ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity appear to have reached an accommodation over that heavily awarded black-lung disease investigation. ABC News President James Goldston this morning sent out an email announcing that Brian Ross, Matthew Mosk, Rhonda Schwartz and the ABC News Investigative team had been honored with the Newspaper Guild’s prestigious Heywood Broun Award — which, ABC News noted, marked the first time a TV network ever had received the award, founded in the 40’s. The award to ABC News was given for its groundbreaking investigation on black lung disease which, Goldston wrote, was conducted “along with their reporting partners at the Center for Public Integrity.”
Throw your mind back to April, when ABC News also felt it had become the first TV news division to win a Pulitzer Prize, for this same investigation of doctors and lawyers squashing benefits claims of miners dying of black lung at the behest of the coal industry. Back then, however, CPI claimed ABC News did not deserve to share the Pulitzer because it only parachuted in periodically on the lengthy investigation, produced “sporadic” reports for television — not print — and repeatedly had to be saved from making embarrassing factual errors on its broadcast segments about the investigation. ABC, in turn, claimed CPI threw its staffers under the bus to soak up all the Pulitzer glory.
The Newspaper Guild said its award for Breathless And Burdened: Dying From Black Lung Disease, Buried By Law And Medicine, is shared by journalists from the CPI and ABC News. In its announcement the guild said CPI reporter Chris Hamby spent a year intensely researching the black lung series, “which was amplified by ABC News reports from journalists Brian Ross and Matthew Mosk,” crediting the ABC spotlight with leading Johns Hopkins to “rapidly suspend its compromised black lung program and spurred members of Congress to propose stronger legislative remedies.”
The Newspaper Guild is not the only organization to have jointly awarded CPI and ABC News for the report. Before the Pulitzer kerfuffle, the two organizations had appeared the happy couple when they received other awards for the investigation, including one from the Society of Professional Journalists. The estrangement may have started because TV news orgs aren’t eligible for the Pulitzer Prize, which honors newspaper and digital reporting. Naturally, in its submission to the Pulitzer committee, CPI had sent off the 2,500-word piece that had been written by Hamby and played up CPI’s role in the overall project. CPI characterized ABC News’ participation as one of stepping in months into CPI’s reporting, and also credited ABC with helping the investigative work reach a much wider audience.
In its announcement of the Newspaper Guild award win, CPI said Hamby, now with BuzzFeed, “was the reporter on the project, which was edited by former CPI staffer Ronnie Greene and Jim Morris, the Center’s managing editor for environment and labor” and that “CPI staffer Chris Zubak-Skees produced the data-driven, interactive graphics.”
Here’s Goldston’s version:
It is a proud day here at ABC News. Brian Ross, Matthew Mosk, Rhonda Schwartz and the ABC News investigative team, along with their reporting partners at the Center for Public Integrity have been awarded the prestigious Heywood Broun Award, given by the Newspaper Guild, for an investigation, Breathless and Burdened, on black lung disease.
This is the first time a television network has received this top honor in the award’s history, which dates back to 1941. Past winners of the Heywood Broun include Woodward and Bernstein for their 1972 reports on the Watergate scandal for the Washington Post, and Bartlett and Steele for their legendary series on the lost American Dream for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The guild judges say give this award for a ‘true commitment to championing the underdog against the powerful, the uncaring and the corrupt.’ It is certainly true of this report.
The ABC News/CPI year-long joint investigation examined how doctors and lawyers, working at the behest of the coal industry, helped defeat benefit claims of coal miners who were sick and dying of black lung disease. The team explored thousands of previously classified legal filings and went undercover with miners to see first-hand how doctors hired by coal companies conducted their exams.
Within 48 hours of the teams’ reports, Johns Hopkins suspended its black lung program, effectively shutting down the questionable denial process. U.S. senators began crafting reform legislation using the series of reports as a guide and Congressmen began calling for a federal investigation.
Breathless and Burdened: Dying from black lung, buried by law and medicine
Brian Ross Investigates with the Center for Public Integrity
Chief Investigative Correspondent
Reporter, Center for Public Integrity
Chief Investigative Producer