Alum Wins Investigative Reporting Award with Post Team

For Immediate Release Feb. 25, 2005

WASHINGTON -- A 1992 University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism graduate was part of a seven-person Washington Post team that won this year’s Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting.

Sarah Cohen, database editor of The Washington Post, and six other Post journalists reported on lead contamination in the D.C. water supply and the city’s failure to protect its citizens.

The $35,000 annual prize, sponsored by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication, recognizes “the year's outstanding work in investigative journalism that led to direct results,” the school said in a press release.

“Winning the Selden Ring reiterates that Sara is among the premier computer-assisted reporting journalists in the world,” said Merrill College Dean Thomas Kunkel.

Cohen and Post colleagues David Nakamura, Carol D. Leonnig, D'Vera Cohn, Craig Timberg, Monte Reel and Jo Becker wrote more than 200 articles about the high levels of lead in the tap water.

The investigation led to the firing of the city’s public health director, disclosed problems in jurisdictions around the country and triggered federal and state investigations.

"The Washington Post's work was a very important piece of journalism – important to every man, woman and child living in the District of Columbia, drinking its water and thinking it was pure. And it was important to the residents of other cities whose water is contaminated by lead and other toxic substances," said Michael Parks, director of Annenberg's School of Journalism.

"Investigative reporting is one of the most serious responsibilities that American journalists have, and this year's Selden Ring entries show that newspapers, large and small, do take it seriously," Parks said.

The Post team has been invited to Los Angeles for the April award presentation, meet with students and participate in a symposium on investigative journalism.

Cohen, who earned her master’s degree in journalism at Maryland and has taught frequently at the Merrill College, won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2002 for a Washington Post series that uncovered the deaths of children in D.C.’s child protective services system.

For more information contact: Christopher Callahan, 301.405.2432.

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