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Journalism alumnus McCarthy '04 wins Polk Award for reporting

Brendan McCarthy’04 (center) receives an Emerson Alumni Achievement Award.

Alison O’Leary Murray
February 23, 2011

Brendan McCarthy ’04, a reporter with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, was one of 13 winners of the prestigious George Polk Awards in Journalism.

According to a statement released by Long Island University, the George Polk Award for Television Reporting went to a team composed of the nonprofit ProPublica, PBS’s Frontline, and the Times-Picayune “for a monumental collaborative effort that took an in-depth and unwavering look at the controversial and often brutal actions taken by the New Orleans Police Department in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.” Titled “Law & Disorder,” the multimedia investigative series revealed that police officers shot at least 10 people—killing four—in the week after the 2005 catastrophe.

In 2009, McCarthy won the Mike Berger Award for human interest reporting from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism for similar work related to the aftermath of Katrina.

McCarthy has visited Emerson to speak to Journalism students several times, according to Journalism Department Chair Ted Gup, himself a one-time Polk Award winner. “It’s extraordinary at his age to be part of a team that won a Polk Award,” Gup said, noting that it is the second-most prestigious award for journalists after the Pulitzer Prize.

“This bodes well for his future. He is doing serious, serious reporting and it shows that high-quality reporting is still valued greatly.”

McCarthy cited Emerson faculty members Jerry Lanson and Ric Kahn as “hugely impactful” on his journalistic career. “Jerry Lanson’s beat reporting class is as close to real-life daily news reporting as you can get in a classroom setting,” said McCarthy, who was advised by Kahn when he worked on the Berkeley Beacon. McCarthy is a native of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

The awards, named for a CBS correspondent murdered while covering the Greek civil war in 1948, will be presented at a ceremony on April 7 in Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hotel.