McCrummen started digging and contacting people whose names had been mentioned in connection to the allegations. Soon, investigative reporter Beth Reinhard joined her in Alabama, and the pair spent weeks knocking on doors, chasing tips and vetting the stories of several women — who eventually agreed to publicly discuss their past encounters with Moore.
For their reporting on the allegations against Moore — a series of stories that would ultimately impact the outcome of a critical special election — McCrummen, Reinhard and Crites were named Tuesday among the winners of the 69th annual George Polk Awards in Journalism, one of the profession’s most revered prizes.
The award for McCrummen, 47, Reinhard, 49, and Crites, 54, was one of two honors for The Washington Post. The judges of the Polk Awards, which will be presented by Long Island University at a ceremony in Manhattan in April, also recognized the work of journalists at The Post and the New York Times with a special award for “their extraordinary effort in uncovering the connection between the Trump presidential campaign and the Kremlin that led to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation,” according to a statement by the university.
McCrummen, Reinhard and Crites’s continuing coverage of Moore dominated headlines and reverberated across the political sphere in the weeks before the Dec. 12 special election.
The work was challenging, the journalists said, not only because Moore’s accusers were at first reluctant to speak on the record, but because of the intense scrutiny surrounding the allegations and the veracity of The Post’s reporting.
“This wasn’t like one of these Me Too stories, where a woman comes forward and wants to tell her story,” Reinhard said. “These women had to be persuaded, and they had to feel comfortable with us, and also we needed to feel comfortable with them — that they were describing things that happened decades ago accurately, and that they didn’t have any kind of political agenda.”
That meant thorough background checks and careful corroboration. It was the same due diligence that the job always demands, but with an awareness that the stakes were especially high.
“Part of this is just staying focused on doing our jobs. We were focused on figuring out what the truth of the situation was, always,” McCrummen said. “But after the first story ran, we were certainly on even higher alert for people who might try to trick us or embarrass us.”
In addition to the traditional news outlets that have long been celebrated by the Polk Awards, two online publications — the Intercept and BuzzFeed News — were honored this year for the first time in the contest’s history.
The 2017 Polk Awards received more than 500 entries. Among the 17 winners were:
●Foreign reporting: Iona Craig of the Intercept, for documenting the destruction and civilian casualties during a covert U.S. Navy SEAL raid on a remote village in Yemen.
●National reporting: Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of the New York Times, and Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker, for exposing the decades-long sexual predation of the movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the campaign to cover it up.
●Local reporting: Melissa Segura of BuzzFeed, for drawing attention to innocent men framed for murder by a Chicago police detective with stories that led to their release from prison.
●Immigration reporting: Maria Perez of the Naples Daily News, for exposing the practice of Florida companies hiring undocumented workers for dangerous jobs to avoid compensating them when injured, in some cases by arranging their deportation; and Antonia Farzan and Joseph Flaherty of Phoenix New Times, for revealing that Motel 6 motels in Phoenix provided nightly guest rosters to ICE agents investigating undocumented immigrants.
●Financial reporting: the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, for mining a trove of 13.4 million records to reveal how corporate giants and prominent wealthy individuals use financial manipulations to evade taxes.
●Medical reporting: Nina Martin of ProPublica and Renee Montagne of NPR, for explaining the reasons and portraying the tragedies behind an alarming increase in maternal deaths in pregnancy and delivery in the United States.
●Magazine reporting: Ben Taub of the New Yorker, for showing the devastation caused by the shrinkage of Lake Chad in Africa and underlining the connection of the ecological disaster to famine and armed uprising.
●Photography: Adam Dean and Tomas Munita of the New York Times, for capturing the plight of the Rohingya people fleeing burning villages in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, and pouring into woefully ill-equipped refugee camps in Bangladesh.
●Television reporting: Elle Reeve of “Vice News Tonight on HBO,” for her on-the-scene up-close coverage of the protests in Charlottesville that probed the motivations and tactics of white nationalist leaders behind the rally that turned deadly in August.
●Foreign television reporting: Nima Elbagir and Raja Razek of CNN, for uncovering a hidden modern-day slave auction of African refugees in Libya.
●Public service: David Begnaud of CBS News, for capturing the destructive power Hurricane Maria unleashed on Puerto Rico in September and documenting how limited aid from the federal and territorial governments delayed the island’s recovery.
●Commentary: Gail Collins of the New York Times, for her columns of satiric wit and neighborly wisdom that probe the oddities of American politics and social mores, skewering public figures on both sides of the aisle with equal-opportunity zest.