Chauncey Bailey Project

Close, Thompson receive George Polk awards

A.C. Thompson (Lori Spears photo)
A.C. Thompson (Lori Spears photo)

A.C. Thompson (Lori Spears photo)

Sandy Close
Sandy Close

Sandy Close

By Mary Fricker, The Chauncey Bailey Project

Sandy Close, co-founder of the Chauncey Bailey Project, and A.C. Thompson, one of the project’s leading reporters, are among this year’s winners of the George Polk Awards in Journalism, which are given each year to recognize special achievement in journalism, especially investigative and enterprise work.

Chauncey Bailey received the Polk award posthumously in 2007.

Close is being honored with the George Polk Career Award for her work as executive director of New America Media, an alternative news source that supports ethnic media outlets, and for her founding role in organizing the Chauncey Bailey Project.

 In announcing Close’s Polk award, judges said:

For 37 years, Ms. Close has guided the pioneering efforts of New America Media, formerly known as the Pacific News Service. She has mentored many journalists who now work in the mainstream press, including A.C. Thompson, one of this year’s winners of the Polk Award for Television Reporting. In 1995, Ms. Close received a MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius Award’ fellowship; and in 1997, she co-produced the Academy Award-winning short documentary, ‘Breathing Lessons.’ Perhaps her proudest moment in journalism came in 2007, when she organized the Chauncey Bailey Project, a team of reporters whose investigative work led Oakland police to arrest those responsible for killing Mr. Bailey, who was a Polk Award-winning journalist.

A.C. Thompson is among five reporters who will receive the George Polk Award for Television Reporting for “a monumental collaborative effort that took an in-depth and unwavering look at the controversial and often brutal actions taken by the New Orleans Police Department in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” said Polk judges.

 Thompson of ProPublica, Raney Aronson-Rath and Tom Jennings of PBS’ Frontline and Laura Maggi and Brendan McCarthy of The New Orleans (La.) Times-Picayune will be honored.  According to the judges:

 ‘Law & Disorder’ investigates charges that police officers shot at least 10 people — killing a minimum of four — in the week after the 2005 catastrophe. The report raised questions about whether police officers needed to use such deadly force and documented the police department’s flawed and cursory investigations of the shootings. The news project revealed that in t he midst of post-Katrina chaos, law-enforcement commanders issued orders to ignore long-established rules governing use of deadly force, reporting that a police captain told a group of officers that they had the authority “by martial law to shoot looters.

The George Polk Awards have been administered by Long Island University since 1949, according to an announcement of the 2010 awards. They memorialize CBS correspondent George W. Polk, who was slain covering the civil war in Greece in 1948. A committee of jurors made up of University faculty members and alumni select the winners from entries submitted by journalists and news organizations as well as nominations made by a panel of journalists and editors, including a number of former winners. The 2010 George Polk Awards will be presented at a luncheon at The Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan on Thursday, April 7, 2011.

You can reach Mary Fricker at

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