Congrats to the Washington Post, winner of the 2005 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting for their series on lead in D.C. water pipes. Details, and the other winners, below the fold.

Beginning in January 2004, Washington Post journalists David Nakamura, Carol D. Leonnig, D’Vera Cohn, Craig Timberg, Monte Reel, Sarah Cohen and Jo Becker began reporting and publishing more than 200 articles alerting local residents to dangerously high levels of lead in tap water.

Their continuing investigation ultimately resulted in the firing of James Buford, director of the District of Columbia Department of Public Health, and revealed that water agencies across the country have manipulated or withheld test results that disclose high levels of lead content. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency along with federal prosecutors, environmental officials and state regulators are now investigating whether several water utilities have broken criminal or environmental laws by misrepresenting the lead levels in their drinking water

"The Washington Post’s work was a very important piece of journalism — important to every man, woman and child living in the District of Columbia, drinking its water and thinking it was pure. And it was important to the residents of other cities whose water is contaminated by lead and other toxic substances," said Michael Parks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former editor of the Los Angeles Times who now serves as director of USC Annenberg’s School of Journalism.

In addition to the Washington Post, judges hailed three other papers for their outstanding work, recognizing them as finalists for the 2005 Selden Ring Award:

• Chicago Sun-Times, Tim Novak, Steve Warmbir, “Paid to Do Nothing”
The Chicago Sun-Times “began with a reporter’s observation — an idle truck — and launched a classic, shoe-leather investigation that led to the elimination of a $40 million program that had benefited Mayor Richard Daley’s cronies and family.”

• The New York Times, Diana Henriques, “Financial Advice, At a Price”
Diana Henriques’ “timely report on how insurance companies, investment firms and lenders have fleeced thousands of soldiers was so specific and concrete that impact was immediate – even among a Congress and military that had tolerated the abuse for decades.”

• The Seattle Times, Ken Armstrong, Florangela Davila, Justin Mayo, “The Promise of an Equal Defense”
The Seattle Times exposed “shocking ineptitude, crushing workloads and attorney profiteering with a series of well-crafted stories that prompted Washington State’s effort to overhaul its indigent judicial-defense program.”