CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A.C. Thompson, a staff reporter for ProPublica whose work frequently exposes social injustice and the abuse of power, is winner of the 2011 I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence. The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard will present the award at Boston University on October 4, 2011, during a ceremony co-hosted by BU’s College of Communication.
Nieman curator Bob Giles said “Thompson stands out as a leader of the new generation of dedicated, creative and highly principled investigative journalists who now walk in I.F Stone’s footsteps. He goes where others fear to tread and the public is better for it. He shines a spotlight on inequities and transgressions that otherwise would not be exposed in the press. We congratulate him on his valuable work.”
In recommending Thompson for the award, his nominator described him as “intelligent, measured, courageous and resourceful, displaying a skepticism of authority and a non-sentimental concern for the underdog and a readiness to dig deeply into public records and interviews to uncover instances of injustice – in short, a perfect candidate for an I.F. Stone Medal.”
At ProPublica, Thompson focuses on poverty, human rights and criminal justice. His reporting on events in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina helped to uncover a string of alleged hate crimes against African Americans and the link between police and the killings of unarmed civilians in New Orleans. In the wake of the stories, federal prosecutors opened multiple investigations, eventually charging a private citizen for an allegedly racially motivated shooting, and five active or ex-officers in connection with the killing of local resident Henry Glover.
Describing his reporting, Thompson said “I consider my work to be a form of archaeology. I seek to excavate facts that others have buried. Fundamentally, the stories I do are about justice, about those with power harming the less-powerful and getting away with it.”
Thompson has worked as a full-time journalist since 1998. He was an investigative reporter for SF Weekly in 2006-2007 and for The San Francisco Bay Guardian for eight years prior to that. His stories led to the exoneration of two San Francisco men wrongly convicted of murder. Thompson’s work also has appeared in a number of national magazines and he is co-author of the book “Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights.”
Before joining ProPublica, Thompson co-founded The Chauncey Bailey Project, a collaborative effort by Web, radio, TV and print reporters to examine the 2007 killing of Chauncey Bailey, a news editor in Oakland, California.
Thompson has received a number of awards for his reporting including two George Polk Awards, three Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards, the James K. Batten Medal from ASNE and the Molly Ivins Award, among others.
Thompson credits two mentors for his success saying: “I was schooled in journalism by Sandy Close, executive director at New America Media, and Tim Redmond executive editor at the Bay Guardian. Sandy taught me to look at stories from the street level, to seek out unheard voices. Tim taught me that journalism is really civics — if you figure how government works you’ll discover the nodes of information that will help you put together a probative report. He trained me to be an investigative reporter.”
Before working in journalism, Thompson taught writing to juvenile offenders in locked detention facilities in San Francisco and Alameda counties in Northern California, an experience he says greatly influenced his career as a reporter.
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 2011 I.F. Stone Medal Selection Committee was chaired by journalist and author John R. (Rick) MacArthur, president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine. The committee also included Robert Kaiser, associate editor for The Washington Post, and Patricia O’Brien, a journalist and author who was a 1974 Nieman Fellow.The group made their selection from recommendations presented by prominent journalists who, by design, remain anonymous and serve for just one year.
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard administers the oldest midcareer fellowship program for journalists in the world. Grants are awarded to accomplished professionals who come to Harvard for a year of study, seminars and other special events. More than 1,300 journalists from 91 countries have received Nieman Fellowships. The foundation’s other initiatives include Nieman Reports, an influential quarterly magazine and website that explores contemporary challenges and opportunities in journalism; Nieman Watchdog, a project that encourages journalists to monitor and hold accountable all those who exert power in public life; Nieman Journalism Lab, a collaborative effort by journalists and media commentators to identify emerging business models and best practices in journalism in the digital age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism in every medium and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling.
For more information about I.F. Stone, visit www.ifstone.org.