The Harvard Kennedy School hosted a virtual panel featuring the six finalists of the 2023 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting Wednesday afternoon.
The talk, moderated by Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy director Nancy R. Gibbs, highlighted the work of Goldsmith finalists Mike Balsamo of the Associated Press, Miranda Green for her piece with Floodlight News and NPR, Barbara Laker of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mica Rosenberg of Reuters, Brian M. Rosenthal of the New York Times, and Anna Wolfe of Mississippi Today.
All six finalists were awarded $10,000 in recognition of their investigative journalism regarding public policy through promoting accountability and transparency in government and business institutions.
During the event, Gibbs introduced Balsamo, who was named a finalist for his team’s work in uncovering a chain of corruption and sexual abuse in the Bureau of Prisons.
“Prisoners were sent to solitary confinement for reporting abuse, and the officials in charge of preventing or investigating that sexual misconduct like the warden were themselves accused of abusing inmates or neglecting their concerns,” Balsamo said.
As a result of the investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice now “requires federal prosecutors to prioritize allegations that are made by specifically female inmates,” according to Balsamo.
The panel also highlighted the work of Rosenberg and her co-reporters, who investigated minors crossing the southern border of the U.S. into rural Alabama and discovered extensive abuse of migrant child labor in industries ranging from poultry to car manufacturing.
“In the whole car parts supply chain that supplied to the main Hyundai manufacturer in Montgomery, we found at least 10 of these plants were using underaged laborers,” Rosenberg said.
“They ultimately decided that they were going to divest their interest in the original company that we wrote about and they have also taken series of actions to try and increase oversight at all of their suppliers and to ensure that children are not hired in the future,” Rosenberg added.
Through document leaks, Green discovered that power companies were bribing media outlets including ABC News to generate a positive public outlook.
“Power & Light was using front groups — dark money groups — to funnel money to pay at least six different publications across Florida and Alabama,” Green said. “And what those publications were doing, to a varying extent, were essentially working as an echo chamber to attack people that were questioning what was happening at the two utilities.”
After Rosenthal and his colleague Eliza Shapiro heard of “low test scores” at Hasidic Jewish schools in New York City, they uncovered the standards of education and corporal punishment faced by students at these schools.
“We had heard about schools that have struggled, and schools that have low test scores. But what was really different about these schools is that they were in many ways intentionally failing,” Rosenthal said. “In many cases, they did not want to provide secular education. They thought that it was a threat to their way of life.”
“Thankfully, there’s been a good amount of impact since the story came out. You mentioned the legislation on corporal punishment that has been introduced, which has been really picking up steam in the legislature,” he added. “The State Education Commission also passed new rules for private schools and academic standards.”
During the event, Laker also discussed her experience reporting on the Philadelphia police force’s abuse of disability benefits, and Wolfe recounted her coverage of a scandal involving former Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s alleged embezzlement of welfare funds.
The winner of the Goldsmith Prize will be announced on March 15 at a ceremony hosted by the Kennedy School.