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Reprinted with permission from:

APB Honored for News Excellence
IRE Recognizes Internet Journalism for First Time

March 24, 2000

By Hans H. Chen

COLUMBIA, Mo. (APBnews.com) -- Investigative Reporters and Editors, a professional organization dedicated to training and supporting investigative journalists, has presented APBnews.com with an inaugural citation for excellence in online journalism.

Investigative Reporters and Editors, IRE
The IRE awards ceremony will take place at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.

The IRE Awards have long recognized investigative reporting by newspapers, radio and television. But for the first time this year, the IRE acknowledged Internet news sites with a special award.

APBnews.com's prize does not apply to a single story but to the yearlong effort to provide its users with in-depth reporting on the criminal justice system, said officials at the organization.

IRE judges highlighted several stories produced by the site's computer assisted reporting unit, including APBnews.com's legal attempts to obtain financial disclosure reports on all 1,650 U.S. judges; its detailing of safety on 1,497 college neighborhoods; and its posting of more than a dozen Super Bowl players' criminal records.

APBnews.com Sues Federal Judges
APBnews.com filed suit demanding access to federal judges' financial disclosure records.

"We went round and round and came up with this way of honoring the body of work that APB is doing -- pioneering work on the Internet that's in the interest of everybody," said Roberta Baskin, an IRE judge and senior producer at 20/20. "It's really helping to shape what online journalism is going to be."

Site originally was denied documents

APBnews.com first filed requests for the financial disclosure reports of the country's federal judges last September. But after a judicial committee told APBnews.com several weeks later that it would not release the documents to the online news media, the crime news site sued for the records' release in federal court.

On March 14, the judicial committee bowed to congressional pressure, press inquiries and a sharply worded letter by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and reversed its decision.

"When we first heard they were not going to release the records, we felt the decision was entirely unsupportable," said Michael Ravnitzky, APBnews.com's director of legal administration, who first conceived of the project. "I think APBnews.com has a clear vision that the public has a right to know, and that extends to all records that are publicly available."

'A new kind of journalism'

The IRE also selected a report by Special Projects Editor Jim Krane on the dilemmas state prisons face in dealing with aging prisoners as a finalist for the online special citation.

APBnews.com's coverage of the judges' controversy also was named as a finalist in the IRE's Freedom of Information Award.

"This is a new kind of journalism that cuts out the middleman and lets the public be the investigative reporter," said Robert Port, APBnews.com's editor for computer-assisted reporting.

Hans H. Chen is an APBnews.com staff writer.

© 2000 APBnews.com