Maine Investigative Reporter Colin Woodard Receives Prestigious George Polk Award

Maine Investigative Reporter Colin Woodard Receives Prestigious George Polk Award
for Special Achievement in Journalism

Portland, Maine – Colin Woodard of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram has been awarded the George Polk Award for Education Reporting for his September 2, 2012 investigative story, “The Profit Motive,” that shed light on how the nation’s largest for-profit online education companies were steering development of Maine’s digital education policies.

Woodard’s analysis of over 1,000 pages of administration correspondence and documents and his interviews with sources across the country generated a series of stories that showed how the state’s education commissioner allowed outside interests to ghostwrite much of his digital education agenda, including draft laws, digital education goals and even the text of a key executive order issued by the governor of Maine.

John Darnton, Curator of the George Polk Awards at Long Island University (LIU) stated, “Our judges agreed that your work was extraordinarily reported, written with insight and powerful in its conclusions.”

While more than 700 stories were submitted for recognition, Woodard’s story was one of 14 stories to receive a 2012 Polk Award. Other journalists recognized included David Corn of Mother Jones for breaking the story about Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments and reporters from both the New York Times and Bloomberg News who uncovered and reported on high-level corruption in China.

Woodard’s story has been picked up or written about by news organizations across the country. Since its publication, Maine state officials have rejected applications from the companies in question and state legislators are debating legislation that would impose temporary or permanent moratoriums on full time virtual charter schools in Maine.

“I am honored to be receiving what is one of the most prestigious awards in our profession, and delighted that it is for an investigative report written for the people of my native state,” said Woodard, a Waterville native and longtime foreign correspondent. “Like many of my colleagues, I was drawn to journalism because of the vital civic role it can play: apprising the public of what those in power are doing and why they are doing it. In an age when national-level interests are investing time, money, and energy in shaping Maine’s policies, the role of professional, independent watchdog journalism has become more important than ever.”

Portland Press Herald Executive Editor Cliff Schechtman said the award recognizes the critical role that watchdog journalism plays in protecting public interests in the American political system. “It is satisfying that national experts have recognized our efforts to expose how powerful forces can impact the lives of ordinary Mainers,” he said. “Our readers can expect to see a continued emphasis on investigative journalism.”

“Congratulations to Colin and Cliff and everyone who helped with this important story,” said MaineToday Media CEO & Publisher Lisa DeSisto. “Our readers should expect more state, regional and national awards for professional journalism. Colin Woodard is one of ten new, top notch journalists added to the Press Herald by new ownership in 2012. We are committed to serving Maine people and communities and being their trusted source for news and information every day.”

DeSisto noted that the Woodard’s Polk Award capped an impressive year of recognitions for Portland Press Herald reporters including 25 New England Associated Press News Executives Awards, 38 Maine Press Association Awards and several awards for sports writing and reporting including the Associated Press Editors top ten sports section award, the Associated Press Editors sports column writing award for Steve Soloway and the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Maine Sportswriter of the Year Award for Kevin Thomas.

The George Polk awards will be presented at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City on Thursday, April 11, 2013.

About MaineToday Media, Inc.
MaineToday Media, Inc. is Maine’s largest media company with award-winning brands and services that reach the widest audience in the state of Maine, providing business owners with a variety of media platforms including: print, digital, events, and mobile. MaineToday Media businesses and products include The Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel, The Coastal Journal, MaineToday.com, MaineToday Digital and MaineYellowPages.com.

About the George Polk Awards
The George Polk Awards in Journalism are conferred annually to honor special achievement in journalism. The awards, which place a premium on investigative and enterprise reporting, were established in 1949 by LIU to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war. To read the press release and see the other 2012 George Polk Award winners, go to http://www.liu.edu/polk.

For more on Colin Woodard
To read the George Polk Award winning “The Profit Motive” story and learn more about Colin Woodard’s other investigative reporting for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, see www.pressherald.com/awards.

To interview Colin Woodard
For Maine reporters interested in interviewing Colin Woodard about this story, please contact Monica Castellanos at 207-240-2581 or mcastellanos@elevate-cc.com. Others media can contact Daniel Roberti at 212-981-5133 or daniel_roberti@dkcnews.com.