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"Journalism that made a difference..."

"Going to work in the morning is hell," [Ventura] Martinez sobbed. "Coming home from work is hell. I'm thinking that somebody is gonna...pop me from behind."

For seven years, Martinez has worked as one of the city's most productive police informants, bringing down more than 200 drug and gun dealers.

But Martinez now says that some of the police jobs were tainted, rooted in lies and motivated by power, greed and money. He says he admitted fabricating evidence to the FBI, the police Internal Affairs Bureau and the Police Advisory Commission. Martinez's admission could reopen and potentially overturn hundreds of cases, legal experts say.

-- "The informer, the cop & the conspiracy"; Philadelphia Daily News, Feb, 2, 2009.

Several times in the last year, I've told you about the remarkable investigative reporting by my two Daily News colleagues, Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker. Their series of articles called "Tainted Justice" exposed significant corruption within a unit of the Philadelphia police department; it's a great public service and a great read, and there's something else: It took an enormous amount of guts, because confronting the powers that be is a hard thing in any town but especially here in Philadelphia. They knew going into this that exposing an injustice wasn't going to win them any local popularity contests.

Luckily, there are people who take note of such courage. Today, the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) awarded one of its top prizes -- the Distinguished Writing Award for Local Accountability Reporting award -- to Laker and Ruderman for "Tainted Justice." I want to leave you with what the ASNE wrote because nothing I could say can top this:

Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman, Philadelphia Daily News, for their series about a rogue squad of Philadelphia narcotics cops that systematically looted mom and pop stores under the guise of busting them for selling drug paraphernalia. The series prompted an FBI investigation, new police policies and a number of civil rights lawsuits. Direct, descriptive writing. Journalism that made a difference in the community.