USC has awarded a New York Daily News team the 2002 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting.
New York Daily News reporters Heidi Evans and David Saltonstall were recognized for their exposé of possible financial misconduct and other illegal activities at Hale House, the renowned Harlem shelter serving women and children.
The $35,000 annual prize – administered by the USC Annenberg School for Communication – recognizes the year’s outstanding work in investigative journalism. Established in 1989 by the late Southern California business leader, Selden Ring, the prize is the largest in American journalism.
Through a series of reports beginning in April 2001, Evans and Saltonstall exposed misconduct by Lorraine Hale, the powerful president and co-founder of the politically connected and highly regarded private charity. Five weeks after the first story, New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer ousted Hale and her husband, Jesse DeVore, the charity’s high-paid publicity director.
On Feb. 5, 2002, Hale and DeVore were indicted in Manhattan Supreme Court on 72 counts of criminal activity.
“The Daily News effort stands out for nimbly and carefully pursuing a tip and then building stories brick by brick until its target came tumbling down barely a month after the first story appeared,” Selden Ring Award judges wrote in their statement.
“The speed of work was impressive, the writing was vivid, the breaking news aspect was distinctive and the results clear. The Hale House investigation is in the best tradition of the Selden Ring Award.”
In their stories, Evans and Saltonstall detailed a variety of activities by Hale, whose organization in the last eight years raised $44 million from donors around the country.
Among the activities reported:
• Hale was given two city apartment buildings and $6 million in rehab grants to shelter homeless mothers and children. Instead, she rented the units to middle-class professionals at market rates.
• Hale House touted social programs that did not exist.
• Hale and DeVore funneled more than $500,000 in donor funds to finance a failed Off-Broadway show produced by DeVore.
• Hale House violated laws and regulations covering legal adoptions and protection of the children in their care.
Thanks to the series, a new management team has been installed at Hale House, and the children are getting quality care and access to education, according to follow-up reporting by the Daily News.
Eighty-seven entries were submitted in this year’s competition. They were judged by a distinguished panel of print journalists: Dean Baquet, managing editor, Los Angeles Times; Amanda Bennet, editor, Lexington Herald-Leader; William Gaines, journalism professor, University of Illinois; Jeff Leen, assistant managing editor, Washington Post; Pamela Maples, project editor, Dallas Morning News; and Gregory Moore, managing editor, Boston Globe.
“The competition was very strong,” said Michael Parks, interim director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, a unit of the Annenberg School for Communication. “One of the goals of the Selden Ring Award is to foster good investigative reporting as one of the bulwarks that keeps our society democratic and honest.”.