Institute-Sponsored Reporting Results in Federal Legislation

July 12, 2011

The U.S. House of Representatives late last week passed an amendment to this year’s Defense Department Appropriations Bill prohibiting Pentagon funds to be used for human trafficking. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Karen Bass (D, Calif.), was spurred by a June 6 New Yorker article, “Invisible Army,” authored by Sarah Stillman, who wrote the story with funding from The Reporting Award, given by New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

The Reporting Award, now in its second year, funds articles on under-reported subjects in the public interest.

“With cutbacks in newsrooms across America, important stories like this one may never see the light of day, and abuses that could be corrected will never be documented,” said Stephen Solomon, associate director of the Institute. “It becomes more important than ever for journalists to get funding from nontraditional sources, such as NYU Journalism’s Reporting Award.”

Bass’ amendment passed the House on Thursday, July 7. Stillman’s New Yorker story may be read here.

“Mr. Chair, a recent New Yorker article illustrates the urgent need for my amendment,” Bass said on the House floor. “The article tells the story of two women from Fiji who thought they were going to lucrative salon jobs in Dubai but ended up ‘unwitting recruits for the Pentagon’s invisible army of more than seventy thousand cooks, cleaners, construction workers, fast-food clerks, electricians, and beauticians from the world’s poorest countries who service U.S. military logistics contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan,’ as the New Yorker author wrote.”

“Mr. Chair, thousands of private contracting defense firms, including some of the industry’s biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, have been linked to trafficking-related incidents,” she added. “Thousands of nationals from impoverished countries are lured by the promise of good jobs, but sometimes end up victims of scams that leave them virtual slaves with no way to return home or seek legal recourse.”

The Reporting Award supports a work of journalism in any medium on significant underreported subjects in the public interest. In establishing the award, the Carter Journalism Institute’s faculty cited the need for encouraging enterprise journalism during a time of extensive layoffs and budget cuts throughout the journalism industry. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism recently estimated that the newspaper industry has lost $1.6 billion in annual reporting and editing capacity since 2000—a reduction of roughly 30 percent.

The award includes a stipend of $2,500 upon selection as the competition winner and an additional $10,000 upon timely completion and submission of the work, provided the Institute’s awards committee judges the work acceptable. The winner also has use of the Institute’s facilities, including an office, as well as NYU’s libraries and other scholarly resources. In addition, the program funds up to $6,000 in NYU journalism graduate student assistance. The Institute will publish the completed work either alone or in partnership with another media outlet.

For more on The Reporting Award, click here.