USA Gymnastics has failed to report to police many allegations of sexual misconduct by coaches. That allowed predatory coaches to continue working with children for years after the organization was warned.
IndyStar received the Tom Renner award for criminal justice reporting for detailing the scope of child sexual abuse in gymnastics and the failure of Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics to immediately report allegations of such abuse to authorities.
"Without question, this series of stories was one of the most important and impactful works of journalism seen in recent years," the judges said.
IndyStar's reporting led to the arrest of a longtime USA Gymnastics national team doctor, the resignation of the organization's longtime president and bipartisan federal legislation co-sponsored by 16 senators.
The investigation was reported by Marisa Kwiatkowski, Mark Alesia and Tim Evans, and edited by Steve Berta. Robert Scheer was the videographer.
The project was also a finalist in the category of best print and online journalism by medium size newspapers. An Atlanta Journal Constitution project won in that category.
The judges commented, "The newspaper's reporting encouraged a number of victims to go public. By the end of the year, the newspaper could count hundreds of gymnasts who had been assaulted in the past two decades.
"The Star's work prompted the ouster of the USA Gymnastics president and led to the charges against physician Larry Nassar at Michigan State University who had been on the American team's staff at four Olympic Games. Nassar has since been indicted on federal and state charges."
Finalists for the award were the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, KMGH in Denver and the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network.
IRE established the Renner Award in 1990, the year he died. Renner was known as the leading investigative journalist on organized crime, putting his unromantic insights about the mob into books, including a best-seller, and Newsday.
He was among the reporters from various newspapers who went to Arizona in the mid-1970s for the "Phoenix Project," an IRE investigation that started after the murder or an Arizona Republic reporter — and soon after the founding of IRE. The investigation found links between the mob and political figures.