Legion Announces 2014 Recipients of Top Journalism Award

INDIANAPOLIS--()--Two national news outlets and “America’s newspaper” will receive prestigious journalism awards from The American Legion during the organization’s 97th National Convention in Baltimore on September 3.

The Fourth Estate Award has been presented annually by The American Legion since 1958 for outstanding achievement in the field of journalism. Nominations were considered in three categories: print, broadcast, and web-based or online.

Taking top honor in the online category was CBSNews.com. Ben Eisler, Mark Strassmann, Len Tepper, Eric Bloom, Ryan Kadro, and Chris Licht contributed to the series “Tapping into Controversial Back Surgeries.” The report, which was also broadcast on CBS This Morning, included data that showed the number of spinal fusions performed per doctor nationwide. The information was used to identify and investigate outliers, and found that some had been banned or suspended from hospitals or had settled lawsuits alleging unnecessary surgeries. A broad analysis also indicated that a small group of doctors were responsible for a disproportionate number of these procedures. Shortly after the story aired, the FBI, Department of Justice and HHS Inspector General began using the data as a starting point and aid for their own investigations.

USA Today took the top honor among newspapers. In his three-part series “Fugitives Next Door: Crossing State Lines to Freedom,” senior investigative reporter Brad Heath found significant flaws within the police and prosecutors offices in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia and other states. The investigation prompted police and prosecutors to reconsider or reverse decisions to let thousands of fugitives avoid arrest by crossing state lines. His report found that almost 200,000 fugitives – including more than 3,300 people accused of sexual assaults, robberies and homicides – escaped justice merely by crossing a state border. Heath gathered data for every community in the United States, enabling readers to type in a county name to check just how often their police won’t pursue fugitives across state lines.

CNN was recognized by The American Legion as the best among the broadcast nominees. During its year-long investigation into delays in care at Veterans Affairs hospitals, senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin exposed a widespread national crisis within the United States Veterans Affairs healthcare system: eventually leading to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, the passage of federal legislation, and a fundamental change in how veterans’ medical appointments are made, recorded, and reported. The series “Crisis at the VA” has led to wide sweeping changes within the agency that are still being felt across the country.

“These outstanding journalists have gone above and beyond the works of their peers; Each of them has exhibited the highest commitment to excellence in the research, writing and production of masterful reports that have truly made a difference for the better in our world,” said Michael Helm, national commander of the 2.3 million member American Legion.

“These journalists are among the best of the best,” he said. “I will be honored to present each of them with our highest recognition of journalistic accomplishment, The American Legion Fourth Estate Award.”

Previous winners of the award include Dateline NBC, C-SPAN, United Press International, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Indianapolis Star, the Detroit News, Fortune Magazine, ABC News, and Life Magazine.

The nation’s largest wartime veterans organization, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and patriotic youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through nearly 13,000 posts across the nation.

Contacts

The American Legion
Media contact: John Raughter, 317-630-1253

Contacts

The American Legion
Media contact: John Raughter, 317-630-1253