Kidnapped ‘N.Y. Times’ Journo Rohde, Gene Roberts Among Polk Award Winners

By: E&P Staff

The New York Times’ David Rohde, who wrote about his ordeal as a prisoner of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is among the 13 winners of the George Polk Awards, announced Tuesday by Long Island University.

Rohde will receive the Polk Award for Foreign Reporting for “Held by the Taliban,” the five-part series about his capture and imprisonment by the Taliban. Rohde is a previous Polk winner and has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

The George Polk Career Award will be presented to Gene Roberts, who was executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer for 18 years at a time when the paper won seven Polk Awards and 17 Pulitzer Prizes.

“Over the course of his half-century career, Mr. Roberts has displayed a talent for mentoring, helping to nurture the careers of countless successful reporters,” the awards committee said. Roberts retired last year as a professor of journalism at the University of Maryland.

The George Polk Award for State Reporting will go to Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for what the committee called “her relentless coverage of Wisconsin’s broken child-care program.”

“Rutledge wrote nearly 50 stories about a $350 million system that was designed to assist low-wage working parents, but was, in fact, a hotbed of criminal activity that repeatedly put children in danger,” the committee said.

George Pawlaczyk and Beth Hundsdorfer with the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat will receive the Polk Award for Local Reporting “for producing a gripping investigative series that revealed the extremely harsh conditions inside an Illinois ‘supermax’ prison,” the committee said.

Alan Schwarz of The New York Times will receive the Polk Award for Sports Reporting for his stories on the long-term dangers of concussions among National Football League players, including an alarmingly high rate of dementia.

Kathy Chu of USA Today will receive the George Polk Award for Business Reporting for a series of stories on the steep fees and unscrupulous credit card practices of banks and credit unions. “Chu’s revelations in ‘Credit Trap’ had a direct influence on at least two Congressional and regulatory measures to reform bank fees,” the committee said.

Stars and Stripes reporters Charlie Reed, Kevin Baron and Leon Shane III receive the George Polk Award for Military Reporting for “Shaping the Message,” a series of stories documenting how the Pentagon used a public relations company to profile journalists and steer them toward positive coverage of the war in Afghanistan.

For the first time, a Polk Award is going to an anonymous person.

“The George Polk Award for Videography will recognize the efforts of the people responsible for recording the death of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan at a June protest in Tehran, Iran, and uploading the video to the Internet,” the committee said. “The video, which shows the woman collapsing to the ground and being attended to by several men as she lay dying on the street, became a rallying point for the reformist opposition in Iran after it was broadcast over the Internet. Seen by millions as it spread virally across the Web, the images quickly gained the attention of international media.”

A team of Bloomberg News reporters will receive the Polk Award for National Reporting for a series of stories on the role of the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Board on the bank bailouts. The award will go to the late Mark Pittman, Bob Ivry, Alison Fitzgerald and Craig Torres.

The George Polk Award for Environmental Reporting will go to Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica for reporting on the deadly side effects of hydraulic fracturing. The process is used to drill for natural gas and involves shooting water laden with carcinogenic contaminants to blast rock.

The George Polk Awards Luncheon will be held April 8 at the Roosevelt Hotel, located in Manhattan at 45 East 45th Street at the corner of Madison Avenue. Information on tickets can be obtained by calling Long Island University’s Office of Special Events at 516-299-3298 or e-mailing

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