Former New Times columnist Sarah Fenske was honored last week with the prestigious Livingston Award for a three-part series she wrote in Phoenix last year about corruption at the top of the Maricopa County Housing Authority. The series ("Mr. Big Stuff," (February 11, April 22, July 1, 2010) led directly to Doug Lingner's resignation as head of the authority, after he was put on leave following the publication of Fenske's findings.
At a luncheon held at the Yale Club in New York City, Newsweek's Anna Quindlen — one of the Livingston judges — sought Fenske out to congratulate her in person and laud her writing skills. Dean Baquet, just named managing editor of the New York Times, introduced Fenske to a crowd that included journalists Morley Safer, Steve Kroft, Charlie Gibson, and Ken Auletta — telling the group that she wrote the kinds of stories Baquet wrote as a reporter, only better. Fenske's series won in the Local Reporting category. John Henion and Mariana Van Zeller of Current TV won the National Reporting award; and Matt Katz from the Philadelphia Inquirer took the prize for International Reporting.
The Livingston Awards, limited to journalists under 35, are touted as the "largest all-media, general-reporting prizes in the country." This was the 30th anniversary of the awards. Fenske's series also was a finalist for an award from Investigative Reporters and Editors.
Fenske left Phoenix New Times last summer to become managing editor at another Village Voice Media paper, the Riverfront Times in St. Louis.