I hadn’t known there was a courage award for journalists, though it’s an attractive idea—many journalists excel mostly because they’ve got plenty of it.
But Jamie Kalven, founder and executive director of Chicago’s Invisible Institute, has just been named the winner of this year’s Ridenhour Courage Prize. He was cited for his “central role” in breaking the story of the death of Laquan McDonald at the hands of Chicago police. “In reporting that appeared ten months before the fateful release of the video footage,” says the citation, “he challenged the official account of the shooting by police, having secured the autopsy report that revealed the 17-year-old had been shot sixteen times and located a civilian eyewitness.”
The citation goes on to hail Kalven for launching the Citizens Police Data Project, “an interactive database housing 56,000 civilian complaints against 8,500 Chicago police officers—information he secured after a lengthy court battle.”
Ron Ridenhour was the Vietnam veteran whose letter to Congress led to the exposure of the My Lai massacre, when as many as 500 unarmed civilians were killed by American troops in a South Vietnamese hamlet in 1968. Ridenhour later became an investigative reporter himself and won a George Polk Award in 1987. He died in 1998.