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Shorenstein Center Panel Recognizes Investigative Journalism

A story on the use of slaves in Thailand’s seafood industry won the Goldsmith Award

By Ahilya Khadka and Kenton K. Shimozaki, Contributing Writers

Five finalists and the winner of the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Journalism discussed their projects and perspectives in front of a crowded room at the Kennedy School this past Friday.

The Goldsmith Seminar on Investigative Reporting, hosted by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, recognizes stories that have the potential to impact public policy, ranging from issues of police shootings to the use of slave labor in the seafood industry.

The event emphasized the importance of investigative journalism that exposes illegal activities as well as unethical practices.

Robin McDowell, an Associated Press reporter whose story on the widespread use of slaves in Thailand’s seafood industry won the Goldsmith Award, highlighted investigative journalism’s ability to create positive change.

“This is such a common story. Everyone in Southeast Asia knows about [the slavery]. Why is there no outrage?” McDowell said on the panel. “If we didn’t try and make the rest of the world care, then we weren’t doing our jobs.”

Some panelists hoped their stories would strengthen social justice and accountability.

Kimberly Kindy, a Washington Post reporter who conducted an analysis on all fatal shootings by on-duty officers in the United States in 2015, said she hoped her work would provide fodder for future journalists.

McDowell also stressed the need for continued reporting to ensure efforts for change continue.

“One of the problems of this issue, or human trafficking in general, is when you put a spotlight on some things, it’s like shining a flashlight on cockroaches: they all scurry away and then, as soon as the light’s off, they scurry back. Journalists, NGOs, government, consumers have to keep pushing,” she said.

Audience members also expressed their enthusiasm for the quality of this year’s stories nominated for the award.

“I think this type of journalism is a massive tribute to bringing up stories and bringing up issues and giving light and maybe in a more human fashion, as well,” Timothy J. Chambers, a School of Public Health student, said.

Shorenstein Center interim Director and panel moderator Thomas E. Patterson highlighted the importance of continuing to recognize news outlets for their investigative reporting.

“For news organizations, these awards mean a lot. They in a sense are the stamp of approval on the work that they’re doing, and in many ways this is a stamp that this is high quality work and they bring credit to the organization,” he said after the event.

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