WATERVILLE, Maine — A.C. Thompson, a reporter whose work led to federal charges against seven New Orleans police officers in connection with the shooting of civilians after Hurricane Katrina, will receive Colby College’s 2013 Lovejoy Award for courageous journalism on Oct. 27.
Thompson, 41, works for ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. He will accept the award and an honorary Colby doctorate at a formal convocation at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27, in Colby’s Lorimer Chapel. The event, which includes a speech by the recipient, is open to the public.
The Lovejoy Award, given annually since 1952, honors the memory of Elijah Parish Lovejoy. Lovejoy was Colby’s valedictorian in 1826 and an abolitionist newspaper publisher who was killed in Alton, Ill., in 1837 for condemning slavery and defending his right to publish.
In New Orleans from 2007 to 2010, Thompson probed shootings that he said were not properly investigated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. His research into the police department’s investigations into those shootings indicated police had relied heavily on statements made by officers involved, failed to interview civilian witnesses, and neglected to collect physical evidence from the scenes, ProPublica reported.
In a case that became a story line in David Simon’s HBO series “Tremé,” Thompson wrote about Henry Glover, a 31-year-old African-American New Orleans resident who after having been shot by a police officer, was taken to a school where his brother and a neighbor sought aid from a SWAT team. Instead of being helped, Glover was driven to a levee in the car he arrived in, which later was found burned with his remains inside. Five officers were charged in the death of Henry Glover. Three were convicted.
“The Nation” published an article by Thompson that described how “White vigilante justice tore through New Orleans after the storm, but no official investigation has shed light on the violence.” Thompson interviewed members of a vigilante group that built barricades and roamed Algiers Point heavily armed and later boasted about “hunting” African Americans. The story, Thompson wrote, “fits into a broader pattern of violence in which, evidence indicates, at least 11 people were shot. In each case the targets were African-American men, while the shooters, it appears, were all white.”
“A.C. Thompson has focused his considerable reporting skills in some of the nation’s darkest corners,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and chair of the selection committee that chose him, in a press statement. “His work has ranged from exposing police officers who were later charged with shooting unarmed civilians to probes of misconduct in assisted living homes. Throughout, A.C.’s reporting has been courageous and exhaustive. He is an independent thinker, always searching for news that would otherwise go uncovered. That is hard to do, and it takes a particular sort of courage to persist in pursuing a story where others have determined there is none.”
Associated events at Colby on Oct. 27 include a panel discussion “From JFK to the Marathon Bombing: 50 Years of Crisis Reporting” at 4 p.m. in the Diamond Building. It will feature Marcela Gaviria, PBS Frontline producer; Adam Goldman, Associated Press reporter in the Washington, D.C.; Eric Shawn, anchor and senior correspondent for FOX News; and Mike Pride, retired Concord (N.H.) Monitor editor. The Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement will hold a conference for college newspaper editors earlier in the day.
The selection committee that chose Thompson for the award includes Lipinski; Pride; Rebecca Corbett ’74, senior enterprise editor for the New York Times; Gregory Moore, editor of the Denver Post; David Shribman, vice president and executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Professor Dan Shea, director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby; and Steve Engelberg, editor-in-chief of ProPublica (who recused himself from the vote).
Last year the Lovejoy Award went to Bob Woodward, who helped break the Watergate story that toppled President Richard Nixon 40 years ago. Past winners include Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson of NPR; Jerry Mitchell, whose reporting brought Ku Klux Klansmen to justice for racially motivated murders; Daniel Pearl (posthumous) of the Wall Street Journal; and David Halberstam.
Founded in 1813, Colby is the 12th-oldest independent liberal arts college in the nation. Colby provides a rigorous academic program that fosters transformational relationships between students and faculty. Graduates emerge as leaders ready to make an impact on their world. Colby is committed to making the full experience accessible to all qualified students, regardless of their ability to pay. The college enrolls 1,825 students. Additional information about Colby is available at colby.edu.