Veteran L.A. Weekly reporter Christine Pelisek has been awarded the finalist prize by the globally prestigious Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. for that organization's highly coveted Tom Renner Award, which honors outstanding reported on organized crime or other criminal acts.

Christine's amazing scoop and followup work on the Grim Sleeper serial killer in 2008 was beat out for the top medal in this highly competitive category by a team of 14 journalists in 10 countries (see below). Christine Pelisek is the only journalist in America to be honored by IRE with a “finalist” nod for the Renner Award — no others entries were named, aside from the winning team covering the “Tobacco Underground.”

It's an incredible nod to a dedicated reporter working entirely alone for many years to pursue a single hunch that turned out to be true. And Pelisek is still on the case.

From the IRE Awards Website:

Tom Renner Award

    * MEDAL
    * Tobacco Underground — The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Center for Public Integrity; Stefan Candea, Duncan Campbell, Te-Ping Chen, Gong Jing, Alain Lallemand, Vlad Lavrov, William Marsden, Paul Cristian Radu, Roman Shleynov, Leo Sisti, Drew Sullivan, Marina Walker Guevara, Kate Willson, David E. Kaplan
    * Judges' comments: Fourteen journalists in 10 countries took great risk to provide a comprehensive and compelling look at the illicit trafficking in tobacco. The reporters found organized criminal activity robbing governments of tax money. Using hidden cameras and computer-assisted reporting, the team uncovered the story of hundreds of billions of contraband cigarettes, many being sold in the U.S. through Indian reservations. The report, which employed a sophisticated multimedia presentation and interactive Web site, also detailed how one major British manufacturer is encouraging the illegal trade.

    * Grim Sleeper; LA Weekly/Village Voice Media; Christine Pelisek

LA Weekly