Journalism awards positively encourage inflated claims; this is among their most pernicious effects on the trade. Judging from a San Francisco Chronicle editor's increasingly agitated emails, they also don't do much for industry collegiality.
But plaudits for the investigative reporting series kept coming back to a certain secret police video that wasn't so exclusive. A New York Times story on the series — later corrected — gave top billing to the video, which linked a lead department investigator to case suspects.
And when Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) awarded the Chauncey Bailey Project a prize, its citation applauded how the team had "uncovered a stunning videotape linking someone to the murder."
The only problem? The San Francisco Chronicle obtained and reported on that video seven months before the Chauncey Bailey Project. Assistant Managing Editor Ken Conner has expended considerable energy correcting the record, eliciting corrections from both the Times and National Public Radio.
But a collision between two old-school journalists can be exercise in mutual defiance, as evidenced in the below emails between Conner, IRE and Oakland Tribune editorial overlord Peter Wevurski (most recent emails first).
Conner apparently hasn't been able to convince the Oakland Tribune, which helped publish the Bailey Project series, to correct its own laudatory article about the award, even though it repeated the claim that the project had "uncovered" the video.
He's had even less luck getting IRE to revoke the prize.
One possible hitch: IRE not only gave out the award, it was also a part of the project. Meaning the group has, in effect, given an award to itself. That's as fine an example as any we've seen for the inbreeding and self-dealing endemic to America's increasingly consolidated news industry.