CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Craig R. McCoy, a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer, is winner of the 2010 I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence. The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard will present the award during a ceremony at Boston University’s College of Communication on October 5, 2010.
For almost three decades, McCoy has exposed injustice and corruption in Philadelphia through his probing and meticulous investigative work.
In recommending McCoy for the I.F. Stone Medal, his nominator noted: “There are several things about Craig that bring to mind I.F. Stone. He is undaunted by a complex story. He has a strong sense of civic right and wrong. He is ingenious at penetrating the official fog. And he is very, very persistent…America would be a more just, less corrupt country if every city had a Craig McCoy. Unfortunately, such journalists are rare.”
McCoy has been an investigative reporter at The Inquirer for the past 12 years. He has worked for the newspaper since 1982, mainly as a reporter, but also as city editor and bureau chief in City Hall and Trenton. In 2007, he won the Rosey Award, given annually to the paper’s most tenacious reporter; the award is named after Robert J. Rosenthal, a former executive editor at The Inquirer.
As a member of the newspaper’s investigative staff, McCoy most recently headed a team that uncovered entrenched problems in Philadelphia’s criminal justice system, including abysmal conviction rates, rampant witness fear and a massive number of fugitives. In an unprecedented statistical analysis for a large American city, the paper’s investigation and resulting series, “Justice: Delayed, Dismissed, Denied,”showed that defendants charged with violent crimes were escaping conviction in nearly two-thirds of all cases. The reporting has triggered major reforms, including new state Supreme Court judicial rules, two investigations, federal and state hearings and new legislation. McCoy joined staff writers Nancy Phillips, Dylan Purcell, John Sullivan and Emilie Lounsberry in this project.
From 2003 until 2009, McCoy repeatedly dug into the activities of one of Philadelphia’s most powerful politicians, state Senator Vincent J. Fumo,who had raised millions of dollars for a pet project (called Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods) but refused to reveal the source of the money. McCoy’s reporting revealed that $17 million came from a giant Pennsylvania power company, Peco Energy, and was given secretly during negotiations over utility deregulation. Last year, Fumo was found guilty on 137 counts of corruption and is now in federal prison.
In recent years, McCoy was part of an investigative team that documented how Philadelphia’s child-welfare agency had failed to protect a child who died of starvation at age 14, weighing just 42 pounds. The reporting also disclosed that the city had continued to use a Tennessee reform school despite numerous warnings about abuse. The city stopped sending young people there only after a city teenager was killed in a brawl with guards. The overall investigation of the agency by the Inquirer’s reporting team won the 2007 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. McCoy joined reporters Phillips, Sullivan and Ken Dilanian in this coverage.
In 2002, McCoy and a colleague, Linda K. Harris, uncovered an arrangement in which the head of Philadelphia’s largest charity for historic preservation was avoiding taxes by selling deed restrictions on his own properties to the very charity he led.
In 1998 and 1999, McCoy was part of the Inquirer team that exposed the Philadelphia police department’s mistreatment of crime victims, especially victims of rape. The department routinely downgraded crimes to lesser offenses or wrote them off entirely. The stories led to the conviction of 33 men on sexual assault charges, the construction of a new headquarters for the Special Victims Unit, and oversight of sex-crime investigations by women’s groups. The reporting on the police was recognized twice as a Pulitzer Prize finalist and won numerous national awards. Staff writers Clea Benson, Mark Fazlollah and Michael Matza were the other members of this team.
In previous years, McCoy was part of larger teams that twice were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, once for reporting on vote fraud in a state Senate election and once for the paper’s coverage of the police bombing of a compound held by the MOVE cult.
Other journalism awards McCoy has received as part of teams include the Society of American Business Writers and Editors’ Best in Business Award (2006), the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting (finalist, 2009; first place, 1999), Scripps Howard National Journalism Awards (finalist, 2009; first place, 1998), the Heywood Broun Award (1998) and the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, presented by the Education Writers Association (1994).
McCoy joined The Inquirer after two years at The Philadelphia Bulletin where he worked on the paper’s night rewrite desk and covered the Philadelphia public schools. Before that, he was a staff writer for a small daily, The Reporter, in the Philadelphia suburbs. His first job was as a reporter at the Germantown Courier, a Philadelphia weekly, where he became managing editor. Under his leadership, the paper was named Pennsylvania’s best weekly in a statewide competition. The Courier went out of business last year, and the Bulletin folded in 1982.
McCoy holds a B.A. in history from Temple University in Philadelphia.
Established in 2008, the I.F. Stone Medal rewards journalistic independence and honors the life of investigative journalist I.F. Stone. The award is administered by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and its Nieman Watchdog Project and is presented annually to a journalist whose work captures the spirit of independence, integrity and courage that characterized I.F. Stone’s Weekly, published 1953-1971.
The 2010 I.F. Stone Medal Selection Committee was chaired by journalist and authorJohn R. (Rick) MacArthur, president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine. The committee also included Robert Kaiser, associate editor and senior correspondent for The Washington Post, and Patricia O’Brien, a journalist, novelist and author who was a 1974 Nieman Fellow.The group made their selection from recommendations presented by distinguished journalists who, by design, remain anonymous and serve for just one year.
John Walcott, Washington bureau chief for the McClatchy Co., received the first I.F. Stone Medal in 2008. He was honored for leading his team of reporters (then working for Knight Ridder) in their incisive coverage of events leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Documentary filmmaker Jon Alpert won the second I.F. Stone Medal in 2009 in recognition of his comprehensive body of work and his commitment to media access and education for all through the Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV), a nonprofit community media organization he co-founded in New York in 1972.
More information about I.F. Stone’s life and work and the medal created in his honor can be found online at www.ifstone.org.
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Established in 1938, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard administers the oldest midcareer fellowship program for journalists in the world. Working journalists of accomplishment and promise are selected to come to Harvard for a year of study, seminars and special events. More than 1,300 journalists from 90 countries have received Nieman Fellowships. In addition to administering the fellowship program, the foundation publishes the quarterly magazine Nieman Reports, the nation’s oldest magazine devoted to a critical examination of the practice of journalism, and is home to the Nieman Journalism Lab, which identifies emerging business models and best practices in journalism in the digital media age. Additionally, the foundation produces Nieman Storyboard, a Web site that showcases exceptional narrative journalism, and the Nieman Watchdog Project, a Web site that encourages journalists to monitor and hold accountable all those who exert power in public life.