Better Newspaper Contest

2013 Award Winners

Hoosier State Press Association - The Indiana Publisher - Better Newspaper Contest

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Page 10 of 67

Ray Moscowitz Award L Alex Campbell & John Russell The Indianapolis Star ike a lot of stories involving secretive government agencies, this one started with a tip and grew into an ambitious effort of reporting, filing numerous open-records requests, sifting through thousands of pages of documents and conducting interviews at all hours of the day and night. A phone caller told us that a contractor for the Indiana Economic Development Corp., one of the most secretive agencies in the state, had been accused by Chinese officials with bribing and extorting wealthy business owners in China. The caller said Indiana officials had not investigated the allegations sufficiently. To add to the mystery, the suspect – a Chinese-American woman named Monica Liang – had been quietly fired. A few months later, she died at the age of 41. Reporters Alex Campbell and John Russell sensed a big, important story and got to work. At stake was Indiana's reputation in attracting foreign businesses in an increasingly competitive world. Just as important to this investigation was shining a light on the growing secrecy in Indiana government. The IEDC operates unlike any other state agency or department. Many of its records are not available for public inspection. The organization is largely exempt from controls and oversight. In this case, the state confirmed that it had received the complaint from the Chinese government and conducted an in-house review. But it declined to release the findings. In an effort to shine a light on the secretive agency, Campbell and Russell filed nearly a dozen open-records requests at the IEDC and other government agencies. They examined thousands of pages of documents, including state contracts, expense accounts, divorce records and estate records. They interviewed scores of people. They came into the office at 3 a.m. to call people in China. The newspaper hired a translator to review documents and help with phone calls. As a result of the reporting, The Star found new evidence and revealed deficiencies in the IEDC's diligence, oversight and accountability: • We tracked down one of the signers of the complaint in China, who confirmed that Liang had solicited a bribe. • We obtained a Bank of Bank document showing that Liang had received $50,000 into her personal account. • We found a lawyer in China who confirmed that one of his clients sent the money to Liang, in exchange for a promise that the money would be used to start a business that included high-level Indiana politicians as shareholders. • We found that Liang had almost no economic development experience, raising questions about why the state gave her a $100,000 contract. • We found that Liang had apparently dangled the promise of green cards to wealthy foreign investors through a Moscowitz winners controversial program known as EB-S. • We found that the Indiana Secretary of Commerce had given Liang the unique title of "special assistant to the secretary of commerce," with no written descrip tions of how she could use that title. • We found that state believed it had no obligation to help the Chinese investor recover his $50,000. Gradually, Campbell and Russell traced the strange rise and fall of Liang, who worked for the city of Marion before she was hired away by the Indiana Economic Development Corp., and how she tried to build her own real-estate development business on the side. The Star published a two-day report, outlining its findings. It also put together a multimedia package online, with video, graphics and five chapters of story-telling. The online package has garnered more than 200,000 page views. In response, several state lawmakers introduced legislation requiring the IEDC to be more forthcoming with its information. A month after the story ran, the new governor of Indiana, Mike Pence unveiled a new "transparency portal" at the IEDC and other state agencies. The Indianapolis Star is proud of its efforts to shine light on this secretive agency, expose critical issues and contribute to a discussion about openness in government. In that spirit, we present this package of reporting for your consideration for the Ray Moscowitz Award. Staff of The Indianapolis Star 1998 State of Secrecy series, Evansville Courier & Press, The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne), The Indianapolis Star, The Star Press (Muncie), The Times (Munster), South Bend Tribune and the Tribune-Star (Terre Haute) 2004 Coverage of Johnson Memorial Hospital and Franklin school district closed-door meetings, Daily Journal (Franklin) 2005 Coverage of the actions of community government, The Banner (Knightstown) 2008 Jackson County Sheriff's Department transparency, Dan Davis, The Tribune (Seymour) 2009 Failing Kalab, Libby Keeling & Kate Braser, Evansville Courier & Press 2011 Duke Energy & Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission misdeeds, John Russell, The Indianapolis Star Greenfield-Central High School graduation rate inflation, Kristy Deer, Daily Reporter (Greenfield) 2012 For the Love of Children, Virginia Black & Mary Kate Malone, South Bend Tribune The Ray Moscowitz Award honors those who foster the advancement of the First Amend ment. It recognizes journalistic achievement by a newspaper or news aper professional who p succ eded in opening records or meetings or e otherwise lifting a veil of secrecy. Member newspapers may make nominations for this award given occasionally as endeavors merit it. Charlie Biggs Commitment to Community Award W Dick and Carolyn Konstanzer News-Examiner (Connersville) e are nominating Dick and Carolyn Konstanzer for the Charlie Biggs Commitment to Community Award. They have been active in Conners ville and the Fayette County com unity, mostly through the Newsm Examiner. Between them, they have served the News-Examiner for about 130 years. I knew Charlie Biggs. He recruited me to the HSPA board of directors in about 1988, and I grew to know his commitment to his community, Hope, Ind., which, among other things, had resulted in him buying that community's weekly newspaper and publishing it for many years, even in declining health, until his death. The Konstanzers' service to the community has mostly been in working long, hard hours at the newspaper. As a visitor to Connersville in the late 1980s – 25 years before I came to work here – I learned from people in the community that you had to read the News-Examiner to know what was going on in town, and that if you did read it in the News-Examiner, it would be not only correct, but fairly and accurately reported. Our news organizations should all be so fortunate to have that reputation in our own communities. Both Carolyn and Dick grew up in Connersville. Carolyn Konstanzer began working at the News-Examiner in the late 1940s, a few years before Dick. After his post-World War II military service (as a military journalist in Europe) he returned to Connersville and came to work at the News-Examiner. They eventually married and continued working side by side in the newsroom until 1992, when they retired. At the time, each had worked at the paper more than 40 years; Carolyn having become the society editor and Dick having been the sports editor before becoming editor in chief. They still talk of late nights spent putting sports results in the newspaper: going to a game of Hoosier Hysteria, then coming back to the newspaper office where she answered the phone calls for results from coaches and compiled stats, he writing the game stories, the briefs and finishing whatever else needed to be done for the next day's paper. Carolyn concerned herself in the daytime with getting everything right for the people who wanted to see their engagements, weddings, anniversaries, club news, college graduations, church events and much more in the paper. Dick led the newspaper's coverage of two state basketball championships and of the great community expansion made possible by the city's heavy involvement in automotive manufacturing and other industries. Their life pretty much revolved around the newspaper; trying to make it live up to its nameplate slogan: "A good NEWSpaper in a good community." Dick has written several continuing columns, first as a sports reporter and then sports editor. As editor, he wrote two special columns. One that is well remembered was a daily column of colorful this and that from the Fayette County Free Fair (where nearly everyone in the county spent a week in early August) and the other was, and is, a column of news items that Dick picked up from other newspapers (he reads about 20 of them), weather, his musings and humor. Dick still writes that twice-weekly column, called Evening Chat, and it is one of the most read articles in the paper. The couple get some of the column's material by eating lunch nearly every day at the counter of a local downtown diner frequented by the mayor and other notables, some of whom come there to speak with the Konstanzers in hopes of seeing something they have said in his column. Carolyn still helps him, coming into the newspaper office each day to collect a stack of out-of-town newspapers for him to read, along with any stories or blurbs that Dick might want for his articles and then copyreading each four-page column after he types it at home on his manual typewriter. They both have been heavily involved in the Fayette County Free Fair, which honored them in 2012 by planting a tree on the fairgrounds. Carolyn served as secretary to the Fair Board for many years, and they both still work tirelessly to promote it. They quietly serve in other capacities in the city, with Carolyn being active in a community sorority that, among other projects, provides an annual reception for graduates of the local GED program. For their many years of tireless work for the community through this newspaper, I strongly recommend Dick and Carolyn Konstanzer to the HSPA Foundation for the Charlie Biggs Commitment to Community Award. Robert Hansen, former editor News-Examiner (Connersville) Biggs winners 2004 – Jim Barbieri, Bluffton News-Banner (first winner) 2005 – Bob Dickson, The Alexandria Times-Tribune 2006 – Randy West, The Corydon Democrat 2007 – George O. Witwer, KPC Media Group: The News-Sun (Kendallville); The Evening Star (Auburn); The Herald Republican (Angola) 2008 – Lilian Carmer, North Vernon Plain Dealer 2009 – Harry McCawley, The Republic (Columbus) 2010 – No award given. 2011 – Bob Kriebel, Journal & Courier (Lafayette) 2012 – Patrick Lanman, Vevay Newspapers Inc. When Charlie Biggs, former publisher of The Hope Star-Journal, a past president of the HSPA Board of Directors, and longtime committee member and past chairman of the Newsroom Seminar Committee, died a few days before the 2003 Newsroom Seminar, the committee decided a permanent award should be named after him. Charlie lived his community. Few citizens, let alone newspaper professionals, get as deeply involved in the place they call home and make such a positive difference. Charlie loved his hometown, wrote about it, talked about it and took part in its life. He cared. To honor Charlie and his commitment to community, the Newsroom Seminar Committee created this award to recognize others who serve as he did. The award recognizes Indiana newspaper personnel who: • Write or publish stories about the communities they serve, • Are involved in the life of the community; and/or • Demonstrate they make a difference in the community through journalistic efforts. Page 11

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