The Chicago Tribune has won the Nieman Foundation’s 2014 Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Journalism with “Red Light Cameras,” a comprehensive series that exposed the corruption and mismanagement of a traffic-monitoring program that has raked in hundreds of millions of dollars from unsuspecting motorists in Chicago over the course of ten years.
Two other entries have been selected as finalists for the Taylor Award: “The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates” by Chicago Magazine, which revealed efforts by the Chicago Police Department to improve the city’s high crime rate statistics by deliberately underreporting or misclassifying crimes; and “The Longest Road” a three-part series by The Boston Globe’s Jenna Russell that follows the struggles of a young man with mental illness and his mother as they try to cope with the effects of his illness.
The Tribune’s “Red Light Cameras” series began in 2012. Reporters David Kidwell and Alex Richards uncovered how the City of Chicago collected money through automated red-light camera fines in a program plagued by lies, deception and schemes. As a result of the reporting, federal authorities issued bribery indictments against the program’s City Hall overseer and others. Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired the vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., and his office acknowledged that its own safety claims related to the program were flawed. Emanuel also promised sweeping reforms to a program that has already collected more than $500 million.
The Taylor Award will be presented on May 7, 2015 at the Nieman Foundation.