The Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College has selected the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) for its annual "Izzy Award," which recognizes outstanding achievement in independent media. CMD was recognized for its ALEC Exposed project, and shares this year's award with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who was recognized for his exceptional reporting from Tahir Square. The award is named for the legendary I.F. Stone, the maverick investigative journalist who challenged Joe McCarthy's scare campaign and was the first to question the Gulf of Tonkin hoax.
CMD's award-winning investigation analyzed over 800 "model" bills secretly voted on by corporate lobbyists and state legislators behind closed doors. CMD launched ALEC Exposed in July 2011, in partnership with The Nation Magazine, which devoted a special edition to articles about ALEC's agenda. The bills are located on CMD's ALECexposed.org site and are accompanied by resources and analysis that illustrate the many ways in which ALEC's influence has permeated nearly every aspect of American life.
ALEC Exposed: A Library of Resources for Continued Independent Reporting
As a result of CMD's decision to create a library of resources for reporters and concerned citizens, rather than simply issue a white paper, literally hundreds of news reports -- spanning television, radio, print newspapers and magazines, as well as online publications -- plus countless blog postings by countless devoted activists have helped raise awareness about ALEC's extreme agenda in state after state and in Congress. CMD itself has published dozens of original stories about ALEC that have helped pierce the veil of secrecy that previously surrounded corporate efforts to limit Americans' right to vote, change the rules for Americans injured or killed by corporations, starve government while giving tax breaks to some of the richest corporations in the world, limit protections for Americans' health, transfer wealth and assets of the public to private corporations in education and prisons, and dramatically re-write Americans' rights in pursuit of the world view advanced by the Koch brothers and other industrialists.
"Izzy Stone exposed the hidden agendas of powerful people like J. Edgar Hoover and Joe McCarthy through his detailed review and analysis of voluminous documents, and that is what the ALEC Exposed project is all about," said CMD's Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief, Lisa Graves. She added, "We launched this effort because we believe the public has the right to know about proposed legislation that politicians and their corporate benefactors are voting on behind closed doors. ALEC's activities undermine the integrity of our democracy, and every single week more and more journalists are helping to expose ALEC, and countless citizens are speaking out about ALEC's agenda."
CMD's Real Economy Project Director, Mary Bottari, noted, "Stone spent his life debunking government spin and propaganda. Now that the ALEC bills are public, state legislators can no longer pretend that these extreme proposals are their own brilliant public policy innovations."
Independent Media's Stellar Year
"This year's winners were selected from an exceptional pool of diverse nominees," said judge Linda Jue, Executive Director and Editor of the San Francisco-based G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism. "Amid social upheaval at home and abroad, independent media outlets had a stellar year monitoring institutional power, chronicling systemic problems and pointing toward solutions."
CMD's ALEC Exposed team was led by Graves and Bottari, and included Wendell Potter, the Center's Senior Fellow on Health Policy, along with Brendan Fischer, Rebekah Wilce, Eric Carlson, Jennifer Page, Steve Horn, Sara Jerving, Pat Barden, Sari Williams, Nikolina Lazic, Page Metcalf, Anne Landman, Jill Richardson, and Jessica Opoien.
The award was also given to Democracy Now! senior producer for his coverage of the Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt. The Izzy Award judges commended Kouddous for his "breathtaking bravery" and "unflinching on-the-street reporting" during the protests.
"Both Sharif Abdel Kouddous and the Center for Media and Democracy continue the Izzy Stone legacy of fearless journalism that stands up to the powerful and stands with the forces for change," said judge Jeff Cohen, the director of the Park Center for Independent Media.
Izzy Stone launched his weekly report in 1952 to counter government disinformation. He produced the publication in his basement, never accepted advertising, and never increased the $5 annual subscription price. At one point, Marilyn Monroe bought enough subscriptions to send one to each member of Congress.
In previous years, the award has been given to independent journalists including Robert Scheer, Jeremy Scahill, Glenn Greenwald, and Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman. In September 2011, CMD and The Nation also received the "Sidney Award" from the Sidney Hillman Foundation for the ALEC Exposed project.