The Sidney Hillman Foundation announced today that Duff Wilson and Janet Roberts of Reuters have won the May Sidney Award for their special feature, "How Washington Went Soft on Childhood Obesity." The story explores how Congress killed proposed industry guidelines for marketing junk food to children, even as the White House claimed to be fighting for children's health.
The Reuters team analyzed records which reveal that the food and beverage industry has spent $175 million on lobbying since Barack Obama took office, up from $83 million during the previous 3 years. This money has been well-spent; the industry has yet to lose a significant political battle.
For example, in recent years 24 states and five cities have considered "soda taxes," but the industry, sparing no expense, has defeated them all.
Some experts warn that today's children could have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, thanks in part to calorie-dense diets and sedentary lifestyles.
"In the political arena, one side is winning the war on child obesity. The side with the fattest wallets," Wilson and Roberts write.
"These reporters have produced an outstanding piece of investigative journalism that illustrates how corporate money trumps science in public health policy," said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein.
Duff Wilson is an investigative reporter with Reuters in New York and previously with the New York Times and The Seattle Times. He has won numerous national awards, including the Heywood Broun Award from the Newspaper Guild and two Goldsmith Prizes for Investigative Reporting from Harvard University. Duff also teaches investigative reporting at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He webmasters the Reporter's Desktop, a collaborative nonprofit internet launch pad. His 2001 book, Fateful Harvest, exposed heavy industries recycling hazardous waste through fertilizer.
Janet Roberts is a reporter on Thomson Reuters' data team, where she specializes in analytical reporting, harnessing information and analyzing data for news stories. Before joining Reuters in October 2011, she spent almost seven years on the computer-assisted reporting team at the New York Times, where she won a Silurian community service award for a project examining the plight of people exonerated after wrongful conviction. Another Times project, examining doctors' involvement in pharmaceutical marketing, was published in America's Best Science Writing. She started her career at the Star-News in Wilmington, N.C., followed by a stint as the computer-assisted reporting editor at the Saint Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota.
The Sidney Hillman Foundation honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good. Judges are Rose Arce, Hendrik Hertzberg, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Harold Meyerson, Susan Meiselas, and Lindsay Beyerstein.
The Sidney Award is given once a month to an outstanding piece of socially conscious journalism, by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which also awards the annual Hillman Prizes every spring. Winners of the Sidney receive a certificate designed by New Yorker cartoonist, Edward Sorel, a $500 honorarium and a bottle of union-made wine.