Society Honors Best Financial Reporting of 2017 at EFJ Awards

By:
Ruth Singleton
Published Date:
Jun 12, 2018
Jesse Eisinger, 2018 EFJ AwardsAuthor and journalist Jesse Eisinger presents the keynote address at the Excellence in Financial Journalism Awards.



At the NYSSCPA’s Excellence in Financial Journalism Awards luncheon on June 8, the Society honored some of 2017’s best financial journalism and the reporters and other professionals who produced it.

Jesse Eisinger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning senior reporter at ProPublica and the author of The Chickenshit Club, which won the Excellence in Financial Journalism Book Award, served as the luncheon’s keynote speaker. He spoke before an audience of approximately 35 journalists, editors and awards judges at the Tribeca Grill in New York City.

Eisinger’s topic was the media’s place in the world today. He began by saying, “People should think about the media as undergoing two parallel crises. One is the business crisis. The business model has completely collapsed.” The second crisis, he said, has been going on for at least two decades: "The very notion of objective journalism is under assault, particularly from the right. There has been an effort to undermine the idea that there can be a mainstream press that has an obligation, a professional ethos, to be fair, to be objective, to report seriously and accurately about the news.”

President Trump, he said, has made matters even worse: “President Trump has campaigned against the media, and of course, everyone in the room is familiar with the epithet 'fake news,' which really means news [Trump doesn’t] like, news that makes [him] look bad, and news that [he] would prefer [his] base didn’t believe.”

Eisinger said that the profession initially did not respond well to such attacks, but he observed that the press has recently regained its resolve: “I think that the press has realized that we need to be adversarial in a classic sense—that we’re not people’s friends; we don’t take sides; we have an obligation for fairness and accuracy. But we do not have a perverse obligation to be obsessively balanced.”

Eisinger then spoke briefly about his award-winning book: “Now, my book is about the collapse of an institution, the Department of Justice, and a collapse in our ability to hold the wealthy and powerful accountable. ... I was trying to write about how we have a class of wrongdoers in our society who have impunity to commit crimes: top corporate executives. ... It was building before the financial crisis, and it persists to today.”

Thomas Lee, who won the opinion award, also spoke about the importance of the press when he accepted his award. “It’s a tough time for journalists these days,” he said. “To get an award from the Society, a group of CPAs and accountants, and to have this organization give out these awards for three decades, means a lot. It would be great to see more organizations step up, and … it would be great to see more great journalism.”

Excellence in Financial Journalism Award Winners

After Eisinger’s remarks, the luncheon proceeded to the awards ceremony, recognizing journalists whose work was published, posted or broadcast in 2017 and contributed to a better and balanced understanding of business or financial topics. Judges included NYSSCPA members and journalists; they selected the winners, ranking their submissions based on accuracy, quality and thoroughness of research. NYSSCPA Immediate Past President Harold L. Deiters III announced the award winners:

Audio (Small Media): Jack Sweeney, host and creator of “The CFO Thought Leader,” for two episodes from “The CFO Thought Leader” podcast featuring Hubspot CFO John Kinzer and a panel featuring five CFOs discussing their top metrics used to demonstrate the effectiveness of achieving major business objectives.

Audio (Medium/Large Media): The Wall Street Journal’s “The Future of Everything,” podcast produced an episode called, “In Bitcoin We Trust?” that explored the cryptocurrency we know as bitcoin and what caused the rise of this invention, how it works and its future.

Enterprise Reporting: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, The New York Times, The Guardian, and other media partners, for “The Paradise Papers.” Following a leak of secret documents from 21 sources, more than 90 media partners investigated and exposed hidden dealings of corporate giants such as Apple and Nike as well as secret deals made by tax-evading criminals and prominent politicians and their supporters.

General Reporting: Michael Grabell, ProPublica, and Howard Berkes, NPR, for “Sold for Parts.” Grabell focuses on a chicken-processing plant know as Case Farms, and its work practices, taking advantage of underage and undocumented immigrants, illegally hiring them to work in dangerous conditions and firing them if they protested or were injured on the job. Following this exposure, Grabell partnered with Berkes from NPR to analyze 14 years of Florida insurance data to expose how employers and insurance companies were using a state law to get out of paying workers compensation benefits to injured, undocumented immigrants.

Infographic: Bloomberg News’s Matt Townsend, Jenny Surane, Emma Orr and Christopher Cannon, for, “America’s ‘Retail Apocalypse’ Is Really Just the Beginning.” Through many interactive data visualizations, the Bloomberg News team illustrates the high amount of debt that retail companies own and how it affects the retail industry and the future of the economy.

Local and Public Service Reporting
: Jason Grotto, Ray Long and Sandhya Kambhampati from ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune, for their four-part series exposing Cook County’s unfair property tax assessment system in, “The Tax Divide.” For two years, Grotto and his team studied the system, analyzing more than 100 million digital records and interviewing dozens of experts, attorneys and property owners. They found errors and discrepancies in tax assessments that punished poor home owners and small businesses in Chicago while giving the wealthy unsanctioned tax breaks and lining the pockets of politically connected tax attorneys.

Opinion
: Thomas Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, for a series of opinion pieces focusing on the Wells Fargo sales fraud scandal that broke in 2017. The series included an analysis of the bank’s leadership team, its cross-marketing strategies and how these unethical practices began well before 2017, dating back to 1998, when it merged with Norwest.

Video (Large): The Weather Channel Digital and InsideClimate News teamed up for, “Killing Clean: The Playbook to Destroy Clean Energy.” In this video, they discuss the clean energy revolution and how Ohio lawmakers flipped their positions on an issue they once supported. In 2008, Ohio passed an alternative energy mandate designed to adopt the use of solar and wind energy sources for electricity in the state, which helped create jobs, turn profits and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Fast-forward to 2017, and most of those lawmakers who supported the mandate now opposed it. To find out why, the Killing Clean team investigated coal companies, utilities, think tanks, nonprofit foundation and political action committees that mobilized to roll back clean energy initiatives one state at time.

Video (Medium Media): Fusion TV’s The Naked Truth, for “Debt Trap.” An inside look of America’s student debt crisis, this investigation discusses the causes, including the rise in tuition and government disinvestment, as well as the role of public and private lending entities.

Excellence in Financial Journalism Book Award: Jesse Eisinger, The Chickenshit Club. Eisinger offers an inside look at why the U.S. Justice Department, following its prosecution of executives at Enron and WorldCom for financial fraud in the early 2000s, failed to prosecute executives responsible for the 2008 financial crisis.

This year’s EFJ Awards judges were Gary Belsky, Mary Jo Brancatelli, Rumbi Bwerinofa-Petrozzello, Michael Hall, Orumé Hays, Richard L. Hecht, Elliot L. Hendler, Leon M. Metzger, Iralma Pozo, George I. Victor, F. Michael Zovistoski, and David S. Zweighaft. The 2018 EFJ book judges were Justin Baer, Susan M. Barossi and Leah Spiro.

 

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