Joel Grover story on NBC4, Scientology book win IRE awards*

This year's Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. awards include one to KNBC's investigative team for "In Harm's Way," called by the judges a "gripping series of reports [which] tackles the topic of ground transportation safety, focusing on a string of tour bus accidents in southern California and astoundingly lax government policing of that industry."

The team took a multifaceted approach to the investigation, focusing both on inspection and accident records, as well as an on-the-street documentation of driver behavior. The team found regulators with knowledge of tour bus safety violations who still allowed the buses to carry passengers, as well as a record of dangerous driver behavior on many of the routes followed. The team overcame language difficulties in dealing with owners of bus companies and enlisted expert help to be sure speed reports on the buses followed were accurate. The investigation achieved major results, including a highway patrol raid on one of the companies and federal regulators shutting down six companies

The named winners are Joel Grover, Chris Henao, Ernesto Torres, Phil Drechsler, Keith Esparros, Kris Li and Bobbi Eng. View the pieces on YouTube.

Winning in the book category was Lawrence Wright's "Going Clear, Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief." Say the judges:

Wright's investigation of the Church of Scientology is groundbreaking in its examination of one of the most well known, but secretive, religion organizations in the world. He draws on previously secret documents-- including internal works of the church's founder L. Ron Hubbard--interviews with former and current members of the church and hundreds of court records to present a hard- hitting, but balanced view of church and its followers. The book shines a light on the church's harsh treatment of those who try to leave, but also highlights those, including some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, who have benefited from its teachings. The book also explores the complicated biography of the church's founder and its relationship with its most famous member, actor Tom Cruise. Despite threats from the church, which is known for its aggressive defense of its works and members, this work provides the best understanding of Scientology to date.

* Oops: I overlooked another local winner, the Center for Investigative Reporting and CNN for a series of stories on scam rehab clinics that was centered in the Los Angeles area. Here is CIR's webpage for Rehab Racket.

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