Nieman News

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (May 17, 2004) — A report by The Blade of Toledo that uncovered Vietnam-era war crimes kept secret for three and a half decades has received the Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers.

“They recognized this was not just all about evil over there. The reporters went to lengths to keep perspective and balance while doing the hard reporting,” the Taylor Award judges said. “They talked to everybody. They put it into historic perspective and explored the issues. Why do some soldiers do this and some don’t? They handled a very sensitive subject with great depth and context.”

The award, for work published in daily newspapers in 2003, carries a $10,000 prize. The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard administers the program.

The judges also recognized two finalists:

  • The Wall Street Journal for stories examining the impact and reasons why people without health insurance are forced to pay more for health care. The stories were reported by Lucette Lagnado.
  • The Des Moines Register for its coverage of Iowa State University Basketball Coach Larry Eustachy’s partying with students that led to his dismissal. The chief reporters were Tom Witosky and Randy Peterson.

The winner and finalists will be recognized at a dinner and panel discussion on Thursday April 8 at the Harvard Faculty Club in Cambridge.

The Blade’s investigation into Vietnam-era war crimes focused on the activities of Tiger Force, an elite Army fighting unit, over a seven-month period in 1967. During this time, the unit committed the longest series of documented atrocities against civilians and prisoners during the Vietnam War, leading to hundreds of deaths. The Blade reporters discovered military authorities were aware of the activities and did nothing to stop them. Lead reporters on the project were Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss and Joe Mahr. Andy Morrison was the principal photographer. The investigation was initiated when reporters obtained 22 classified Army documents detailing the unit’s atrocities.

The judges noted that The Blade committed considerable resources to the story — a significant commitment for a paper of its size (circulation: 140,000). “They devoted a lot of time and energy. It speaks highly of their leadership team,” the judges said.

The Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers was established through gifts for an endowment by members of the Taylor family, which published The Boston Globe from 1872 to 1999. The purpose of the award is to encourage fairness in news coverage by America’s daily newspapers.

William O. Taylor, chairman emeritus of The Globe, embraced the idea of an award for fairness in newspapers as a way to give something back to the craft in which five generations of his family devoted their working lives. The Taylor family’s 127-year stewardship of The Globe was characterized by an enduring commitment to fairness. At his invitation, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard agreed to administer the prize.

The judges for the 2003 Taylor Fairness Award are Martin Baron, editor of the The Boston Globe, last year’s winner of the Taylor Award; Gregory Favre, a distinguished fellow at the Poynter Institute and former editor of The Sacramento Bee; and Will Sutton, deputy managing editor of the News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C. Current Nieman Curator Bob Giles is the chair of the jury.


Winner: The Boston Globe
Finalists: The Plain-Dealer of Cleveland and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Winner: The Hartford Courant
Finalists: The Sun of Baltimore and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans

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