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Paul Pringle wins Polk Award for labor reporting

February 17, 2009 | 10:40 am

Editor Russ Stanton sent this announcement to newsroom staff:

Colleagues:

Please join me in congratulating Paul Pringle, who tonight was named the winner of the 2008 George Polk Award for labor reporting, for his terrific series about corruption in the nation's fastest-growing labor union.

Beginning last August, Paul's reporting disclosed the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars of union funds to the benefit of Tyrone Freeman, who headed a Los Angeles local of the Service Employees International Union.

The money, much of which came from dues paid by union members who earned as little as $9 an hour, went to a golf tournament at the Four Seasons, a cigar club in Beverly Hills, dinners at Morton's steakhouse and payments to firms owned by Freeman's wife and mother-in-law. Paul's stories led to Freeman's firing by the union, an internal investigation and continuing probes by federal officials.

Read on for the rest of the memo, and a link to the series.

As Paul continued to dig, the story broadened, forcing other top officials of the union to step aside, including the head of a major SEIU local in Michigan, who had worked with Freeman in Los Angeles, and the SEIU's top statewide official in California. All this stemmed from that most basic tool of all good reporters -- tenacious, persistent digging to uncover facts.

Like all great stories, this one had an interesting beginning: Mr. Freeman called Paul one day and said he was a very important person and that Paul should write about him. So he did.

Paul's work underscores the important role that the LA Times plays in serving as a watchdog for our readers. And it's great to see great to see others in the field recognizing that work. Paul's stories, which were edited by Linda Rogers, also have won the Distinguished Journalist award from the LA chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. They can be viewed in their entirety at www.latimes.com/seiu

Today's news article in the California section lists other winners as well.

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