a compelling narrative.
Merit Wall Street Journal, “Brooklyn ISIS Plot” by Pervaiz Shallwani, Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Andrew Grossman.
From its comprehensive lead, it details an intriguing timeline that often reads like a spy novel, with many government sources.
Medallion The New York Times, “The Lonely Death of George Bell” by N.R. Kleinfield.
In the daily blur of humanity that is New York, millions crowd the subways and sidewalks, offices, bars and apartments, yet people die often alone, unmourned. Sonny Kleinfield was curious about these solitary deaths. Who was this person and what became of all the stuff left behind? Kleinfeld provided the answer in this epic narrative that riveted readers. Piecing together the clues like a detective story, he recreates the death and life of a both prototypical and entirely unique New Yorker.
Merit Newsday, “The 7th Precinct vs. Jack Franqui” by Gus Garcia-Roberts.
When 26-year-old Jack Franqui, facing misdemeanor charges, hanged himself in a holding cell of the Suffolk County Police Department on Jan. 23, 2013, the public was told little — and almost all of it false. Combing through hundreds of pages of previously unreported documents, Gus Garcia-Roberts exposed Franqui’s disturbed history and desperate final hours as he weepingly begged for medical attention and threatened suicide while officers seated nearby ignored him and later covered up their inaction.
Investigative and Public Service
Medallion The New York Times, “Profiting From Addiction” by Kim Barker.
Barker exposed a virtually unregulated “housing netherworld” of so-called three-quarter homes that exploits thousands of desperate men and women “recovering from addiction or with nowhere to go.” She fleshed out the story by profiling several residents of homes controlled by an unscrupulous businessman, Yury Baumblit, who allegedly profited from kickbacks and coerced addicts into relapsing so he could cash in on their participation in substance abuse programs. Barker’s report had significant impact: Mayor de Blasio set up a task force and prosecutors filed criminal charges against Baumblit. To top it off, a reader from Atlanta recognized her long-lost, mentally ill brother and was reunited with him.
Merit Newsday, “Zombie Houses” by Denise M. Bonilla, Carl MacGowan, Maura McDermott and Deon J. Hampton.
The Newsday team presented a compelling series on a facet of the mortgage crisis that has been underreported: an “epidemic of blighted, abandoned houses” that has seriously damaged neighborhoods and property values in many communities on Long Island. The solid reportage, data analysis, and interactive map made for a powerful, original presentation that provided a valuable public service.
Medallion Newsday, “Hard Knocks” by Jim Baumbach.
You feel the pain in this extremely well-researched, well-written piece about one of the most important issues in sports (and beyond) today — concussions. It also is a model of investigative and public-service reporting.
Medallion Reuters, “Wall Street’s Way” by Charles Levinson.
This penetrating, deeply reported series of articles goes behind the scenes of Wall Street’s efforts to weaken securities regulation; shines new light on the revolving door between government regulators and the securities industry; and shows how the accounting industry stymied auditing reforms.
Merit Financial Planning, “Deleted: FINRA Erases Broker Disciplinary Records” by Ann Marsh.
An in-depth investigation into the practices of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority questions whether the self-regulatory agency properly protects investors from abuses by brokers.
Merit The Record, “The Chairman’s Flight” by Shawn Boburg.
Relentless reporting uncovered the scandal surrounding a sweetheart deal between United Airlines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that led to the resignation of the airline’s CEO, the head of the Authority and New Jersey’s Transportation Commissioner.
Science and Health
Medallion The Record, “After the Miracle” by Lindy Washburn.
In three meticulously researched, masterfully crafted stories, Washburn explores, in highly personal and touching detail, how a series of modern-day medical “miracles” — deep-brain stimulation to quell the tremors of Parkinson’s disease; surgery to nip potentially lethal brain aneurysms; immunotherapy for the deadliest form of brain cancer — profoundly altered the lives, both clinically and emotionally, of patients who benefited from them.
Arts and Culture
Medallion Vanity Fair, “Balanchine’s Christmas Miracle” by Laura Jacobs.
“Balanchine’s Christmas Miracle” is a fresh look at an artistic genius. It reveals George Balanchine’s lifelong emotional attachment to “The Nutcracker,” which began in his boyhood at the Mariinsky Theatre in Russia. It also sheds light on the creation of New York City Ballet, the greatest ballet company in America, and its evolution from generation to generation, always buoyed by the dancers’ deep appreciation and affection for Balanchine.
Medallion Vanity Fair, “Might at the Met” by Bob Colacello.
Written in advance of the opening of the Met Breuer, a new branch of New York’s Metropolitan Museum, Bob Colacello’s article is a deeply reported, sophisticated, and well-timed analysis of the Met’s growing interest in modern and contemporary art. By connecting the dots behind a series of developments that led up to the Breuer, Colacello presents a unique overview of how the collections, boards, and new building projects of MOMA, the Met and the Whitney are now irrevocably intertwined.
Commentary and Editorials
Medallion TheStreet.com, columns by Susan Antilla.
“Watch what Wall Street does, not what it says,” Antilla enjoins her readers and, heeding her own counsel, she does just that in a string of columns, built on solid reporting and trenchant analysis, that expose the duplicitous practices unscrupulous stockbrokers employ to intentionally mislead and, ultimately, fleece their clients.
Merit The Record, editorials by Alfred P. Doblin.
Alfred Doblin writes meaningful and impactful editorials that offer readers keen-eyed perspective on a broad swath of local issues, always with clarity, reason and a strong sense of decency — his sharply critical examination of a proposed deal to build a new Hudson River tunnel, for example, or his artful takedown of a Republican congressman’s opposition to the party running gay candidates.
Medallion The Journal News, “Metro-North Crash in Valhalla” by Albert Conte, Frank Becerra Jr., Seth Harrison and Carucha L. Meuse.
Conte, a photo assistant at The Journal News, was off duty on Feb. 3, 2015, when he got word that a commuter train had struck a car, resulting in a fire and explosion. A volunteer fireman, Conte was one of the first on the scene. After helping with rescue operations, he used his iPhone to take pictures and email them to the newsroom. Staff photographers Becerra and Harrison soon joined him, resulting in an outstanding package of photographs that led coverage in The Journal News and wound up being used by newspapers and TV stations around the country.
Merit The Record, “A Driver’s Remorse” by Tariq Zehawi.
Looking beyond the obvious when he photographed the aftermath of a fatal accident in which a truck struck a car, Zehawi focused instead on this revealing moment when the truck driver, overcome by what had happened, suddenly fell to his knees in the middle of the street.
Medallion Newsday, “Dunia’s Smile” by Thomas A. Ferrara.
Despite a horrendous attack by chimpanzees in his native Congo two years ago that ripped his face apart, eight-year-old Dunia Sibomana is still able to smile while awaiting rare and complicated facial reconstructive surgery at Stony Brook University Hospital. As Dunia shares a laugh with Jennifer Crean, whose family has been hosting the boy since he was brought to the U.S. by the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids, he is a portrait of hope.
Merit The Record, “Daddy’s Home” by Kevin Wexler.
All the emotions of greeting a soldier safely home from war in the Middle East are vividly displayed in the face of Mari Gumann of Vernon, N.J., as she hugs her son, Sgt. Jesse De La Cruza, at a Jersey City armory where families had gathered for reunions with their loved ones.
Medallion Newsday, “American Pharoah” by J. Conrad Williams Jr.
With no other horse in sight, American Pharoah is all sinew and strength as he comes flying home on June 6, 2015 to win the Belmont Stakes and the first Triple Crown since 1978. Underscoring the challenge of photographing horse races, photographer Williams and his camera were about 50 feet apart when he fired it. He had set it just above ground level near the track, decided what angle to place it at, connected it to a foot pedal by wire, and activated the pedal from a photographers’ riser near the finish line. A little guesswork and 30 years’ experience produced a classic.
Medallion Bloomberg Businessweek, “How Trump Invented Trump” by Max Abelson.
Abelson delves into the uniquely New York world of the leading Republican candidate, profiling the people who work for him (his chief operating officer is his former bodyguard), challenging his claims of business success, and showing how he turns everything he does into some kind of victory. The story shows how glamour and desire — and the desire for glamour — can overcome any gritty reality.
Merit Vanity Fair, “Pope Francis at Ground Zero” by Paul Elie.
In this brief essay, Elie uses the Pope’s visit to the 9/11 Memorial to reflect on the importance to New York of this sacred ground — and on how even the Holy Father visits the site more as a pilgrim than as a leader of the church. The visit makes clear “that even in an apparently secular city people still conceive of grief and loss in frankly religious terms.”
Investigative and Public Service
Medallion Bloomberg News, “Loan Sharks: How Two Guys From Brooklyn Lost God and Found $40 Million” by Zeke Faux.
This journey into the new world of unscrupulous online predatory lending takes readers on a jaunt with the two young boiler-room promoters of an “advance lending scheme” that provides unregulated, ultra-high interest loans to people with shaky or no credit. Living in Puerto Rico as tax exiles after collecting more than $40 million for selling their business, Pearl Capital, they tell a tale that questions the sometimes slim
differences between the practices of Wall Street boiler rooms and mainstream firms such as Goldman Sachs, which offered to buy their firm.
Medallion MetroFocus (WNET), “Restoring Brooklyn’s Lost WWII Memorial,” by Dave Brown, executive producer; Diane Masciale, executive producer, local production; Sean McGinn, producer; and Jack Ford, host.
For more than 60 years, the Brooklyn War Memorial — a granite and limestone memorial to more than 11,000 Brooklynites who died in combat during World War II — has gathered dust in Cadman Park, rarely used and little noticed. Now, efforts are being made by veterans, legislators and the New York City Parks Commission to repair and upgrade the memorial and restore it to its original purpose: an open, central gathering place for public use as well as a tribute to the borough’s fallen. “MetroFocus” illuminates the project and brings to light a memorial few people even know about.
Investigative and Public Service
Medallion News 12 New Jersey, “The Oil Changers.”
Reporter Walt Kane and his team expose the pervasive use by oil change establishments of substandard oil that could cause severe damage to cars. Their three-part series also reveals that New Jersey’s weights and measures rules governing motor oil have never been enforced. The State is now complying.
Features and Public Service
Medallion 1010 WINS, “East Village Gas Explosion.”
When a gas explosion ripped through four buildings in the East Village, leveling three of them and leaving a total of 19 people injured on March 26, 2015, 1010 WINS was one of the first at the scene with live coverage from the firefighting to eyewitness accounts, neighborhood reaction and every press conference by Mayor de Blasio and other officials. WINS updated its listeners every 10 minutes, allowing them to follow the most current findings and staying as close to the events as possible.
ONLINE INVESTIGATIVE AND PUBLIC SERVICE REPORTING
Medallion The Record/NorthJersey.com, “In Heroin’s Grip,” by Rebecca D. O’Brien, reporter; Thomas E. Franklin, videographer; Tyson Trish, photographer; and Michael Pettigano, digital projects editor.
The scourge of heroin ravaging a neighborhood hardly merits a headline these days, but this series from The Record brought home to readers and online viewers the savagery the drug epidemic is wreaking on Northern New Jersey. The reporters and photographers dragged us into the drug world by finding people who have lost their jobs, health, homes and families and were willing to share those horrid experiences. The Record staff explored how the damage from heroin costs communities dearly and goes way beyond the toll it takes on addicts themselves. The combination of print, video, interactive maps and statistical graphics has now made this fine journalism a teaching tool in school.
Merit DNAinfo, “Coverage of the Unsolved Gail Mark Murder” by Murray Weiss and James Fanelli.
Before being murdered in 1982, 28-year-old Gail Mark was convinced her husband would kill her. He was a suspect but was never charged and the case went cold for 33 years until Murray Weiss and James Fanelli discovered a clue in a civil case filed by Mark’s husband’s sister, and new witnesses, who raised enough questions for the New York City Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney to resume the criminal investigation.