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Gottlieb, Vives, staff win Polk Award for Bell reports

February 22, 2011 | 12:06 pm

Times Editor Russ Stanton sent the following memo to the newsroom, congratulating Jeff Gottlieb, Ruben Vives and the staff for their reporting on the city of Bell:

Congratulations to Jeff, Ruben and the 25-plus-member Bell crew, who tonight were named winners in the local reporting category in the 61st annual George Polk Awards.

The judges called the reporting "explosive," noting that city officials were receiving some of the highest salaries in the country despite the fact that they were leading one of the poorest cities in Los Angeles County, and that they had bilked residents of millions of dollars and secretly enriched themselves, even as they cut services and fired workers. As you know, eight current or former city officials have been arrested on corruption charges, and the state controller's office has ordered municipalities to post the salaries of officials on the Internet.

The Polks, one of the most prestigious awards programs in journalism, are named after the former CBS News correspondent, who was killed while covering the civil war in Greece in 1948. They are administered by Long Island University.

Tonight's award is the 18th won by the Los Angeles Times since the Polk program began in 1949. Five other current staffers are previous Polk winners: Paul Pringle for labor reporting in 2008, Ken Weiss for environmental reporting in 2006, Carolyn Cole for photojournalism in 2004, Don Bartletti in the international category in 2002 and Tracy Wilkinson for foreign reporting in 1998. In addition, this newsroom’s staff won awards for political reporting in 1996 for tracing funding from Asian sources to the coffers of the Democratic National Committee, some of which was in violation of federal law, and for local reporting in 1992 for coverage of the Los Angeles riots.