Business Journal, ProPublica Receive First Place Awards for Investigative Reporting

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Press Club of Cleveland has awarded Dan O’Brien, associate editor of The Business Journal, two first place awards for excellence in journalism.

O’Brien won first place in the Business Publication, Public Service/Investigative category for his work on the “Promises Made, Promises Broken” series.

“Stunning work made compelling with incredible focus on telling details,” said the judges in their comments.

O’Brien also won first place in the Business Publication, General News category for the series, “Largest Tax Break Clawback in U.S. Corporate History.”

“This is what real reporting is: A true example of dogged journalism and consistent follow-ups,” the judges said. “When news organizations have this type of reporting: ones that stir public debate and catch the attention of those in power – in the public or private sector – they have done their jobs. Here, we have a job well done.”

The “Promises Made, Promises Broken” series was produced in partnership with ProPublica.

Dan O’Brien

The awards were presented during The Press Club of Cleveland All Ohio Excellence in Journalism Awards ceremony, which was held virtually. The Business Journal submitted two entries and won first place in both categories.

“We are honoring the best journalism in Ohio,” said Denise Polverine, president of the Press Club of Cleveland. “This has been a year like no other and journalism played such a big role in our community.”

In “Promises Made, Promises Broken,” O’Brien investigated how incentive programs administered by the city of Youngstown over the past three decades have failed to create and sustain jobs.

The story, along with other pieces on the Chill-Can project, can be found HERE.

“The stories The Business Journal published with ProPublica for the first time presented a deep look into how tax incentives have failed to have a meaningful impact on economic development in the city of Youngstown,” said O’Brien. “I’m very proud to accept these awards on behalf of The Business Journal and ProPublica.”

As a case study, O’Brien looked at the Chill-Can project on the city’s east side.

The city awarded the project a $1.5 million development grant and a tax abatement of 75% over 10 years, though the project has yet to produce a single can, or deliver the 200-plus jobs promised.

The city also spent at least $360,000 to purchase houses and relocate several residents.

In June the city filed suit against the developer of the Chill-Can project, seeking $2.2 million in damages.

In “Largest Tax Break Clawback in U.S. Corporate History,” O’Brien investigated the state of Ohio’s efforts to clawback more than $60 million in subsidies from General Motors, after the automaker closed its assembly plant in Lordstown.

“Our reporting on the aftermath of General Motors Co.’s closure of its Lordstown plant cast a public spotlight on otherwise clandestine discussions between the state of Ohio and GM over tax incentives the automaker was awarded in exchange for keeping the plant open,” said O’Brien.

“A settlement was reached that called for the automaker to repay $27 million to the state and to deliver another $12 million in assistance directly to the Mahoning Valley. It is considered the largest single clawback in U.S. history.”

Below are the stories contained in the award-winning General News series:

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.