Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers

At a ceremony at the Nieman Foundation in March, The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., received the Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers for “Twisted Truth: A Prosecutor Under Fire,” a three-part series reported by J. Andrew Curliss about serious prosecutorial misconduct by Durham’s district attorney Tracey Cline.

The winning reports were produced by investigative reporter
J. Andrew Curliss

Jenn Abelson
Curliss along with senior editor for investigations Steve Riley, staff photographer Travis Long and online producer Paige Maxwell. Curliss had previously been selected as a finalist for the Taylor Award in 2010 for his N&O “Executive Privilege” series, an investigation of the legal and ethical problems surrounding former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley and his associates at N.C. State University.

“Twisted Truth” disclosed a pattern of inappropriate behavior by Durham’s district attorney Tracey Cline. Upset with the reports, Cline demanded that the newspaper publish all of its email exchanges with her and post the audio of two lengthy interviews with her online, which the paper promptly agreed to do. Cline also hosted a bogus town hall meeting to discuss the series, but it was held after hours in a locked courthouse. She additionally issued subpoenas to two of the paper’s editors and Curliss for hearings on her attempts to have a judge removed from criminal cases in Durham, forcing the newspaper to become a part of the story it was covering.

Her actions ultimately backfired and she was permanently removed from her office as the elected district attorney in Durham.

In bestowing the award to “Twisted Truth,” judge Marjie Lundstrom commented, “The reporter took extraordinary measures to be fair to District Attorney Cline while remembering his responsibility to readers… Her reactions to the N&O’s scrutiny helped tell the story, and the paper wisely placed it all in front of readers to let them decide.”

Two finalists were also selected for the Taylor Award:

The Boston Globe for “Fishy Business,” a two-part series that documented the widespread mislabeling of fish sold and served in Massachusetts. Series reporters were Jenn Abelson and Beth Daley.

The Asbury Park Press for “Deadly Decisions: Struggling to Understand,” a report on a cluster of suicides by teens and young adults in the Manasquan, New Jersey, area. The team that produced the series included staff writer Shannon Mullen; Paul D'Ambrosio, regional editor for investigations and interactive data; Thomas P. Costello, chief photographer/video; Jeff Colson, graphic artist; Suzanne Palma, design specialist; Sanne Young, copy editor; Peter Ackerman and Ian C. Bates, photos; and Dan Sinni, Web design

The judges for the Taylor Award were Tyler Bridges, a 2012 Nieman Fellow at Harvard and a freelance author/journalist; Tiffany Harness, Europe, Latin America and Africa editor for The Washington Post, who edited the Post’s series “Paths to Jihad,” which was selected as a finalist for the 2010 Taylor Award; and Marjie Lundstrom, senior writer for projects and investigations at The Sacramento Bee, whose series “Who Killed Amariana?” was also a finalist for the 2010 Taylor Award.