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Center for Public Integrity Responds: ‘Unfortunate PR Campaign by ABC News’

publici-icon-300x300The war of words between ABC News and The Center for Public Integrity is heating up.

CPI’s executive director Bill Buzenberg doesn’t mince words responding to ABC News President Ben Sherwood‘s request that the two organizations share CPI’s Pulitzer Prize.

“Thank you for your letter of last night regarding the black lung investigation, which was also sent to our full Board of Directors and the news media. I have to assume this is all part of an unfortunate PR campaign by ABC News,” Buzenberg writes.

He adds that ABC News joined the coal-mining industry investigation–one that resulted in Johns Hopkins shuttering their black-lung program, and congressional action–halfway through, and produced “sporadic” reporting geared toward TV, not print.

“Not true,” ABC SVP for Communications Jeffrey Schneider responds to TVNewser. “We were invited to join this investigation by the former executive director at the outset, which was October 2012.”

Schneider adds examples of joint reporting: “Many of our stories on ABC.com are bylined by Chris [Hamby], although he didn’t write them. Many of our on-air reports list him as a producer, even though he didn’t shoot anything, conduct on-camera interviews, or spend a moment in the editing booth.”

“ABC was a wonderful coalition partner, and did great television, but the Pulitzer Prize is specifically for print and digital companies,” Buzenberg tells TVNewser. “It’s not a TV award. They didn’t write the 2500-word story, written entirely by Chris Hamby.”

Buzenberg also included a response from Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler.

Bill: I’ve reviewed the entry again. It is overwhelmingly Hamby’s work and was entered by the center in conformance with our rules on limited partnerships (SEE BELOW). The rules expressly state that the eligible entity must do the preponderance of the work; specific elements produced by the ineligible entity (such as ABC video) cannot be entered; and if there is a prize it will go ONLY to the eligible organization that submitted the work.

“We know the Pulitzer committee has strict rules, but we think there is probably precedent for ABC News to share this award,” Schneider said.

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