Seven members of The Washington Post's news staff were named yesterday as winners of the 2005 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting for stories revealing excessive levels of lead in the District of Columbia's water supply.
In addition to exposing the lead problem, the stories pointed to the failure of public officials to protect residents, according to a spokesman for the journalism school that administers the award.
Staff writer David Nakamura broke the story in January 2004. He and others then pursued it for weeks.
In addition to Nakamura, the other winners were staff writers Carol D. Leonnig, D'Vera Cohn, Craig Timberg, Monte Reel and Jo Becker and newsroom database editor Sarah Cohen.
All the reporters were on The Post's metropolitan news staff at the time the stories were written. Timberg and Reel are now on the foreign news staff.
The award carries a $35,000 prize, which is believed to be the largest in American journalism, according to Geoffrey Baum, an assistant dean of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication. Annenberg's school of journalism presents the award.
Michael Parks, a former editor of the Los Angeles Times who heads the Annenberg journalism school, called the series "a very important piece of journalism" for residents of the District and for those in other cities where the water contains contaminants.
In announcing the award, the journalism school said the newspaper's investigation was a factor in the discharge of the director of the D.C. public health department and showed that water agencies throughout the United States had manipulated or withheld test results that disclose high lead levels.
The school also said a variety of federal and state agencies are looking into the possibility that several water utilities broke laws by misrepresenting lead levels.
In addition, actions have been taken to improve water quality in the District, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency has begun revising rules on lead measurement and reporting so that the public can learn promptly of any risks.
Baum said 80 nominations were made to the panel of seven prominent journalism figures who served as judges.
-- Martin Weil