N&O reporters are finalists for award

From staff reportsApril 8, 2011 

Two News & Observer reporters have been selected as finalists for a national journalism award for their work about the State Bureau of Investigation, award sponsors announced Thursday.

Mandy Locke and Joseph Neff are among four finalists for the Michael Kelly Award, presented by the Atlantic Media Company to reporters who exhibit "the fearless pursuit and expression of truth." Kelly was the editor of National Journal and The Atlantic Monthly who died while covering the war in Iraq in 2003.

Locke and Neff researched and wrote a four-part series, "Agents' Secrets," last August. It revealed that some SBI agents were bullying vulnerable suspects and that some lab analysts had pushed past the accepted bounds of science to deliver results that helped prosecutors' cases.

Locke, 32, came to The N&O in 2004. She covered the case of Greg Taylor, a Wake County man who served 17 years for murder before being exonerated early in 2010. It was that case that led to the "Agents' Secrets" series.

Neff, 51, is a veteran investigative reporter who has written extensively about criminal justice. He laid bare the prosecutorial misconduct of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong in the Duke lacrosse case, and in 2008, he worked on a series about the state's crippled probation system.

Other finalists for the award include journalists from The Associated Press, Mother Jones magazine and Slate. The finalists will attend a dinner in Washington later this month, when the winner will be announced.

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