Martha-Mendoza

Guild member Martha Mendoza among Goldsmith, Polk Award winners

AP team also won Selden Ring Award; Guardian staff among Goldsmith finalists

The AP team that uncovered how seafood sold in U.S. grocery stores and restaurants had been produced by slaves, which includes longtime News Media Guild member Martha Mendoza, continues to rack up the awards.

The four-person team most recently took home the $25,000 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting from Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, announced March 3. Earlier this year, the team won the 67th annual George Polk Award and the USC Annenberg 2016 Selden Ring Award.

Martha Mendoza

Mendoza, a senior journalist now in the AP’s San Jose, California, bureau, wrote the series “Seafood from Slaves” with overseas colleagues Margie Mason, Robin McDowell and Esther Htusan.

The series uncovered the use of slave labor in the Thai seafood industry, which supplies major U.S. supermarkets, restaurants, and food suppliers, including Wal-Mart, Kroger, Sysco, Nestle, Whole Foods, and Red Lobster.

The investigation led to the freeing of more than 2,000 enslaved fishermen from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, the jailing of perpetrators, congressional hearings and the proposal of new laws. The U.S. State Department used the series as part of its decision to give Thailand the lowest rating for human trafficking and has discussed the findings during diplomatic talks.

Martha Mendoza among winners of Goldsmith, Polk awards

“The issue had been bubbling up a little in Southeast Asia, as some slaves escaped — but it hadn’t been getting much attention,” Mendoza said. “We set out to do two things that hadn’t been done before. One was to find people currently working as slaves, to put an end to the suggestions that the problem was behind us. The second thing was to specifically track the supply chain to the major retailers, so they could no longer disassociate themselves from the labor abuse.”

Winning the awards will bring more attention to the issue, Mendoza told the folks at Annenberg. “The enslaved people were risking their lives when they spoke to us. Yet they told their stories with courage and integrity. They deserve the recognition.”

The Polk awards were announced Feb. 14 by Long Island University. The awards were created in 1949 in honor of CBS reporter George W. Polk, who was killed while covering the Greek civil war. The awards will be given out April 18.

The $35,000 annual Selden Ring Award, which the School of Journalism at USC Annenberg has presented for 27 years, honors the year’s outstanding work in investigative journalism that led to direct results.

Mendoza, who joined the Guild when she was hired in 1995, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for her work as part of the team that revealed the decades-old secret of how American soldiers early in the Korean War killed hundreds of Korean civilians in a massacre at the No Gun Ri Bridge.

Jamiles Lartey

Jamiles Lartey

Among the finalists for the Goldsmith award was a team that included Guild members Jon Swaine and Jamiles Lartey from the newly organized Guardian US.

With their colleagues, Swaine and Lartey helped document the number of people killed by police in the U.S., telling the stories of who they were, and establishing the hidden trends in how they died, through a database, special reports, and multimedia.

The investigation’s final tally for 2015 of 1,134 deaths was two and a half times greater than the last annual total recorded by the FBI. After the publication of “The Counted,” the FBI announced at the end of 2015 that it would overhaul its system of counting killings by police. The Department of Justice also began testing a new program for recording arrest-related deaths, drawing on Guardian data.

John Swaine

The Goldsmith Investigative Reporting Prize carries a $25,000 award for the winner and $10,000 for finalists. It is intended to recognize and encourage journalism which promotes more effective and ethical conduct of government, the making of public policy, or the practice of politics by disclosing excessive secrecy, impropriety and mismanagement or instances of particularly commendable government performance.