Nakkula award goes to Florida Sun Sentinel reporters
Two Florida reporters have won the 2014 Al Nakkula Award for Police Reporting from the CU Journalism & Mass Communication program and the Denver Press Club.
The $2,000 Nakkula prize goes to reporter Megan O’Matz and database editor John Maines of the South Florida Sun Sentinel for their series, “Cops,Cash,Cocaine.” The piece uncovered a police department’s secret scheme to lure drug dealers to a small town, entangle them in a sting and pocket money from the operation. The police department reaped millions of dollars and individual officers collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime payments.
“The Sun Sentinel’s report stood out for the sheer doggedness of the reporting and the reporters’ exposure of such an audacious operation,” said Nakkula judge Kevin Vaughan, who currently works as an investigative reporter for Fox Sports.
Sun Sentinel editor Howard Saltz said he was proud of the reporters’ work: “ ‘Cops, Cash, Cocaine’ was one of those stories that allowed Megan O’Matz and John Maines to deploy the skills they have become known for around here: Piecing together bits of information, reviewing documents endlessly, talking to sources and checking things out in person. In other words: Old-fashioned tenacity,’’ he said.
“The result of their investigation not only revealed something that still boggles the mind when you read it, but served the community by forcing a highly unusual — and arguably dangerous — police operation to shut down.”
O’Matz has received numerous state and national honors for previous work and was a 2006 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting.
Series co-reporter Maines has been a database editor for the Sun Sentinel for 16 years. He and a Sun Sentinel colleague won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
Second place in this year’s competition went to reporters John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for their series, Backfire.
The judges also sent a special commendation to the staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for the depth and breadth of their work in 2013. The staff entered two major reporting projects in the contest.
The contest was judged by five former Rocky Mountain News reporters, most of whom worked with Nakkula.