Tag Archives: Deborah Nelson

Nelson Details Circus Elephant Investigation

Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism Deborah Nelson.  Photo by Marissa Parra

Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism Deborah Nelson. Photo by Marissa Parra.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – An historic decision to retire the beloved Ringling Bros. Circus elephants has put the spotlight on a year-long investigation by the Merrill College’s own Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism Deborah Nelson.

The 2011 report for Mother Jones Magazine documented deaths, injuries and illness (TB) in the company’s famous herd. It led to the largest civil penalty against an exhibitor in the history of the Animal Welfare Act.

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Yesterday, Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. announced they would phase out the elephants by 2018. In a press release, Feld said, “Under the plan, 13 elephants currently traveling with the three Ringling Bros. circus units will be relocated to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant for Conservation® in Florida by 2018. There they will join the rest of the Ringling Bros. herd of more than 40 elephants.”

Professor Nelson’s investigation was mentioned on Bloomberg TV and she discussed the story today (March 6) on Newsmax TV’s Mid-Point program with host Ed Berliner:

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Associate Professor Deborah Nelson and Reuters Team Take 3rd Place IRE Award

Merrill College Associate Professor Deborah Nelson.

– From an IRE News Release

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism Deborah Nelson and a team of reporters from Reuters have won a third place Philip Meyer Award from the Investigative Reporters and Editors. The award is given to reporters using the best social science research methods. Nelson – along with Reuter’s reporters Ryan McNeill and Duff Wilson – won for their series “Water’s Edge, The Crisis of Rising Sea Levels,” that “exposed that government at all levels remains unable or unwilling to address the problem of rising sea levels while continuing to incentivize growth in those areas most at risk.”

First place was awarded to “The Medicare Advantage Money Grab,” by Fred Schulte, David Donald, Erin Durkin, and Chris Zubak-Skees of The Center for Public Integrity. The project revealed nearly $70 billion in “improper” Medicare payments to health plans from 2008 through 2013. The investigation exposed how federal officials missed multiple opportunities to corral overcharges and other billing errors.

Second place was awarded to ProPublica’s “Temporary Work, Lasting Harm” by Michael Grabell, Olga Pierce, Jeff Larson and Lena Groeger. This series combined street-level reporting with sophisticated  social-scientific analysis to expose a disturbing, little-noticed trend taking hold in industrial America — major companies have turned to temporary workers to fill dangerous jobs in factories, warehouses and processing plants, and they face a much greater risk of injury than other workers.

The Meyer Award recognizes the best uses of social science methods in journalism. The awards will be presented on March 7 in Atlanta at the 2015 ComputerAssisted Reporting Conference. The first-place winner will receive $500; second and third-place winners will receive $300 and $200, respectively. The award is administered by the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (a joint program of Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Missouri School of Journalism) and supported by the Knight Chair in Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

About the Philip Meyer Award

The Meyer Award honors Philip Meyer, professor emeritus and former Knight Chair in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Meyer is the author of “Precision Journalism,” the seminal 1973 book that encouraged journalists to incorporate social science methods in the pursuit of better journalism. As a reporter, he also pioneered the use of survey research for Knight-Ridder newspapers while exploring the causes of race riots in the 1960s.

For more information contact:

Mark Horvit, IRE Executive Director, 573-882-1984 or mhorvit@ire.org
Brant Houston, Professor and Knight Chair of Investigative Reporting, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 217-244-8861 or houstonb@illinois.edu

The Philip Merrill College of Journalism Remembers Ben Bradlee

A Washington Post photo of then-Editor Ben Bradlee.

A Washington Post photo of then-Editor Ben Bradlee.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – American journalism lost an icon Oct. 21 when former Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee died at age 93. Bradlee is best known for his tenacious and fearless oversight of the Post’s investigation of Watergate during the Nixon era.

A number of current Merrill College faculty members who worked at the Post remember him fondly.

“I had the good fortune of working for Ben Bradlee for more than 20 years when he was the Executive Editor of the Washington Post and I was his Sports Editor,” said George Solomon, who is now the director of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the Merrill College.

“I tell everyone his greatest asset as an editor and leader was his ability to make your day special with a five-minute conversation at the start of a day. He inspired, cajoled, supported and in many cases hired a great group of journalists because he knew what made us tick and how to best do a difficult job. He knew a story, how to get a story and the importance of supporting his editors and reporters. If you were to ask me — and so many others who worked at The Washington Post – what was the highlight of your career, the answer would be simple: Working with and knowing Ben Bradlee.”

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Bradlee attended the grand opening of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism in November, 2011. Here is poses with members of the Povich family.

Bradlee attended the grand opening of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism in November, 2011. Here he poses with members of the Povich family.

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Deborah Nelson Named Merrill College Associate Professor

Senior Lecturer Deborah Nelson will become Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism this fall. Photo by Marissa Parra

Senior Lecturer Deborah Nelson will become Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism this fall.
Photo by Marissa Parra.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Philip Merrill College of Journalism will have a new Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism this fall. Senior Lecturer Deborah Nelson received news this past week that University President Dr. Wallace Loh had officially approved her tenured position.

In announcing the promotion to Merrill College faculty, Dean Lucy Dalglish wrote, “Deb joined Merrill College in 2006 as a Visiting Professor and quickly became indispensable. Her experience as a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Seattle Times and years leading investigative teams at the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post have inspired our students. She has taught everything from investigative reporting to media law and mobile journalism (in Latvia!). Her classes are challenging, and I always enjoy speaking to her very well-prepared media law students. While working hard at Merrill College, Deb has continued to publish award-winning investigative stories.”

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Merrill Students Win National 2011 SPJ Mark of Excellence Award for Food Safety Investigation

COLLEGE PARK – A team of student investigative journalists at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism won several 2011 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence awards for a national project on food safety standards.

The “How Safe is Your Food?” project was produced by student journalists at the Merrill College, Arizona State University, the University of Missouri and Harvard University as part of News21.  News 21 is a program of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, fostering in-depth, interactive and innovative investigative journalism at journalism schools across the country.

The package included in-depth text stories, interactive graphics and video segments that examined holes in the corporate and government systems for preventing outbreaks of foodborne pathogens.

The package won first place in the online in-depth reporting categories.  Additionally, a section of the package focusing on salmonella authored by Merrill students Jeffrey Benzing, Esther French, Judah Ari Gross and Robyne McCullough (“Salmonella Lurks from Farm to Fork”) won first place in the online feature reporting category and was a runner-up in the in-depth reporting category.

The project was produced by students working in two newsrooms, one at Merrill and the other at Arizona State University.  The project was overseen by former Washington Post top editor Len Downie.

“You see the full palette of Merrill students’ talents and skills in the News 21 project — in-depth reporting presented in a high-impact mix of text, video and interactive graphics.  The project also highlights the important role that universities play in training the next generation of journalists — and producing good journalism,” said Deb Nelson, a professor of investigative journalism at the Merrill College who directed the newsroom at the University of Maryland.

Other Merrill faculty members served as editors on the project, including Sean Mussenden, co-director of the college’s Capital News Service program, Sandy Banisky, the college’s Abell Professor in Baltimore Journalism, and doctoral student Stanton Paddock.

“These journalists spent the summer reporting from farms, farmer’s markets, slaughterhouses, grocery stores and congressional hallways.  They got answers from people who didn’t want to talk to them.  And they found compelling ways to tell stories — as the judges acknowledged,” Banisky said.

Other Merrill students also won 2011 SPJ awards.  Christopher Haxel won the national SPJ Mark of Excellence Award for general column writing and Merrill Student Jeremy Schneider placed second in the sports column writing category.

First-place national winners will be recognized at the Excellence in Journalism 2012 conference Sept. 20-22 in Fort Lauderdale.

For the entire list of SPJ 2011 National Mark of Excellence Winners, please click here.