Polk Awards

MRE_150Long Island University (LIU) announced the winners of the 67th annual George Polk Awards in Journalism. Included were these journalists who covered the military and conflicts around the world.

Reporting for The New York Times, Nicholas Kulish, Christopher Drew, Mark Mazzetti, Matthew Rosenberg, Serge F. Kovaleski, (MRE member) Sean D. Naylor, and John Ismay will receive the Polk award for Military Reporting for an investigation showing that elite U.S. Navy SEAL teams took on far broader roles than ever publicly acknowledged and often operated with little accountability, even after verifiable accusations of battlefield abuses. Their first story detailed how the classified SEAL Team 6 has been transformed into a global man-hunting machine over more than a decade of shadow war. The second revealed that after four American soldiers reported that three SEAL team members joined in beating Afghan detainees so severely that one died, a SEAL captain dismissed charges against the men in a closed procedure typically reserved for minor infractions.

Andrew Quilty of Foreign Policy Magazine will receive the award for Photography for “The Man on the Operating Table,” the third and final part of a series documenting the devastating effect of an errant U.S. airstrike that destroyed the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan in October, killing 42 people. The first journalist to reach the scene, Quilty found bodies still in the rubble, as it had been too dangerous to remove them. He discovered one man laying on an operating table, who would later be identified as Baynazar Mohammad Nazar, a 42-year-old Afghan civilian who had been undergoing surgery when the airstrike hit the hospital. The magazine held off publishing Quilty’s arresting image to give him time to make the dangerous trip back to Kunduz to meet this man’s family. When asked if they thought the photograph of his corpse should be published, Baynazar’s wife and eldest son said yes—the world needed to see it.

Correspondent Jim Axelrod and producer Emily Rand of CBS News will be presented with the award for Television Reporting for “Compounding Pharmacy Fraud,” a series of reports that exposed a pattern of compounding pharmacies exploiting a largely unregulated sector of the American healthcare system. The investigation uncovered pharmacies peddling unproven pain creams and supplements, which they billed to Medicare, Tricare and private insurance for thousands of dollars. In one case, a pharmacy billed insurance$44,000 for a prescription vitamin supplement available over-the-counter for less than $200. Emanating from an initial check on the status of compounding pharmacies in the aftermath of a 2013 scandal that led to the deaths of 64 people from tainted steroid injections, their stories sparked a Congressional investigation and federal and state criminal and civil investigations.

Cartel Land is being presented with the award for Documentary Film. The Oscar-nominated documentary, directed and filmed by Matthew Heineman and produced by Heineman and Tom Yellin, sheds light on the Mexican drug war, specifically two vigilante groups, one on either side of the border, that take on the Mexican drug cartels. The film focuses on Tim “Nailer” Foley, the leader of Arizona Border Recon, which claims to patrol the border to capture cartel “spotters,” and Dr. Jose Mireles, a Michoacán-based physician who leads the Autodefensas. “Cartel Land seeks to give voice to the people of Mexico who suffer grievous harm from cartel violence and government corruption,” Heineman stated. “This tremendous honor is for them, as well as over 90 journalists who have been killed since 2000 covering this conflict.” A special screening of the film will take place on Wednesday, April 6, at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).

Now in its 67th year, LIU established the Polk Awards in 1949 to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war.