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David Donald wins Philip Meyer Award

By Domanique Jordan

SOC Professor David Donald

David Donald is American University School of Communication Data Journalist in Residence and Data Editor at the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

American University professor David Donald and a team at the Center for Public Integrity received the first-place 2014 Philip Meyer Journalism Award from the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting for the series "Medicare Advantage Money Grab," .The series exposed how the medical industry raised the risk scores for elderly patients to overbill the Medicare Advantage program tens of billions of dollars. 

The judges noted that the Center won first-place because "despite the challenges of dealing with complex and voluminous government data, they aptly dissected the shocking shortcomings of a program that was meant to stabilize costs, but instead has allowed the industry to harvest huge sums by saying patients were sicker than they were." 

"That the award is named after Philip Meyer is quite meaningful. I read his seminal book Precision Journalism very early in my career, and much that he wrote about has directed my development and work through the years. So winning the award twice in the past three years is its own confirmation of my fulfilling what I set out to accomplish as inspired by Meyer's work," said Donald.

Meyer is professor emeritus and former Knight Chair of Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This is the second time Donald has taken the top Meyer award. In 2010, he took second place, with the Center for Public Integrity for the series on "Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice." 

"It's no surprise therefore that in the past year, many of the world's leading news organizations in New York and London were interested in hiring David away from the Center for Public Integrity," said SOC Professor Chuck Lewis, Executive Editor of SOC's Investigative Reporting Workshop. "So imagine our delight when he decided to come to American University."

Donald, brought his talents to AU through a joint appointment as the SOC data journalist in residence and as a data editor at the Workshop.

"I've had two strands to my professional career. I've practiced data journalism for many years, most recently as data editor at the Center for Public Integrity. I've also been actively involved with journalism education, especially my five years as Investigative Reporter and Editor's training director prior to my work at CPI," said Donald.

"Professor Charles Lewis approached me with the idea that I could combine the two at American University. I could teach data journalism, which was needed here, and I could continue to practice data journalism through the Investigative Reporting Workshop that he directs within the School of Communication. When SOC Dean Jeffrey Rutenbeck not only supported the idea but also convinced me that we could innovate around data journalism here at American, it seemed like the perfect fit."

The Workshop is a non-profit, professional newsroom in SOC. The Workshop publishes in-depth stories about government and corporate accountability, ranging from the environment and health to national security and the economy.  

The award will be presented on March 7 at the 2015 Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference in Atlanta.