Phoenix New Times writers Antonia Noori Farzan and Joseph Flaherty have won a prestigious George Polk Award for their story about Motel 6 divulging guest lists to immigration authorities.
Long Island University announced the winners of the 69th annual George Polk Awards in Journalism at a ceremony today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Farzan and Flaherty share the Immigration Reporting Award with Maria Perez of the Naples Daily News.
"Antonia and Joe are both new to New Times, but it hasn't taken them long to embrace what New Times has always done best ... find stories that matter and that others aren't reporting," Phoenix New Times editor Stuart Warner said. "The award is one of the most prestigious in journalism, and it is well-deserved. But it doesn't mean that their reporting on this is over. Motel 6, we're still watching."
Farzan and Flaherty combed through hundreds of documents and conducted numerous interviews for the first explosive article on September 13. Farzan staked out Motel 6 late at night, warding off creeps and getting motel staff to confirm what had become routine to them: Every morning, staff at two Phoenix-area Motel 6 outlets would send a list of names to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau. ICE had been showing up at the motels every two weeks or so to arrest undocumented guests. The writers took a more in-depth look at the problem in a November 30 feature article.
The September article received nationwide attention from the public and fellow journalists. The Columbia Journalism Review, in one of hundreds of online articles about New Times' story, declared the scoop "an advertisement for alt-weeklies." It also won the October 2017 Sidney Award for outstanding journalism.
In January, the state of Washington Attorney General launched a lawsuit against the motel chain in January over its practice, which the corporation claims it stopped.
Farzan and Flaherty's win is recorded along with names from the highest tiers of journalism in 2017.
The Polk awards this year honored the staff of the New York Times and the staff of the Washington Post with "a Special Award for uncovering connections between Trump campaign officials and well-connected Russians that gave rise to the Mueller investigation."
Jody Kantor and Megan Twohey of the New York Times, along with Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker, won a National Reporting Award for exposing Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's history as a sexual predator.
See the Long Island University's news release for a complete list of winners.