A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

SDX Awards: Radio investigative reporting, New Hampshire Public Radio

By Quill

New Hampshire Public Radio investigated the condition of its state government. While New Hampshire’s citizens tended to trust the government’s clean reputation, NHPR found plenty of dirty laundry to air.

“New Hampshire has no strong tradition of investigative journalism, and two years ago we saw this as an area where we could shake things up,” said executive editor Jon Greenberg.

NHPR’s research took months, but the team broke numerous law-changing stories.

Airing on Jan. 9, 2004, “State Personnel Director Helps Business Partner” explained how the state’s personnel director filtered thousands of dollars to benefit a private-sector colleague. The story led the director to resign and to the passage of the state’s first executive branch ethics law.

“This small state has grown rapidly, and the old habits based on personal relationships are out of sync with current standards,” said Greenberg. “Our reports produced new laws on executive ethics and cash gifts to lawmakers, because the public at large was ready to embrace them.”

Airing in September 2004, three reports called “The $64,000 Question” revealed the illegal political finance practices of New Hampshire Speaker of the House Gene Chandler. NPHR found that that man had helped create a type of committee that collected tens of thousands of dollars from lobbyists and corporations that he then spent on personal items – and never reported a dime.

NPHR saw its listeners respond at the 2004 elections.

“Our incumbent governor lost his re-election bid, the first governor not to be re-elected to a second term in decades, partially because of the ethics charges that resulted from our reports,” said news director Mark Bevis. “The House Speaker lost his post. The new governor now has everyone in his administration sign financial disclosure forms. … NPHR’s reputation as a force in the state has grown by leaps and bounds.”

Government officials never challenged NPHR’s reports.

“Solid journalism combined with commendable use of sound,” said the judges. “These reports stood out for their persistence, their investigative nature and their impact on campaign practices in the state of New Hampshire.”