The Invisible Institute’s Jamie Kalven will receive the George Polk Award for local journalism for his coverage of the killing of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police in October 1014. His winning article, “Sixteen Shots,” was posted online by Slate in February of last year.
Kalven is being honored not only for what he reported but for what he predicted. At the time he wrote, the police video of McDonald being shot repeatedly by Officer Jason Van Dyke had not been released. Kalven’s Polk citation notes that his Slate article concludes, “with great prescience”:
The McDonald footage will come out, but a great deal turns on how it comes out… If the city resists releasing the video until legally compelled to do so, outrage at what it depicts will be compounded by outrage that the city knew its contents (and the autopsy results) in the immediate aftermath of the incident yet withheld that information from the public. The fate of Laquan McDonald—a citizen of Chicago so marginalized he was all but invisible until the moment of his death—has thus become entwined with that of Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel. It presents his administration with a defining moment.
Perhaps the city had no interest in anything Kalven predicted. Perhaps it detested him as the gadfly and nuisance who a year early had prevailed in Kalven v. Chicago, a suit requiring the police department to make public past records of misconduct complaints against individual officers. At any rate, the city kept the Laquan McDonald video under wraps, and the rest followed in just the way Kalven said it would.
The Polk Awards honor investigative journalism and are administered by Long Island University. In stature, they rank with the Pulitzer Prize. George Polk was a CBS correspondent shot to death in 1948 while covering the civil war in Greece.