ITHACA, NY—In a year rich with exceptional journalism from non-corporate outlets, the Park Center for Independent Media (PCIM) at Ithaca College has announced the winners of the eighth annual Izzy Award. The honor will be shared by Inside Climate News for its series “Exxon: The Road Not Taken,” and independent journalists Jamie Kalven and Brandon Smith for exposing the Chicago police cover-up of the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Simultaneously, the center will induct Democracy Now! host and executive producer Amy Goodman into its I.F. Stone Hall of Fame.
The Izzy Award, presented for outstanding achievement in independent media, is named in honor of the late I.F. “Izzy” Stone, the dissident journalist who launched I.F. Stone’s Weekly in 1953 and challenged McCarthyism, the Vietnam War, racial injustice and government deceit.
Selection to the I.F. Stone Hall of Fame is an occasional honor reserved for those who have already won the annual Izzy Award and who continue to produce journalism that would earn them the award again and again.
The award ceremony and hall of fame induction will be held in Ithaca in the spring; details to be announced.
A nonprofit news organization covering climate change, energy and the environment, ICN published the explosive series “Exxon: The Road Not Taken.” It exposed how in the 1970s and 1980s, long before the public knew about global warming, Exxon itself had conducted cutting-edge scientific research on “the greenhouse effect.” Exxon’s pioneering research on fossil fuels and CO2 stands in stark contrast to the anti-scientific denialism that Exxon supported and funded in the ensuing decades. The story was unearthed by ICN journalists Neela Banerjee, John H. Cushman Jr., David Hasemyer and Lisa Song through company documents and interviews with former employees.
“ICN’s exposé reflects independent media at its best — a team of journalists digging deeper into a crucial global issue, unconstrained by corporate sponsorship or deadline pressures,” said the Izzy Award judges.
The series — supplemented by reporting in the L.A. Times — sparked further news coverage, nationwide activism (including the Twitter hashtag #ExxonKnew) and official inquiries into whether Exxon broke the law. Democracy Now! interviewed ICN’s Banerjee and a former Exxon scientist about the series.
Kalven and Brandon
Working separately, these two independent journalists relentlessly challenged the official fiction about the killing of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police in October 2014. Kalven, director of the journalistic Invisible Institute production company on Chicago’s South Side, and freelancer Smith spent months pursuing sources, witnesses and the documentary evidence that ultimately ended the cover-up.
In February 2015, after having earlier urged the city to “release all video footage of the incident,” Kalven meticulously analyzed the autopsy report on the teenager, which he’d obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Kalven was also interviewed by Democracy Now!
In August, when major news outlets had given up, Smith sued the Chicago Police Department over its refusal to release the police dash-cam video of the shooting, and wrote about it. In November, a judge ruled in Smith’s favor; after the video’s release led to murder charges against the police officer, Smith was barred from the mayor’s news conference that his suit had precipitated.
“The perseverance of Kalven and Smith in the face of official stonewalling, which is a hallmark of independent media, would make I.F. Stone proud,” said the Izzy judges. At 29, Smith is the youngest journalist to earn an Izzy Award.
Hall of Fame Inductee Amy
“Amy Goodman’s tenacious reporting day after day and year after year has made her one of the premier journalists of our era,” said Jeff Cohen, PCIM director and Izzy Award judge. “As the inspirational leader of Democracy Now! — now celebrating its 20th year — she is also peerless in showcasing the topnotch journalism of others.” Goodman shared the first Izzy Award in 2009 with Glenn Greenwald.
The largest public media collaboration in the United States, Democracy Now! is a daily global news program that presents in-depth coverage of such critical issues as the poisoning of Flint’s water, police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement, Syria’s wars and climate change, including on-the-scene coverage of the Paris COP21 summit.
“Amy Goodman gets to these major issues and movements before the mainstream media, and stays with them long after the big outlets lose interest,” commented the judges.
Joining Cohen as the Izzy Award judges for all eight years are Linda Jue, executive director and editor of the San Francisco-based G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism, and University of Illinois communications professor and author Robert W. McChesney.
Other previous winners of the Izzy Award are Naomi Klein, David Sirota, John Carlos Frey, Nick Turse, Mother Jones, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Center for Media and Democracy/“ALEC Exposed,” Robert Scheer, and City Limits. Amy Goodman joins prior I.F. Stone Hall of Fame inductees Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill.
Based in the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, the Park Center for Independent Media was launched in 2008 as a national center for the study of media outlets that create and distribute content outside traditional corporate systems. For more information, visit www.ithaca.edu/indy/izzy or contact Jeff Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org.