Four journalists took home the hardware
The Park Center for Independent Media awarded two journalists, Nick Turse and John Carlos Frey, with the 6th annual Izzy Awards for independent journalism on April 28, but this year there was a new addition to the award ceremony — an independent media hall of fame.
Members of the newly established I.F. Stone Hall of Fame are required to have previously won the Izzy Award and continue to create impactful journalism. The award will be given out occasionally to those deserving the honor for multiple years of creating outstanding independent media.
The first inductees of the I.F. Stone Hall of Fame are Glenn Greenwald, who helped expose the bulk collection of data by the National Security Agency (NSA) on Americans last June, and Jeremy Scahill, for his work examining the impact United States military drones have had on innocent civilians near the Middle East who were falsely accused of being terror suspects.
When the two Hall of Fame award winners were awarded their Izzy Awards they were recognized for journalistic work that is more than half a decade old.
Greenwald’s 2008 report on a false claim about 9/11 by then-U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey led to a retraction. Before this report, he had only practiced journalism for three years and the work that proceeded was as a lawyer fighting for constitutional rights.
Scahill won the Izzy Award in 2010 for his investigative journalism on the abuse of military contractors and how they are creating mercenary armies. The work Scahill did brought the issue attention to the biggest news television stations in the United States.
2014 Izzy Award Winners
Nick Turse and Carlos Frey
Jeff Cohen, director of the Park Center for Independent Media, said “The Izzy award is given annually for outstanding achievement in independent media.”
Turse made an impact by publishing articles exposing the civilian casualties from the U.S.’s war in Afghanistan all the way back to the Vietnam War. He exposed wrongdoing by reading through government archives, a practice that I.F. Stone was known for doing.
“As a national security reporter I am lucky that the Pentagon generates so much material,” Turse said. “I found over the years that if you have the time and the patience to dig, lead, or to pull various bits from this document or that document, you can paint a vivid picture of time.”
Before becoming an investigative journalist, Turse studied at Columbia University and earned a Ph.D. in sociomedical sciences. Turse said he stumbled into journalism.
“I was seduced into journalism when my first article ever written was purchased by the LA Times,” he said. “The ability to reach a large audience about an issue of current relevance gripped me and told me to be a writer and a journalist.”
In 2001, while researching the National Archives for medical history during Vietnam, he found documents exposing Vietnam war crimes and decided to create his dissertation on the topic.
“I think the role that journalists play in independent media is to amplify voices that you don’t normally hear and dig into stories that you do not normally see,” Turse said.
The internal documents he found, most never before seen, showed how official policies had resulted in large numbers of innocent civilians being killed and wounded in Vietnam.
This year, Turse narrated the story of an attack on 27 suspected Taliban terrorists and the injuring of a dozen more in Afghanistan, but there was one problem: The military officials held no evidence of the group being members of the Taliban.
The “Afghanistan Civilian Casualty Prevention Handbook” attempted to prevent more of these events in which non-suspect civilians are not profiled and lethal force is not taken, but the evidence compiled by the Nation and Turse against the American military forces shows that a lethal form of profiling has led to countless deaths over the course of the Afghanistan war.
From an Arizona town within miles of the United States-Mexico border, John Carlos Frey embedded himself into almost every relevant story on the border that uncovered wrongdoing. His piece “Shots Across The Border” told the heartbreaking story of a family on the Mexico side of the border celebrating a family member’s birthday party as their father was shot dead by a United States Border Patrol agent.
According to an official report, the agent “acted in response to people throwing rocks from the Mexican side of the border.” There are five other documents presented by Frey that uncover five other cases of Border Patrol agents shooting into the Mexico side of the border.
“John Carlos Frey’s reporting has led to congressional investigations, prosecutorial enquiries and a new process of training border guards,” Cohen said.
According to research by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the number of border crossings has decreased about 80 percent from high numbers from a decade ago — but Frey’s research found death rates have actually increased.
The death rate of Mexican migrants between 1999 to 2012 averaged about 162 deaths annually, but the number nearly tripled in 2012.
By crossing the border an estimated 100 times a year, Frey immersed himself into the culture of the border giving him a connection with the local civilians. Frey explained that he is never without a story.
In 2010, this connection gave Frey an opportunity to release footage recorded by a civilian’s cell-phone of a Mexican immigrant Anastasio Hernández-Rojas being brutally beaten to death by Border Patrol agents after attempting to enter the U.S. The agents said the reason they used lethal force was because Hernández-Rojas was resisting arrest, but the video revealed that to be false. Rojas fell out of consciousness and agents continued the beating.
By instilling himself into the lives of Mexican immigrants, Frey gave a voice to the voiceless, giving them power to obtain justice when members of their community are needlessly slaughtered or have their rights violated.
Turse is currently the managing editor for the blog Tom Dispatch, where he writes about national security. While Frey is currently a freelance writer, whose work has been featured with the LA Times, Salon and the Huffington Post. Both Turse and Frey are fellows of The Investigative Fund, a program created by the Nation Institute, that seeks to deliver funding to investigative reporters in financial need in order to deliver a story.
The I.F. Stone Hall of Fame
Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill
Isidor Feinstein Stone was an award-winning journalist known by most for his weekly newspaper, where he dug out information from old government archives.
“When the anti-communist witch hunt set in, he [I.F. Stone] couldn’t get employed in mainstream media, he started his own newsletter called I.F. Stone’s Weekly, it’s been voted by journalism scholars, professors, and journalists as one of the greatest achievements in 20th century American journalism,” Cohen said. “He showed if the mainstream media can’t contain your genius or your talents, create your own.”
In June 2013, Americans received information that a program of their government’s National Intelligence Agency had the ability to access millions of Americans data with just an e-mail address. Greenwald traveled to Hong Kong to meet with former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, to receive millions of confidential intelligence documents that showed the NSA invaded the lives of millions of Americans.
Greenwald, along with a very select amount of journalists and editors had access to these documents. Since the leak of the first documents in June, these files have been selectively released to the public in order to reduce harm to the individuals involved.
In Scahill’s book “Dirty Wars” and the article that preceded its release, the journalist found the U.S. government has programs in place that are killing civilians with drones before they are charged with a crime.
Among the civilians was Anwar al-Awlaki, a traveling preacher of the Islamic religion and also an American citizen, who was targeted and killed by a U.S. drone strike along with two members of his family, including his 16 year old son. Al-Awlaki gained a large following that stretched across the world and suddenly became a suspect of terrorist acts. Though never connected to any terrorist group or act, al-Awlaki was placed on an authorized “kill list” by President Barack Obama, according to Scahill’s book and article.
Greenwald and Scahill are founding editors of The Intercept, a publication created by First Look Media, that has a two-fold mission: one short term, and one long term. In the short term, the publication will deliver detailed reporting on the NSA and the documents received by Greenwald in Hong Kong. The long term mission is to produce adversarial journalism across a wide range of issues while remaining independent of advertising.
Brandon Adelbock is a junior journalism major who has an interest in American national security and likes singing songs on his guitar to his one true fan: his dog, Meg. Email him at badekbo1[at]ithaca.edu.