By Kylie Roman
Two New York Times reporters have earned the 2007 Ursula and Gilbert Farfel Prize for Excellence in Investigative Reporting for a series that exposed China's use of a deadly toxin that found its way around the world.
Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis presented the $25,000 prize -- recognizing the finest investigative reporting by print journalists in the United States -- during the Scripps Howard Foundation's National Journalism Awards Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. One of the nation's largest prizes for investigative coverage, it recognizes substantive reporting that covers stories intelligently and completely.
Times reporters Walt Bogdanich and Jake Hooker will share the cash prize for their series "A Toxic Pipeline." Their yearlong investigation across four continents traced the mystery of 100 deaths in Panama to a deadly toxin in medicine and toothpaste. The reporters searched public and private records and interviewed people in 12 countries to expose China's lethal export: diethylene glycol.
"It was just a tragedy, and no one was being held accountable," Bogdanich said. "I knew it was a huge story, and I figured if it was happening in Panama, it was happening in other places."
Their reporting prompted regulatory responses, forcing the Chinese government to close one production plant, register some companies selling pharmaceutical ingredients and ban the toxin in toothpaste it exports.
"This is a model for the kind of investigative reporting that a global economy and public safety require," a judge for the National Journalism Awards said.
Bogdanich and Hooker received an overwhelming response from the multitude of people who read the initial article.
"People care about matters that don't necessarily happen in their backyard," Bogdanich said. "It was a story that struck a chord with everybody."
In addition to receiving the cash award, Bogdanich and Hooker are invited to serve as visiting professionals in the Scripps College of Communication and to hold a public lecture about the prize-winning project.
Ursula Farfel, a 1956 graduate of Ohio University, and Dr. Gilbert Farfel funded the prize in 2003 with a $500,000 gift to Ohio University. The Scripps College of Communication, the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and the Scripps Howard Foundation administer the prize, the first of which was awarded in 2004.
"We wanted our gift to go to something that would make a difference," Gilbert Farfel said. "The press is one of the great freedoms in America. In my travels around the world, I've seen how important it is as a means of communication with citizens."
If you wish to speak with a media representative regarding this award, contact Scripps College of Communication External Relations Coordinator Erin Roberts at 740-593-0030 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Director of Development Communication Jennifer Bowie at 740-597-2987 or email@example.com.