Bell businessman Joseph Lee, left, and 15-year Bell resident Hussein Saleh… (Christina House / For The…)
The Los Angeles Times' uncovering of exorbitant salaries and financial irregularities in the small working-class city of Bell has been awarded Investigative Reporters and Editors' top honor.
The nonprofit group awarded the IRE Medal for the newspaper's coverage, which involved more than a dozen reporters and editors and resulted in criminal charges against city officials and millions of dollars refunded to taxpayers.
"At a time when many news organizations are pulling back and reducing coverage of outlying cities, the Los Angeles Times uncovered a story of incredible greed in one of the state's poorest towns, Bell," the award's judges said, noting that the stories' impact has been "far-flung."
Times Editor Russ Stanton said the paper was "honored and humbled to receive this kind of recognition from a formidable organization like IRE."
"We remain committed to providing this kind of in-depth reporting about the public institutions that are vital to our democracy," he said.
The newspaper's Bell coverage previously received the George Polk Award for local reporting, the American Society of News Editors' distinguished writing award for local accountability reporting, and the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting from the University of Southern California.
The IRE medal was also awarded to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the BBC International News Services for their reporting on the global asbestos trade.
Also a finalist for the medal was another Times series, "Grading the Teachers," about the "value-added" method of analyzing teacher performance, which sparked a national debate on how best to evaluate educators' effectiveness. The Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times also were finalists.