Tulane scholarships investigation by N.O. Advocate and WWL-TV wins national recognition

The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV have earned national recognition in the annual Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards contest for a joint investigation into the Tulane University legislative scholarship program.

The project, reported by Gordon Russell of The New Orleans Advocate and Mike Perlstein of WWL-TV, was named a finalist in the organization’s “multiplatform” journalism category.

The entry — consisting of broadcast, print and online work in 2013 — exposed favoritism and inconsistencies in the awarding of Tulane scholarships by state lawmakers under a program that has its roots in a series of deals between the state and Tulane in the 1880s.

The joint investigation highlighted scholarships that were awarded to insiders and politically connected friends, family members and campaign contributors.

The series of reports prompted lawmakers to file a number of bills in this year’s legislative session. Among the proposed reforms: a prohibition on awarding scholarships to campaign contributors or their close relatives, better disclosure of recipients’ relationships to politicians and an effort to better publicize the availability of the full scholarships around the state.

Among the other national IRE Award winners this year were the Guardian US, ProPublica, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Reuters, inewsource and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.