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Published: Saturday, 9/16/2006

Blade's 'Coingate' probe wins investigation award

BLADE STAFF

The Blade's probe of Ohio government that unearthed the state's "Coingate" scandal won another honor yesterday as it was named the winner of the George Bliss Award for Investigative Journalism.

The George Bliss Award, which is presented by the Chicago-based Better Government Association, recognizes the best investigative journalism in the Midwest. The Blade will be honored at an awards reception at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago on Sept. 29.

"The Blade has demonstrated why investigative journalism is so vital in our country," said Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Better Government Association.

"Elected officials must be held accountable for their actions, and journalists have an obligation to dig and ask tough questions. 'Coingate' is the perfect example of how good reporting can lead to significant change in government."

The Bliss Award includes a $3,500 prize for the winning entry.

The Blade's reporting team, supervised by special-projects editor Dave Murray and composed of Blade Columbus bureau chief James Drew and staff writers Mike Wilkinson, Steve Eder, Christopher D. Kirkpatrick, Joshua Boak, and Jim Tankersley, has documented the scandal that ensued at the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation after the newspaper reported on its ill-fated $50 million rare-coin venture with former Toledo-area coin dealer and Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe.

The Blade's ongoing 17-month investigation into Ohio government and the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation has led to a number of indictments and convictions. Noe is set to go on trial next month on charges he stole from the coin-fund, and a number of other Ohio officials have been touched by the scandal, including Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, who was convicted on misdemeanor charges for breaking the state's ethics laws.

Separately, Noe was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison this week for illegally funneling $45,400 to President Bush's re-election campaign.

The Blade's series has garnered more than a dozen national, state, and local honors, including being named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The project has also won top honors in the National Headliner Awards and the Gerald Loeb Award for business reporting.

Also recognized by the Better Government Association was the Daily Southtown. The Chicago newspaper was given an honorable mention for its coverage of corruption in Harvey, Ill.



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