NEW YORK – Reveal reporter Shoshana Walter was honored today with a Livingston Award, which recognizes outstanding work by young journalists, for a series of stories about the armed security guard industry in disarray.
Walter and former Reveal reporter Ryan Gabrielson, who worked extensively on the series and now reports for ProPublica, received the award for national reporting at a luncheon in New York. The awards, which are administered by the University of Michigan, recognizes journalists under 35 years old.
The Hired Guns project grew out of reporting in Oakland, California, and expanded into a multimonth investigation of the entire industry across all 50 states. The series revealed how armed security guard licenses had been handed out to people with mental illnesses, felons, former police officers with disciplinary records, and even people barred by court from owning guns. Some guards were given a gun and a badge without a single firearms training course.
“This project was built on challenging an assumption many of us have made in our daily lives – that armed guards make us safer,” Walter, 29, and Gabrielson, 34, wrote about the project. “Few realize armed guards are subject to such low standards of training and oversight. We went to the public records for answers and were overwhelmed with cases in which people were harmed because guards had guns. The most harmed were the guards themselves.”
Hired Guns was launched in December in collaboration with CNN senior investigative producer Scott Zamost and investigative correspondent Drew Griffin, who produced a two-part segment for “Anderson Cooper 360.” At Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, current and former staffers Caroline Chen, Rachael Bale, Matt Drange, Emmanuel Martinez and Aaron Williams also contributed to the project.
The Livingston Award for international reporting was given to Matthieu Aikins, 30, for his work in Syria for Matter/Medium, “Whoever Saves a Life.” Aikins left his home on Kabul to report on Syria’s rebel fighters in Aleppo, documenting the use of barrel bombs that “combine crude fuses with as much as two thousand pounds of TNT, along with pieces of junk steel and rebar that turn into red-hot shrapnel on detonation.”
The award for local reporting went to Kiera Feldman, 29, whose story for The New Republic and The Investigative Fund looked at sexual assault at Patrick Henry College, a private religious school. “Sexual Assault at God’s Harvard” showed how administrators had fostered a culture in which women were treated as lesser beings, and assault cases were treated with silence or dismissed.
Several judges noted that all three winners came from organizations that would not be considered traditional, mainstream news outlets.