Bloomberg News, NY Times both win two Polk Awards

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Bloomberg News has won two George Polk Awards for reporting that uncovered the financial holdings of China’s ruling class and its series that exposed abuses in higher-education finance in the U.S.

This is the fourth year in a row that Bloomberg News has won a Polk award.

The foreign reporting award recognized Bloomberg News’ “Revolution to Riches” series that lifts the veil of secrecy on China’s princelings, an elite class that has been able to amass wealth and influence because of their bloodline. To document the identities and business dealings of these powerful families, Bloomberg scoured thousands of pages of corporate filings, property records, official websites and archives, and conducted dozens of interviews from China to the United States.

Bloomberg’s “Indentured Students” series won the award for national reporting, in which Bloomberg News reporters John Hechinger and Janet Lorin exposed abuses in higher-education finance. This series revealed how the $1 trillion in outstanding student loans has become a nightmare, imprisoning students in a lifetime of debt. Their reporting contributed to new federal rules on debt collection, the introduction of several Congressional bills, and reforms by the colleges themselves. It shed light on a long-unaccountable sector in the American economy: higher education.

“We are grateful to be recognized by our peers for reporting that advanced the public interest by providing transparency in China and the business of financing higher education in the U.S.,” said Bloomberg News editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler in a statement.

Read more here.

Other Polk Awards given to business journalism include:

David Barboza of The New York Times won for his explosive three-part series, in The New York Times, “The Princelings,” that probed into the far-reaching financial interests of officials and their extended families. The veteran Shanghai correspondent revealed that relatives of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had accumulated a secret wealth of $2.7 billion. At personal risk, Barboza took novel approaches to discovering family connections — including examining gravestones in villages and circulating photos from government ID cards to confirm identities.

An assiduous investigation and report showing how Walmart fueled its overseas growth through bribes has earned David Barstow of The New York Times and Mexican reporter Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab the George Polk Award for Business Reporting. In 2004, Wal-Mart began building a supermarket in an alfafa field near the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan in Mexico. It became a project that provoked furious protests, with leaders charging bribery — allegations that Walmart executives ignored. In “Wal-Mart Abroad,” Barstow pieced together a hidden corporate drama of corruption.

Traveling across Mexico with Mexican reporter Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab, Barstow tunneled into databases and filing cabinets of local bureaucracies that govern construction permits and zoning issues. He discovered how Walmart had paid bribes in city after city to win approvals that the law did not allow. Barstow’s muckraking spurred investigations by the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Mexican authorities into the wrongdoing and led Wal-Mart to examine its violations of the anti-bribery laws in several countries.

The George Polk Award for Documentary Television Reporting will be presented to FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith and producer Michael Kirk for “Money, Power and Wall Street.” The comprehensive four-part investigation was done with the assistance of producers Marcela Gaviria, Mike Wiser and Jim Gilmore. It provided a thorough examination of the epic global financial crisis, from its origins to the present day. The team drew on more than 140 in-depth interviews, conducted around the world, with people tangentially or directly responsible for the crisis.

In blunt, first-hand accounts, viewers were given an unprecedented look inside key decisions that affected the lives of ordinary people around the country and a play-by-play road map of what ultimately would shatter the global economy. The series also dissected and distilled down the complicated subject of the modern credit derivative market and provided a sober look inside the struggle to rescue and repair this country’s battered economy.