Daily Herald wins honors for investigative reporting
A series of reports by Daily Herald transportation writer Marni Pyke on questionable hiring and spending practices by Illinois tollway officials during the past year won her third place in the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards For Investigative Reporting this week.
A panel of judges said "the relentless series of stories on the Illinois tollway board and staff is classic watchdog reporting on a government agency. The investigation led to the uncovering of nepotism, patronage, wasteful and no-bid contracts, and other corrupt practices."
Editor John Lampinen noted, "This is the latest and among the most prestigious awards Marni has received for her coverage of contract and hiring practices at the Illinois Toll Highway Authority. We're proud of the work she has done and proud of the contribution it has made to the public welfare."
The findings in Pyke's investigations included the tollway hiring politically connected personnel and selecting politically connected contractors for tollway work, while paying a premium. Ultimately, the series led to legislative investigations into the board's practices and policies, culminating with the board's firing earlier this year.
The judges said, "the effective use of Freedom of Information laws was impressive and the dedicated reporting over two years was exemplary. The impact was extensive with the removal of board of directors and an array of reforms enacted," they wrote.
The awards, sponsored by the Better Government Association and Driehaus Foundation, were presented Tuesday during a ceremony in Chicago that featured Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh.
Six finalists were chosen for the awards including reporters from The Chicago Tribune, Injustice Watch, ProPublica, and WBEZ.