Amid all of the hullabaloo over Pulitzer prizes this week, one award stood out not only for the achievement, but for the rancor it caused.
Reporter Chris Hamby was nominated for and won a Pulitzer Prize for his series at the Center for Public Integrity on how benefits have been denied for black lung sufferers.
Hamby reviewed thousands of pages of previously hidden legal filings and created original databases. His reporting revealed that industry-hired lawyers withheld key evidence in miners’ cases, and doctors at the John Hopkins Medical Institutions consistently denied the existence of advanced black lung on X-rays – even when other experts saw evidence of the disease. Hamby traveled to Appalachian coal country, interviewing miners sick from black lung, and survivors of those killed by the lung disease.
“This was more than just a project to me," Hamby said. "I spent a lot of time in West Virginia with people who were slowly suffocating to death and they had been essentially screwed by a system that was completely stacked against them and they had no recourse. These are some of the most voiceless people in the country."
The Center for Public Integrity acknowledges their partnership with ABC News:
One part of the three-part, 25,000-word series was produced in partnership with the ABC News Investigative Unit, whose work included an in-depth Nightline segment. The series won in the category of Investigative Reporting.
ABC News is unhappy about CPI's "failure" to include their reporters in the Pulitzer submission, leaving them high and dry in the Pulitzer category. But as CPI director Bill Buzenberg told Talking Points Memo, ABC reporters relied on Hamby's reporting.
"The Center is prepared to show in great detail how little ABC’s Brian Ross and Matt Mosk understood about even the most fundamental concepts and key facts and how they repeatedly turned to Chris to advise them or, in some instances, to do their work for them," he wrote in the letter.
Shorter Buzenberg: Stand down, ABC, or I will expose how lazy your reporters are.
"Emails and drafts leading up to the airdate of ABC’s 'Nightline' segment show that ABC depended to a remarkable degree on Chris’ access to sources, documents and data and his expertise on complex issue," he wrote. "All of which repeatedly saved ABC from making embarrassing factual errors in broadcast segments and online stories."
This happens a lot. Too much. Just yesterday it happened on Fox News when Gretchen Carlson relied completely on an erroneous Townhall.com article without any editorial fact-checking or review. Or on the other side of things, all too often the rewards go to the corporate media for work done by grassroots and nonprofit investigators, while denying credit to those who did the work.
Warm congratulations to Chris Hamby and the Center for Public Integrity for a job well done. As for ABC News, quit being a bully and get your news operation together.