AP, Las Vegas Review-Journal reporters win ethics award
A group of Associated Press reporters who uncovered slaves used to catch fish sold at large retailers and restaurants and Las Vegas Review-Journal reporters who disclosed the newspaper’s new owner were named winners of the 16th annual Ancil Payne Awards for Ethics in Journalism on Tuesday.
The awards are administered by the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Winners of the Payne Award receive a $5,000 prize.
To publish the Seafood from Slaves series, AP reporters Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan led a yearlong investigation into alleged human trafficking in Thailand’s $7 billion seafood industry.
Their extensive efforts — from tracking ships and staking out factories to risking their lives to document the stories of captive fishermen — accomplished what labor activists and governments could not. Their series led to the release of more than 2,000 slaves and forced both the Thai government and the American retailers selling their catch to take action.
While covering the story, the AP reporters and editors took extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of the eight men they had quoted or interviewed on camera, refused to publish images that may exploit the children working in the fish processing factories, went to great lengths to confirm the accuracy of their report and gave the U.S. companies named in the story a chance to respond to allegations before publishing.
The journalists of the Las Vegas Review-Journal fought for transparency by reporting the secret sale of the newspaper despite management’s warnings to stay away from the story. When the newsroom’s reporting turned up a trail of egregious business and ethics violations tied to Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson, the journalists focused on their professional obligation to readers and published the story. As a result, the Nevada Gaming Control Board is now monitoring Adelson’s use of the newspaper.
Reporters at the Review-Journal who were named in the Payne Award entry included James G. Wright, James DeHaven, Howard Stutz, Jennifer Robison, Eric Hartley, John L. Smith and Glenn Cook.