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Atlantic Media has announced four finalists for the 2010 Michael Kelly Award.

The $25,000 award will be given at a ceremony at the company’s Washington, D.C. headquarters on April 18. The award was created in honor of Michael Kelly, who was editor of two Atlantic Media publications, The Atlantic and NJ and was killed while covering the war in Iraq in 2003.

Chosen from a field of 50 entries, finalists are:

1. Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian, LAT
Based on five months of tenacious reporting, Bensinger and Vartabedian chronicled the problem of unintended acceleration in Toyotas. As LAT Editor Russell Stanton wrote in his nomination letter, Bensinger and Vartabedian “challenged assumptions, developed their own evidence and built a compelling case of corporate malfeasance and regulatory indulgence.”

2. Sheri Fink, ProPublica
Who should be saved first when disaster strikes? That’s the question that doctors and nurses at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans faced in the harrowing days after Hurricane Katrina when scores of patients were trapped in a building without electricity or running water. In “The Deadly Choices at Memorial,” ProPublica writer and medical doctor Sheri Fink reconstructed the decisions that resulted in some patients being injected with lethal doses of morphine as others were boarded onto rescue helicopters.

3. Jeffrey Gettleman, NYT
As the East Africa correspondent for NYT, Gettleman has tracked the spread of Islamic radicalism, interviewed pirate bosses in Somalia (one of whom laughed that their lunch together was like “the cat eating with the mice”) and described how mass rape of women and men has become a weapon of war in eastern Congo. He’s been shot at by insurgents and dealt with the constant risk that his reporting will put him in harm’s way.

4. David Rohde, NYT
Rohde described how he and two Afghan colleagues were kidnapped by the Taliban outside Kabul and held for seven months before he and one of his colleagues escaped on foot to a Pakistani military base. Rohde was initially reluctant to write about his experience, telling his editors, “I donÂ’t want to make myself look like a hero. I am not a hero.”

Five judges comprised the selection panel:

Ken Armstrong, The Seattle Times

Siobhan Gorman, WSJ

Charlie Green, NJ

Kathy Kiely, USA Today

Cullen Murphy, VF

More information, including full entries and past winners, visit here.