Non-Deadline Reporting (Circulation 100,000+)
WINNER: LUCY MORGAN, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES
The loophole was created, as are so many in Tallahassee, on the last night of the legislative session, when few people notice what gets into bills flying through legislative hallways.
In 2001, lawmakers quietly amended a retirement bill, allowing elected officials to receive retirement benefits as well as regular pay while remaining in the same job.
“It started as a news tip about a judge down in Collier County who decided to secretly ‘retire’ and return to work at the same job, collecting both a salary and a pension,” said reporter Lucy Morgan, who has been with the Times since 1968. “Ever since, I have become the ‘double-dipping’ reporter.”
Judges said: “Here’s an example of one lone reporter who goes after a legal loophole that is being abused by a growing number of state employees. In these hard times, when public and private employees face pay cuts and layoffs and the unemployment rates keep going up everywhere, Lucy Morgan shows what the nation’s news media could do in their respective places in specific terms to help uphold integrity in the public sector, the same integrity we demand today from the private financial and business sector.”
Neil Brown, executive editor and vice president of St. Petersburg Times, said, “None of the retirement benefit records had ever been made public. Morgan got them after a protracted fight she ultimately took to the governor, who ordered the records released. It was a fight she had to wage again and again as she exposed double-dippers in other areas, including the state university system.”
Morgan said: “No day passes that I don’t get calls from readers or state employees pointing to yet another problem that needs a story written about it.”
More online: http://tinyurl.com/73ddws
Non-Deadline Reporting (Circulation Less Than 100,000)
WINNER: KAMIKA DUNLAP, BARBARA GRADY & TAMMERLIN DRUMMOND, THE OAKLAND TRIBUNE/BAY AREA MEDIA NEWS GROUP
“Child Prostitution Series”
Desiree said she worked around the clock and charged johns by the minute. For 30 minutes, it cost $50 and for one hour it cost $200.
“He (her pimp) used to make me work, work, work,” Desiree said. “I got the money first, then I served the trick.”
Desiree said she had sex with four or five men a day and hardly got any sleep.
After one too many times of her pimp sending her on dates on an empty stomach, Desiree decided she’d had enough. In addition, she developed pelvic inflammatory disease and had to resort to giving massages to make money instead of having sex.
“My vagina was hurting and I was sitting on my knees, holding myself and crying,” Desiree said. “I hated it, I was in so much pain and it made me rethink prostitution.”
Staff reporter Barbara Grady said, “On certain streets of Oakland, young girls can be seen on any given night standing idly on corners or at bus stops, all dressed up. Sometimes they slip away into slowly passing cars. While it had long been known that teen prostitution occurs in Oakland, it had not been know, until we began digging and reporting on it, that such occurrences were growing into an epidemic, involving hundreds of young girls, some as young as 11 or 12.”
Staff writer Kamika Dunlap added: “Child prostitution has long been known to some as Oakland’s ‘dirty little secret.’ In April 2008, our series about child prostitution finally brought this shameful epidemic out of the closet.”
Columnist Tammerlin Drummond said this series “helped bring about state legislation that now requires law enforcement authorities to treat child prostitutes as the victims and direct them to services that can help them, rather than treating them like criminals and throwing them in jail.”
After a month of turning tricks on the “track” and on the Internet, Desiree asked her pimp to take her back home to her family.
He dropped her off in her East Oakland neighborhood with $40 in her hand. Desiree had become a less valuable commodity to her pimp because she was unable to serve tricks with her health conditions.
She said her pimp still owes her about $1,000, but she is not in contact with him anymore.
“I’m just going to forget about the money,” she said. “It’s bad money anyway.”
More online: http://tinyurl.com/ls5b3u