For their comprehensive series “A Mayor in Crisis,” Detroit Free Press staff writers Jim Schaefer and M.L. Elrick, in addition to their colleagues, are the winners of the 2008 Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism, presented by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.
During their yearlong investigation, the reporters chronicled in detail the lies, false testimony, and insider dealings that led to the downfall of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his top aide Christine Beatty, who together attempted to bury a lawsuit settlement that threatened to expose their romantic affair.
In choosing the series for the Bingham Prize, judge and investigative reporter David Heath commented: “With tenacity and grit, the reporters at the Detroit Free Press pursued a story that exposed a popular mayor. What they found was not just a sex scandal, but corruption and a cover-up. It’s one of the finest examples I’ve seen of pure investigative reporting.” Judge Julia Reynolds added, “I was impressed with the way they took the high road in covering this story, digging deep to find abuses of power. It would have been too easy to only report on the mayor’s affair.”
The Detroit Free Press will be presented the award at the Nieman Foundation on March 5. Previously, the prize was given during the National Press Foundation’s annual awards dinner in Washington, D.C. The Nieman Foundation is the new administrator of the award and will present a $20,000 prize for the first time this year.