Four Associated Press journalists will receive the gold award in the ninth annual Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism for their work exposing slavery in the fishing industry in Southeast Asia and connecting the practice to U.S. supermarkets and pet food companies.
The awards were announced today by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State University.
Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll said, "We are extremely proud of this work because it is leading to real change in the Southeast Asian fishing industry and the products that wind up in American households. What change? As of today, more than 2,000 slaves have been freed from the bondage as a direct result of the AP's reporting.
"Think about that. In 2015, journalism has freed 2,000 slaves. That is remarkable."
"Margie, Robin, Esther and Martha are brilliant, resourceful, persistent and courageous journalists. They were supported by many other creative and committed colleagues and led by an excellent editor, Mary Rajkumar. Their work has the investigative rigor and impact that Don Barlett and Jim Steele have long represented.”
The four — Robin McDowell, Margie Mason, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan — won the top award for a series of stories documenting how hundreds of men were working as slave labor, many of whom had not seen their homes and families in years.
Their investigative reporting linked slave-caught seafood to major supermarkets and pet food companies in the U.S.
“This was a gripping story with great reporting, and especially noteworthy was how careful the reporters were with its outcome by protecting the names of the slaves as they interviewed them and then notified authorities,” said the judges, as quoted in the Reynolds Center announcement.
The $5,000 gold award will be presented on Nov. 16 at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU in Phoenix.
Awards will also go to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Palm Beach Post.