Former Center for Public Integrity reporter Daniel Wagner won the prestigious Livingston Award for reporting on the predatory practices of Warren Buffett’s mobile-home empire, it was announced Wednesday.
The $10,000 prizes for journalists under the age of 35 are the largest all-media, general-reporting prizes in the country, according to a press release announcing the awards.
Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the University of Michigan to support a new emphasis on digital media efforts, the program continues to see an increase in digital submissions, with 21 percent more than in 2015.
Livingston judges Dean Baquet of the New York Times, John Harris of POLITICO, Kara Swisher of Recode and Code Conference, and Ken Auletta of the New Yorker introduced the winners at a luncheon in New York City.
“The judges have a remarkable record in singling out for early recognition journalists who go on to leadership, including Thomas Friedman, Christiane Amanpour and David Remnick,” said Charles Eisendrath, founding director of the program at the University of Michigan. “Adding a prize for mentors who provide indispensable guidance at critical moments in a developing career help complete an important circle of celebration.”
Eisendrath is a former member of the Center for Public Integrity’s board of directors.
Wagner, 34, shared the award with Mike Baker, 31, of the Seattle Times. Wagner is now with BuzzFeed News. The series revealed how Clayton Homes, a part of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, and its lending subsidiaries, target minority homebuyers and lock them into ruinous high-interest loans.
“Our story showed that Clayton had not reinvented and perfected mobile-home lending, but instead had quietly bought up much of the rest of the industry, creating a near monopoly in many markets,” Wagner said. “In addition, it showed how reverse redlining, a practice typically associated with lending to urban minorities, is a serious problem in rural areas.”
Among the other winners:
Lisa Gartner, 28, Michael LaForgia, 32, and Nathaniel Lash, 24, of the Tampa Bay Times, for “Failure Factories,” an investigation into the high failure rates and violence in five Florida elementary schools.
Adrian Chen, 31, of the New York Times Magazine, for “The Agency,” an investigation into an internet trolling organization located in St. Petersburg, Russia, responsible for spreading pro-Kremlin propaganda and manufacturing false stories about unrest and disaster in the U.S.
Charles Eisendrath received the Richard M. Clurman Award for his dedication to mentoring young journalists. A former Time correspondent based in Washington D.C., London, Paris and Buenos Aires, Eisendrath came to the University of Michigan a journalism fellow in 1974. He stayed to join the faculty and later head the master’s program for journalism.
In 1980, Clurman asked Eisendrath to design and direct the Livingston Awards. In 1986, Eisendrath became the third director of the Michigan Journalism Fellowships and transformed a financially strapped sabbatical program into the prestigious, globetrotting Knight-Wallace Fellowships and built a $60 million endowment to maintain them in perpetuity. For nearly four decades, he positively influenced the careers and lives of hundreds of journalists. Eisendrath, who is retiring, will donate his prize money to the Livingston Awards endowment.
In addition to Auletta, Baquet, Harris and Swisher, the Livingston judging panel includes Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent and host of “Amanpour”; Ellen Goodman, author and co-founder of The Conversation Project; Clarence Page, syndicated columnist and editorial board member of the Chicago Tribune; and author Anna Quindlen.