A powerful series exposing a coal industry scheme to deny even meager benefits to miners suffering black lung disease has won the prestigious Heywood Broun Award, presented annually by The Newspaper Guild-CWA. The award for "Breathless and Burdened: Dying from Black Lung Disease, Buried by Law and Medicine" includes a $5,000 check that is shared by journalists from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) and ABC News.
A pair of Sacramento Bee reporters and a trio of Washington Post journalists won the Broun Substantial Distinction winners. Each team of winners will receive $1,000.
Online report: 'Dying from Black Lung Disease, Buried by Law and Medicine.'
Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity spent a year intensely researching the black lung issue and was joined by ABC's Brian Ross and Matthew Mosk in the investigation. Hamby's well-written online series and ABC's powerful broadcast reports quickly caused Johns Hopkins to suspend its compromised black lung program and spurred members of Congress to propose stronger legislative remedies.
"Black lung? Wasn't that something we first heard about decades ago and that public officials and the medical community have dealt with?" the four-member Broun judging panel wrote about choosing the series as the winner among nearly 70 standout entries from 2013.
"That was our belief – that is, until reading and viewing this report," the judges said. "Despite legislative reforms beginning in the late '60s and oversight by the Labor Department, it seems the coal industry giants have been gaming the system – not only using their hired legal specialists to prolong appeals in black lung benefit cases so that the process 'outlives' the victims, they actually co-opted one of our more prestigious hospitals to aid their scheme."
The Broun award honors the best of journalism in the tradition of the famed newspaper columnist who helped found the Newspaper Guild in 1933. The Guild will present winners with their awards in early October.