Nieman News

The 1983 Nieman Foundation’s Louis M. Lyons Award for conscience and integrity in journalism was awarded May 6 to Tom Renner, a specialist in organized crime reporting for Newsday.

Renner, 54, began reporting on organized crime for Newsday 22 years ago and was assigned to cover the beat full time in 1965, thus becoming the first full-time specialist on organized crime reporting in the United States. He often works undercover on stories that document how organized crime reaches into the pocketbooks and lives of ordinary Americans.

For example, Renner identified more than 50 corporations doing a half billion dollars of business in U.S. supermarkets as being controlled by organized crime. He showed how the Mafia infiltrated the U.S. Postal Service and stole mail and how organized crime gained control of credit card rackets.

Renner revealed misconduct of Long Island, N.Y., judges and their connections to organized crime. He has written about international drug and weapons trafficking, and organized crime contro1 of cigarette smuggling and a fish market.

Another investigation exposed an attempt by a crime family to take over a Suffolk County, N.Y., quarter horse track. Renner’s reporting uncovered problems with the federal witness protection program. In other investigations, he infiltrated gambling operations; revealed the identities of 172 crime figures, of whom 135 were indicted or convicted; described smuggling of Mafia aliens from Sicily into the United States, and showed how organized crime gained control or sections of the pizza industry and related businesses as well as the catering industry.

Renner was a key member of the team of reporters from across the United States who investigated organized crime and official corruption in Arizona. The 1976-77 investigation continued the work of Don Bo1les, the Arizona Republic reporter who killed by a car bomb.

Investigative reporters are vulnerable to libel suits but Renner has never been successfully sued.

Renner is an author of three books that are standards for reporters and have been used as textbooks at the FBI Academy, state policy academies, and intelligence units. He has testified as an organized crime expert at congressional hearings and libel hearings and has spoken at journalism schools, investigative reporting seminars and police academies.

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