hello everybody good evening thank you
so much for being here for those of you that don’t know me I’m Selymar Colón a 2020 Nieman Fellow and together with my fellow fellow Andras Petho
had the great privilege to co-chair the process where each Nieman class is
responsible for choosing a journalist or a news organization that displays
conscience and integrity in journalism thank you everyone for joining us
special welcome to Lippmann House to all guests and specially to our guest of
honor Carla Minet executive director and Omaya Sosa co-founder and journalist of Centro de Periodismo Investigativo de Puerto Rico in English center for investigative journalism of Puerto
Rico when we began the the process to select this year’s honoree we asked the class to nominate a journalist or organization that represented the values of
conscience and integrity and we began our deliberations with 25 names which
included both individuals and institutions our first part of the
selection process started online thanks to the work of our fellow Oliver Roeder our co- co-chair and thank you Ollie thank you also for
fixing my tie before this event you you served this award in multiple
capacities so this process allowed the class to narrow the discussion and as
good journalists who do question the choices that came up during this
selection and after fortunately peaceful and fruitful process the class voted to
award this year’s Louis M. Lyons Award to the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo de Puerto Rico or as los gringos say the Center for Investigative Reporting of Puerto Rico this choice as you all know made me
extremely proud to not only be a journalist a Nieman Fellow but to be a
Puerto Rican aka Boricua the work of CPI Have had a direct impact on
the lives of all Puerto Ricans that live on the island or in the mainland U.S. when
you are in Puerto Rico almost every conversation includes a reference to BM
before Maria or AM after Maria trying to put into context and show the
contrast of life before and after the devastating hurricane of September 2017
BM before Maria CPI was becoming a force to be reckoned with
and their lessons and experiences since they officially launched in April of
2008 this prepared them for what they had been facing as journalists since
I’ve seen September of 2017 just a week after Hurricane Maria made landfall in
Puerto Rico CPI was the only news organization that was able to confirm
that there were inconsistencies in the government reports of the death toll caused by the storm you will know the videos of when Trump visited
Puerto Rico and his celebration when he was there of an achievement of a low
death toll because of the work of federal and local government response to
the emergency seven weeks after the first report Omaya and her colleague
Jeniffer Wiscovitch published new information where they were able to
independently confirm that the death toll was higher than what the government
was reporting CPI became the leading voice in holding the government
accountable after the storm in the mismanagement of the emergency the
ongoing investigations by CPI forced them to once again get on a legal battle
with the government of Puerto Rico in order for them to release official
documents related to the deaths after the storm Hurricane Maria’s dead
a special investigation published a year after the storm made landfall by CPI
Associated Press and Quartz where our very own Ana Campoy was the lead
journalist for Quartz is the only record that identifies 487 victims of the storm
and like the special investigation points out and I quote many families say
that the real cause of death was government inaction CPI has been around
for more than 10 years becoming the much-needed watchdog of the government of Puerto Rico constantly promoting and pushing for transparency and conducting
in-depth reporting about economic political and fiscal issues that affect
the people of Puerto Rico not only CPI has fought in court for the
constitutional right of access to information but they have also become a
training center for journalists in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in
December of 2017 executive director Carla Minet said that this decade of
learning has prepared our team for a new stage which is particularly important
given the challenging moments that our island is going through and that new
stage turn out to be especially challenging During the summer of 2019
the journalists of CPI changed the politics of Puerto Rico as we had known them
They were able to access and get exclusive access to 889 pages of a
newly discovered telegram chat of the now ousted Governor of Puerto Rico
Ricardo Rosselló the content of those conversations enraged Puerto Ricans who took to the streets for the first time I was actually talking to Omaya about
this in Puerto Rico it’s extremely rare that people go out to the streets and
protest so massively so this was a whole new event a whole new era for Puerto
Ricans and it was thanks to the work of CPI and their journalism we all know how
that ended Puerto Ricans have taken to the streets
before like I mentioned but never in recent history we had seen approaches of
this magnitude with such a strong outcome this was the best display of the impact of journalism holding accountable those in power this moment
in Puerto Rican history will be remembered as the summer of 2019 or like we say in Spanish el verano de dos mil diecinueve The work of all the
journalists at the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico
is more important than ever to continue on covering corruption
mismanagement and abuse of power by local politicians and institutions
obviously I’m not as familiar with Puerto Rico as Sely I might be able to
find it on a map as it apparently it seems that that’s being required for
journalists these days but I still find the work of CPI that it resonates
with a lot of us around the world as we all know that uses the news industry
struggling almost everywhere but in the more fortunate corners of the world
sometimes you can see that organization are allowed or operated with the help of
generous philanthropists and with budgets of millions or even tens of
millions of dollars and of course that’s great I think we should be all grateful
for that but it’s always much more inspiring to see when you see
journalists achieving amazing impact with very few resources and only through
their persistence intelligence and hard work I think CPI is one of the best
examples for that and we are honored to have you here with us and accepting our
award so to end on behalf of the Nieman Class of 2020 congratulations Carla, Omaya and the whole team at Centro de Periodismo Investigativo for the Louis M. Lyons Award for conscience and integrity in
your work in journalism