The National Press Club announced today that ProPublica reporter Robert Faturechi won the Sandy Hume Memorial Award for Excellence in Political Journalism. The award, which honors excellent work by a journalist under the age of 35, recognized his reporting on the extraordinary state-by-state lobbying efforts of U.S. homebuilders to block life-saving fire sprinklers from new homes.
In Faturechi’s “Fire Fight,” he explained how – even though the nation’s model building code insists on sprinklers – the homebuilding industry has helped foil efforts to make them mandatory in at least 25 states. Cultivating allies in statehouses through campaign contributions, packing state regulatory councils with industry-friendly members, and other tactics, the well-financed lobby has shaped state politics.
The piece also illustrated how the battle over sprinklers has consequences beyond politics, telling the stories of preventable deaths and injuries from fires in homes built without sprinklers since the beginning of 2009, after they became a nationally recommended standard.
“Faturechi’s story on the lobbying battles surrounding the requirement for sprinklers was an outstanding case study on the influence of money in politics,” said contest judges. “The story was very well reported and written, with a lot of interesting details. And it showed a good use of data to explain and move the story forward, casting a bright light on lobbying outside the Washington beltway.”
See a list of all the National Press Club award winners here.