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The 50th anniversary of the Worth Bingham Prize included a panel of past and present winners. From left, Michael J. Berens, Audra D.S. Burch, Michael Rezendes and Dana Priest Lisa Abitbol

Awards & Conferences

Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism

2016 Winner

Members of the Bingham family with the 2016 Bingham Prize winners. From left, Clara Bingham, Michael J. Berens, Patricia Callahan and Joan Bingham

Members of the Bingham family with the 2016 Bingham Prize winners. From left, Clara Bingham, Michael J. Berens, Patricia Callahan and Joan Bingham

The Chicago Tribune is winner of the 2016 Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism for its three-part series “Suffering in Secret.” The result of a yearlong investigation into the abuse and neglect of adults with disabilities in Illinois, the series by reporters Michael J. Berens and Patricia Callahan has led to important reforms to remedy wrongdoing and provide new protections for victims inside Illinois’ taxpayer-funded group homes and their day programs.

Press Release

The Bingham Prize at 50

For the past five decades, the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism has honored some of the best investigative reporting in the United States. Winning entries have uncovered abuse, neglect, corruption and malfeasance of all types at the local, state and national level. Many of the reports have led to important policy and legislative changes that have corrected wrongdoing. In a number of instances, reporters have given voice to the voiceless and in doing so, have helped protect some of society’s most vulnerable citizens.

Trustees of the Worth Bingham Prize Fund

Executive Committee
Joan Bingham, chair
Clara Bingham, secretary
Eric Wentworth, treasurer
Elizabeth Chilton
John Wagley

Trustees
Molly Bingham
Jackie Blumenthal
David Burnham
Robert Garrett
Gardiner Harris
John Harwood
Brooks Jackson
Jon Meacham
Charles Peters
Walter Pincus

Past members
Barry Bingham, Jr.
Robert Worth Bingham
Gordon Davidson
Clayton Fritchey
K. Dun Gifford
Richard Harwood
Ward S. Just
Jane Mayer
Alan C. McConagha
Charles Peters
Chalmers Roberts
Thomas B. Ross
Paul R. Thatcher

About the Award

The $20,000 Worth Bingham Prize honors investigative reporting of stories of national significance where the public interest is being ill-served.

These stories may involve state, local or national government, lobbyists or the press itself, wherever an “atmosphere of easy tolerance” exists, as journalist Worth Bingham himself once described public misconduct in his reporting on the nation’s capital.

The investigative reporting may cover actual violations of the law, rule or code; lax or ineffective administration or enforcement; or activities that create conflicts of interest, entail excessive secrecy or otherwise raise questions of propriety.

Judges for the annual prize will be guided by such factors as obstacles overcome in obtaining information, accuracy, clarity of analysis and writing style, magnitude of the situation, and impact on the public, including any reforms that may have resulted.

How to Apply

Entries for work published in 2017 may be submitted beginning in the fall of 2017 and will be due in January 2018. The application for all new submissions will be posted on this page.

Entry Guidelines

  • All Bingham Prize entries must be submitted using our online application form.
  • All submissions must have been published in a U.S. newspaper or magazine or on the newspaper or magazine’s website during the 2017 calendar year. Web-based news organizations that follow a strict code of journalistic ethics and publish original reporting on a regular basis may also submit entries. No broadcast-only entries are allowed.
  • Entries may include a single story, a related series of stories, or up to three unrelated stories. Columns and editorials are eligible. Individuals are encouraged to submit their own entries.
  • In case of a series, at least half the individual stories must have been published during the contest year (2017).
  • All entries must be accompanied by a $50 entry fee, payable online.
  • The date appearing on the newspaper or magazine will determine the entry’s eligibility in the contest year.

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 The judges’ selection of the winner will be final and not subject to review by the Board of Trustees of the Fund.

Winners in any one year will be eligible for future awards without restriction.

For more information, contact prize coordinator Samantha Henry at 617-496-8511.

About Worth Bingham

Journalist Worth Bingham, a 1954 graduate of Harvard College, served three years as a Navy Officer before working as a reporter, first in Minneapolis and then in San Francisco.

Worth Bingham. Jan. 19, 1961. © The Courier-Journal He joined the Washington bureau of the Louisville Courier Journal and Times in 1961, where his reporting included, among other things, a series on “Our Costly Congress,” which was widely reprinted and earned him a Headliner Award from the National Headliner Club.

After two years in the paper’s Washington bureau, he returned to Louisville to join the executive staff, and became assistant to the publisher. Married, with two children, he was also active in numerous civic endeavors at the time of his death in 1966.

The Worth Bingham Prize was established in 1967 to commemorate Bingham’s work. The Nieman Foundation took over the administration of the award in 2008. The annual budget is covered by funds donated to Harvard that include past donations from family friends, classmates, fellow journalists and foundations.

Worth Bingham’s daughter, Clara Bingham, reflects on her father’s life and legacy

The Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism was founded 50 years ago, one year after the tragic death of Worth Bingham at the age of 34. By the time of his death, Worth Bingham had proven to be an excellent journalist and he might well have become one of the nation’s outstanding editor-publishers. The prize was created by his close friends and colleagues in 1967 to memorialize Worth’s life and his strong belief in journalism’s responsibility to uphold the public trust.

Half a century later, the prize has become one of the most respected investigative journalism awards in the country. With the collapse and transformation of the newspaper industry over the past 20 years, the prize’s mission to encourage and highlight investigative stories of national significance where the public interest is being ill-served, is more important than ever.

More

Robert Worth Bingham III graduated from Harvard College in 1954. He served two years as a naval officer before starting out as a reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune in 1956. He became a copy editor at the San Francisco Call-Bulletin in 1958, then moved on to the San Francisco Chronicle.

On February 14, 1960, Worth married Joan Stevens in San Francisco. The couple returned to Louisville where Worth joined the staff of his family’s newspapers, The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times. He learned the newspaper business from the bottom up: he edited copy, delivered newspapers, sold subscriptions door to door, and set type in the composing room. He also began working as a reporter under the paper’s distinguished executive editor, Norman Isaacs, who became Worth’s mentor and taskmaster.

After covering both the Nixon and Kennedy campaigns in the 1960 presidential election, Worth was transferred to the papers’ Washington bureau. At the time, The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times operated their three-man bureau out of the 12th floor of the National Press Building. Worth covered national politics, writing stories about the Kennedy administration and Congress. With his friend Ward Just, he wrote a highly regarded article in The Reporter magazine which exposed President Kennedy’s ability to manipulate the press.

Worth’s most noted piece of writing was published in July of 1962. “Our Costly Congress,” a six-part series in The Courier-Journal exposed “one of the best kept secrets in Washington.” The reporting revealed that taxpayers were spending $275,000 a year to keep a congressman in Washington—a far cry from the annual base salary of $22,500 a year. “There are a lot of facts available,” he wrote, “but they are like icebergs. They don’t tell what’s beneath the surface.”

“Our Costly Congress” exhaustively outlined how members of Congress personally benefitted from the perks, padded staff salaries, franking privileges and travel junkets, which they appropriated themselves virtually unchecked. Norman Isaacs edited the series and called it, “one of the best reporting jobs I’ve ever seen. Worth worked his tail off, following up on every question, checking out each fact every which way. He had it right down to the pegs.”

The series won a Headliner Award and was reprinted in Reader’s Digest and dozens of newspapers across the country. “Our Costly Congress” is reprinted on this site and serves as the model for the Worth Bingham Prize.

By November 1962, Worth had moved back to Louisville. As assistant to the publisher, his father, Barry Bingham Sr., Worth hoped to take over his family’s newspapers. Then, in July 1966, on Nantucket Island, he was killed in a car accident. His legacy endures in his wife, Joan Bingham, vice president, Atlantic-Monthly/Grove Press; his daughter, Clara Bingham, an author and journalist, and his late son, the fiction writer Robert Worth Bingham IV.

— Clara Bingham

A 1985 Harvard graduate, Clara is a journalist, author and documentary filmmaker whose work has focused on social justice and women’s issues. Her latest book is “Witness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year American Lost its Mind and Found its Soul.”

Winners

2016
Michael J. Berens and Patricia Callahan
The Chicago Tribune
“Suffering in Secret”
2015
Cara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Gartner, Michael LaForgia, Nathaniel Lash, Dirk Shadd, Chris Davis and colleagues
Tampa Bay Times
“Failure Factories”
2014
Carol Marbin Miller, Audra D.S. Burch and colleagues
The Miami Herald
“Innocents Lost”
2013
Cynthia Hubert, Phillip Reese and colleagues
The Sacramento Bee
“Nevada Patient Busing”
2012
2011
Michael Finnegan, Gale Holland and colleagues
Los Angeles Times
“Billions to Spend”
2010
2009
Raquel Rutledge
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Cashing in on Kids”
2008
Jim Schaefer, M.L. Elrick
Detroit Free Press
“A Mayor in Crisis”
Honorable mention:
Ken Armstrong, Nick Perry
The Seattle Times
“Victory and Ruins”
2007
Dana Priest, Anne Hull
The Washington Post
“Walter Reed and Beyond”
2006
Lisa Chedekel, Matthew Kauffman
The Hartford Courant
“Mentally Unfit, Forced to Fight”
2005
Susan Schmidt, James V. Grimaldi, R. Jeffrey Smith
The Washington Post
Lobbying practices and influence of Jack Abramoff
Honorable mention:
Marcus Stern, Jerry Kammer
San Diego Union Tribune
The fall of Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham and congressional corruption
2004
Diana Henriques
The New York Times
“Captive Clientele” – How insurance companies, investment firms and lenders have fleeced thousands of soldiers fighting for their country
2003
Honorable mention:
Gannett New Jersey Staff
“Profiting from Public Service: How New Jersey Legislators Exploit the System” (series)
2002
Staff
The Boston Globe
“Abuse in the Catholic Church”
2001
Ken Armstrong, Steve Mills, Maurice Possley
Chicago Tribune
“Cops and Confessions”
Honorable mention:
Ben Raines
Mobile Register
“Mercury taints seafood”
2000
Michael Grunwald
The Washington Post
Series on Army Corps of Engineers
1999
Sang-hun Choe, Charles J. Hanley, Martha Mendoza, Randy Herschaft
The Associated Press
Series on No Gun Ri project
1998
R. G. Dunlop, Gardiner Harris
The Courier-Journal
“Dust, Deception and Death” (series)
1997
Douglas Frantz
The New York Times
“Taxes and Tactics”
Honorable mention:
Staff
Detroit Free Press
“The Suicide Machine”
1996
Byron Acohido
The Seattle Times
“Safety at Issue: the 737”
1995
Two winners:
Jenni Bergal, Fred Schulte
Sun-Sentinel
“The Medicaid HMO Game: Poor Care, Big Profits” (and other related articles)”
Chris Adams
The Times-Picayune
Profiteering of Louisiana Medicaid program (continued coverage)
1994
Two winners:
Jeff Brazil
Los Angeles Times
Dangerous Delays at the FAA
Ralph Blumenthal, Douglas Frantz
The New York Times
US Air (series)
Honorable mention:
Tim Heider, Joel Rutchick
Plain Dealer
SAFE Fund Investments
1993
Craig Flournoy, Randy Lee Loftis
The Dallas Morning News
“Race and Risk” (government plans to force thousands of poor black residents to live in a Superfund toxic site)
1992
David Boardman, Susan Gilmore, Eric Nalder, Eric Pryne
The Seattle Times
Sexual harassment investigation of U.S. Senator Brock Adams
1991
Richard Behar
TIME Magazine
“Scientology: The Cult of Greed”
1990
Keith McKnight, Bob Paynter, Andrew Zajac
Akron Beacon Journal
Secret campaign contributions in Ohio politics
Honorary mention:
Tom Knudson
Sacramento Bee
“Golden Land/Shattered Earth” (reform of 1872 mining law)
1989
Jenni Bergal, Fred Schulte
Ft. Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel
“Crisis in Care: How HRS Fails Florida”
1988
Bill Dedman
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“The Color of Money: lending practices discriminate against blacks”
1987
Staff and editors
Newsday
“The Rush to Burn: America’s Garbage Gamble”
1986
Robert Woodward
The Washington Post
Secrecy in Government (Reagan administration)
1985
David Ashenfelter, Laura Berman, Tom Hundley, Larry Kostecke, Michael Wagner
Detroit Free Press
Six-part series questioning Michigan Corrections Department’s practices on prisoner release
1984
Two winners:
Brooks Jackson, David Rogers
The Wall Street Journal
“Money and Politics”
Chris Collins, John Hanchette
Gannett News Service
“The Vaccine Machine”
1983
Dennis Camire, Mark Rohner, Sharon Johnson
Gannett News Service
Series investigating fraud and mismanagement in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Home Administration (FmHA)
1982
Alan Green, Bill Hogan, Diane Kiesel
The New Republic
“The New Slush Fund Scandal: How congressmen live high on campaign money”
1981
Patrick Oster, Bruce Ingersoll
Chicago Sun-Times
“Defense Dilemmas”
1980
Two winners:
Ralph Soda
Gannett Papers
Series on an attempt by two brothers to corner the world’s silver market
Ted Gup, Jonathan Neumann
The Washington Post
Five-part series exposing how companies bribed federal government officials for lucrative government consulting contracts
1979
John Fialka
Washington Star
“Nifty Nugget”: Three-part series on U.S. military shortcomings as revealed by a secret military exercise in Europe
1978
David Hess
Akron Beacon Journal
A body of work on problems with Firestone’s steel-belted radial tires
1977
Michael J. Sniffen, Richard E. Meyer
The Associated Press
Bert Lance used the same stock as collateral for two different loans
1976
Morton Mintz
The Washington Post
“The Medicine Business” (series): Why pharmaceutical disasters continue to occur
1975
James Risser
The Des Moines Register
Corruption in the grain-exporting business
1974
Maxine Cheshire
The Washington Post
Four-part series on whereabouts of state gifts to U.S. officials and their families from foreign leaders and dignitaries
1973
Jerry Landauer
The Wall Street Journal
Spiro Agnew series
1972
Carl Bernstein, Robert Woodward
The Washington Post
Bugging of Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate
1971
Frank Wright
Minneapolis Tribune
How dairy lobby applied financial weight to secure a favorable decision on price supports; implications in political process
1970
James Clayton
The Washington Post
Series of editorials criticizing President Nixon’s nominee to the Supreme Court, G. Harrold Carswell
1969
Seymour Hersh
Dispatch News Service
My Lai 4 incident (series of four articles)
1968
Special Assignment Team
The Associated Press
Collection of reports on various ways the federal government wasted taxpayers’ money
1967
William Lambert
LIFE
Senator Edward Long’s Help-Hoffa campaign