Salon, Center for Public Integrity Lead Winners of 2019 Military Reporters & Editors Awards

WASHINGTON –The Military Reporters & Editors association, the preeminent organization for U.S. media professionals specializing in national security, announced the winners of its competition for defense journalism produced in 2018.

The winners of this year’s competition, which was judged by faculty at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, will be formally recognized at MRE’s annual conference scheduled for Oct. 25 at the Navy League of the United States headquarters in Arlington, Va.

–The Galloway Award, named for UPI combat correspondent and McClatchy Newspapers columnist Joe Galloway, honors the best-in-show work. This year’s winner is Carmen Gentile for reporting in
Gentile’s account of being shot in the face by a rocket-propelled grenade “is both straight-forward and harrowing,” the judges said. Embedded with U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan in 2010, Gentile related the action and his feelings in unflinching detail and helped explain his decision to return to reporting.

–The Crawley Award, which recognizes first-rate print journalism, honors the late Jim Crawley, an MRE founder who reported for the San Diego Union-Tribune and Media General News Service. This year’s winners are Patrick Malone and R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity.
“These reporters provided an investigative piece that displayed how determined reporting can overcome missing information and how the government may promote its safety record in handling of stocks of nuclear weapons grade plutonium but fail to alert the public to a missing disk of military plutonium that was stolen from the back of a van in a hotel parking lot in San Antonio,” the judges said. ”This painstaking reporting brought attention to the issue of military handling and record keeping of such material and showed how persistence is what makes investigative reporting essential to covering the military.”

–Print Domestic, Large Market — Martha Mendoza and Garance Burke, The Associated Press.
These two reporters’ disclosure that the Trump administration was discharging migrant recruits and reservists based on information from immigration lawyers caused the government to temporarily halt the discharges. Then Mendoza and Burke learned there were sealed government spreadsheets that contained far greater detail about the discharges and most importantly would reveal the total number of recruits affected. Eventually getting a judge to unseal the record, they broke the news that more than 500 immigrant recruits had been discharged through July 2018, many for questionable reasons.

–Print Domestic, Small Market — Ed Offley, Spring 2018 issue of “MHQ — The Quarterly Journal of Military History.”
Offley found two eyewitnesses to confirm key moments at the Navy’s Atlantic Submarine Force communications watch center in the immediate hours after the nuclear attack submarine USS Scorpion exploded and sank in the eastern Atlantic on May 22, 1968. These accounts confirm information previously revealed by Offley – that Navy officials knew in real time that the Scorpion had been attacked and sunk by a Soviet submarine, but hid the truth from the public, the rest of the Navy and the families of the 99 crewmen who died.

–Print Overseas, Large Market — Sophia Jones, The Fuller Project in partnership with The New York Times Magazine.
In 2017, Jones began investigating the complicated U.S. role in recruiting and training Afghan women in the armed forces. The U.S.-led NATO efforts were criticized for putting the women at more risk without proper protections put in place.
“Jones embedded with NATO troops and spent time in Afghan police stations, on air force bases and in the homes of enlisted Afghan women to detail the security forces’ efforts to include women, and why efforts have failed to some extent,” the judges said. “The story criticized the Afghan Ministry of Interior for not having sexual harassment policies; for recruiting women to special operations without a plan to protect, promote and train them; and for the lack of awareness and reporting on sexual assault and rape.”
Since publishing the story, the U.S. announced it was temporarily halting recruitment of women.

–Print Overseas, Small Market — Tara Copp and reporting staff of Military Times.
The Military Times’ “Aviation in Crisis” series provided an unprecedented look at the scope of aviation crashes, mishaps and fatalities around the world. Based on dozens of Freedom of Information requests and extensive data analysis, Copp and her colleagues documented at least 133 fatalities and a 40 percent rise in mishaps during a five-year span. Their work also included a first-of-its-kind public database of more than 7,500 mishap records that is searchable by service, military base or aircraft type.
“The series offered in-depth reporting about the underlying causes and complex dynamics that led to the problems in military aviation,” the judges said. “The project showed how decisions made by leaders at the highest levels in Washington directly impacted the service members on the flight line.”

–Radio — David McKinney and Tony Arnold, WBEZ in Chicago.
These reporters’ investigation into the mishandling of recurring Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks tied to14 deaths at a state-run veterans’ home in Illinois “provided an in-depth look at the intersection between military reporting on the VA and how the U.S .is handling the increasing numbers of senior citizens. The whole story has an almost unbelievable set of twists and turns; the reporting is diligent and shines a light on abuses,” the judges said. As a result, Illinois law was changed and a criminal investigation was launched.

–Television, Small Market — Marie Waxel, KSLA-TV in Shreveport, La.
Waxel’s “KSLA Salutes” series provided “a compelling look at how members of the military and veterans support the community,” the judges said.

–Online — Jennifer Strong, The Wall Street Journal/
“Strong brings remarkable insight to her reporting podcasts,” the judges said. “She expertly blends sound and dialogue to create a narrative with complex images, whether discussing a cyberattack on a suburban water plant, a battlefield simulation or the consequences of artificial intelligence.”

–Commentary — Andrew Clevenger, CQRollCall.
Clevenger has “an exceptional ability to clear the underbrush away from Pentagon policy and congressional politics,” the judges said. “His commentary in the ‘Common Defense’ column for CQ RollCall brings insight into the budget battles and complex relationships that create or stymie America’s progress in military arenas. His clear writing and authoritative voice give readers the ability to analyze the issues in Washington’s negotiations.”

MRE’s mission is to foster networking among media professionals on the national security beat, to advocate for their rights and to educate them and the public about the U.S. military.