Al Jazeera-English and Sara Ganim, the reporter who broke open the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, were among the winners of George Polk Awards in Journalism, announced Sunday by Long Island University.
Ganim is a 24-year old crime reporter for the Harrisburg Patriot-News whose dogged pursuit of a grand jury investigation helped her uncover one of the biggest scandals in the history of college athletics. She won for Sports Reporting.
The reporting of Ganim and some of her colleagues was instrumental in uncovering a lurid history of alleged sexual abuse and rape by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, a loyal lieutenant of Joe Paterno.
Paterno, the winningest coach in college football history, died Jan. 22, just a few months after the university dismissed him. Many suspected he was complicit in covering up Sandusky’s actions, though both students and alumni of the school protested his firing.
A Polk Award for Television Documentary marks another substantial achievement for Al-Jazeera English, the burgeoning network that had its biggest year to date in 2011. AJE expanded its global reach to 250 million homes, penetrated major U.S. markets such as Chicago and New York, and continues to receive awards for its coverage of the Arab Spring.
AJE, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in November, took home its first DuPont award in December and won this prize for its documentary on Bahrain, titled “Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark.”
“We are delighted to have won such a prestigious and coveted award,” Al Anstey, managing director of Al-Jazeera English, said in a statement. “This recognition comes on the back of a series of high-profile award wins for the channel, and is a testament to Al-Jazeera’s commitment to put honest, eye-witness reporting at the heart of the global news agenda.”
The Polk Awards have been administered by Long Island University since 1949. They are named after George Polk, a journalist killed covering the civil war in Greece.
Other winners this year include the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, the New York Times’ C.J. Chivers and Ira Glass, host of radio show “This American Life.”
Times employees won two different awards while Anthony Shadid, the Times’ foreign correspondent who died in Syria last week, won a posthumous special award.