The Park Center for Independent Media (PCIM) at Ithaca College has announced that this year’s Izzy Award for outstanding achievement in independent media will be shared by journalist Matt Taibbi, the publication “News Inside” and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism for their impactful, in-depth reporting during 2019.
Taibbi is being honored for his critical coverage of mainstream U.S. news media and its ties to corporate power; “News Inside,” a print publication distributed to incarcerated people within the United States and Canada, for expanding communication among those behind bars; and the Center for Investigative Journalism (Centro de Periodismo Investigativo) for its bold exposé of corruption and misrule in Puerto Rico.
“Choosing awardees is never an easy decision,” said PCIM director Raza Rumi. “We had scores of nominations, as we always do. We read, watched and listened to many extraordinary examples of independent reporting. Ultimately we were unanimous in choosing these three winners.”
Taibbi and “News Inside” director Lawrence Bartley will be among those in attendance for the Izzy Award presentation ceremony, a public event to be held at Ithaca College in late April. Details will be announced later.
During 2019, Taibbi wrote exceptional stories that were in part funded directly by readers, focusing on media bias, government misconduct and the presidential campaign. His courageous stance and iconoclasm in questioning so-called “liberal media” as well as myths surrounding the Democratic Party contributed to national conversations and provided the public with insights not often available to viewers and readers of corporate media.
“Matt Taibbi’s political journalism is original, irreverent, provocative, highly entertaining and, most of all, invariably based on hard digging,” said the Izzy Award judges. “His analysis of political coverage in news media in 2019 was all of the above and then some, culminating in his book ‘Hate Inc.’”
Published chapter by chapter to subscribers on the Substack platform, the book started out as an update of Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman’s seminal work, “Manufacturing Consent,” and then radically evolved in its scope and genre. While the book attacks conservative media, it also exposes the hollowness of liberal media for ultra-partisanship that sidesteps bigger issues of corporate power. Taibbi’s hard-hitting articles were also regularly published by “Rolling Stone” magazine throughout the year, and in August he launched the “Useful Idiots” podcast, which he co-hosts with Katie Halper.
The U.S. currently has more than 2.2 million people in prisons and jails. Incarcerated people have limited access to books, the Internet and important information, and the news that reaches them rarely covers issues that affect them individually or collectively. In 2019, the Marshall Project launched a new publication, “News Inside,” that curates and provides unique reporting on criminal justice issues for circulation within participating prisons and jails.
Currently being distributed in more than 510 facilities in 38 states and Canada, “News Inside” was largely the brainchild of Lawrence Bartley, who joined the Marshall Project in 2018 after serving 27 years in prison himself. Working with prison-based educators, Bartley curates a selection of articles most relevant to incarcerated readers.
The Izzy judges commented in awarding the honor to this project, “Since Izzy Stone loved strong writing and cared about the most marginalized in society, we believe he’d smile upon our honoring this unique publication, which delivers high-quality journalism to prisoners, with articles written by current and former inmates.”
Center for Investigative Journalism
Puerto Rico’s Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI) is the leading news outlet on the island dedicated to public interest and accountability reporting. Since its founding in 2008, CPI has published hundreds of stories in Spanish and English—many of which have won prestigious awards—exposing longstanding governmental and corporate corruption.
In 2019, those stories included the near-criminal neglect of disaster preparedness policies and the true death count after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Last July, CPI published embarrassing internal documents about Puerto Rico’s governor, leading to his resignation 11 days later.
“The Izzy Award lauds CPI’s publication of 900 pages of damaging secret chats between Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló and other top-level officials, sparking island-wide mass protests that ultimately brought down the governor,” said the judges.
The Izzy Award commemorates the legacy of 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 malfeasance.
This year’s judges were Raza Rumi; former PCIM director and founder of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) Jeff Cohen; Linda Jue, editor and executive director of the G. W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism; and Robert W. McChesney, professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
For more information about the Izzy Awards and the work of the Park Center for Independent Media, visit www.parkindymedia.org.