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The Controversy over Harper’s Win for Best Reporting at the Ellie

On of the major upsets at the National Magazine Awards this week was the “Reporting” award, which went to Harper’s for Scott Horton‘s “The Guantanamo ‘Suicides’.” The piece had a mixed reception when it was published; moreover, it was up against two standout articles — not just of this year but of any year — the Rolling Stone article “The Runaway General” by Michael Hastings (that led to the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal), and The New Yorker exposé of the Koch brothers by Jane Mayer.

Horton’s piece begins with the premise that not only has President Obama failed to close Guantanamo, he may be more implicated in horrors that have occurred there than has previously come to light. It begins:

[N]ew evidence…suggests the current administration failed to investigate seriously—and may even have continued—a cover-up of the possible homicides of three prisoners at Guantánamo in 2006.

Joe Pompeo at The Cutline gathered up some of the reactions around the media. Slate’s media critic, Jack Shafer, had the most biting criticism over the win:

I am dumbfounded. The Harper’s piece is a souffle of conjecture. Did the judges actually read it? Do they really think the Obama administration is covering up murders committed during the Bush administration?

In defense, ASME chief executive Sid Holt told The Cutline:

The judges included more than a dozen leading reporters, editors and educators from across the country. I can assure you the judges were both impartial and experienced. ASME is entirely confident in the ability of the judges to evaluate a piece of reporting.

Judge for yourself by reading the piece in its entirety here.

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