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Watchdog City Press Reporters Win a Prestigious Green Eyeshade Award from the Society of Professional Journalists

NAPLES, FL -- Watchdog City Press reporters have won a prestigious Green Eyeshade Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in a 63-year-old competition open to journalists in 11 southern states.

Reporter Gina Edwards and editor Cathy Zollo have received a second place Green Eyeshade Award in the category of Business Reporting Online for “Trusting Wall Street’s Wizards Behind the Curtain: More than $240 billion in public pension fund money locked in secretive private equity deals with little taxpayer scrutiny.” The story was originally published in November 2012 on

Florida Center for Investigative Reporting’s Amy Green took first place for her work on sugar price supports in the online business reporting category.

Other Green Eyeshade online winners include and the New York Times online division,

The Green Eyeshade is the nation’s largest and oldest regional journalism contest. Since 1950, The Green Eyeshades have recognized the very best print, television, radio and online journalism in the southeastern United States.

Journalists from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia vie for honors and southerners from the Society of Professional Journalists host The Green Eyeshade contest.

Wall Streets Private Equity Wizards Behind the CurtainEdwards’ story, “Trusting Wall Street’s Wizards Behind the Curtain: More than $240 billion in public pension fund money locked in secretive private equity deals with little taxpayer scrutiny,” pointed out the increasing share of public pension money that is being invested in risky private equity deals on behalf of public servants.

The in-depth story explains growing concerns about whether public pension funds — and public employees and taxpayers — are getting ripped off on fees and pay-outs in secretive private equity deals.

The private equity industry has control of more than $240 billion in taxpayer-funded public pension fund money, based on Edwards’ analysis of financial statements from 88 pension funds from all 50 states. These public pension funds hold the retirement nest eggs of some 20 million teachers, police officers, firefighters, building inspectors, and other public employees.

Edwards’ story described concerns of some public pension fund managers, academics, union leaders and federal Securities and Exchange Commission regulators about:
■ The accuracy of accounting of private equity investments held by pension funds;
■ Whether some private equity firms are providing misleading information and cutting secret side deals that give preferential treatment to certain influential investors;
■ And whether pension funds — and taxpayers — are getting ripped off by fees and hidden conflicts of interests.

News consumers can find Edwards’ on-going series of related stories, “Secret Deals, Public Money” published on in which Edwards has fought for public access to information about the private equity and hedge fund holdings of the Florida pension fund, the nation’s fourth largest defined benefit public pension fund. A secrecy law passed by the Florida Legislature in 2006 makes most of the information about these private deals with taxpayer money confidential and closed to public scrutiny.

Secret Deals Public Money on Watchdog CityAfter months of fighting for public records, Edwards reported in April that the Florida pension fund lost out on $1 billion on just six closed out private equity deals, compared to what the pension could have made if it had invested the same amount upfront in a less risky public stock market index fund during the same time.  

About Gina Edwards: Gina Edwards is a national award-winning investigative reporter who specializes in public corruption, securities fraud and corporate crime. During her career, Edwards has uncovered fraud involving hundreds of millions of dollars related to securities fraud, pump-and-dump market manipulation, mortgage fraud, real estate land trust fraud, hedge funds, mortgage backed securities and Ponzi schemes.

Her investigation spanning more than four years uncovered evidence of bribes and influence peddling, resulting in the appointment of a special prosecutor and charges against three local County Commissioners, the county manager and six developers and business officials. Edwards’ is noted for analyzing large-scale data sets to tease out investigative findings that would otherwise be impossible to find by hand.  

She has received journalism awards from Investigative Reporters & Editors, Society of Professional Journalists, Scripps Howard Foundation, Sunshine State Awards, Florida Press Club and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.  Prior to co-founding Watchdog City, she worked as a reporter and editor at the Naples Daily News, the Reston Times and the Reston Connection.  She served as Editor-in-Chief of Broadside, the student-run newspaper at George Mason University.   

About Watchdog City: Founded by independent journalists, Watchdog City's marketplace creates a system that allows individual journalists to sell their stories directly to the public. Participating Watchdog City Press journalists distinguish themselves by pledging to uphold standards of journalistic integrity that preserve independence and maintain credibility. Thousands of reporters have lost their jobs or left journalism in recent years and the result is fewer eyes on the public's business. Watchdog City provides news consumers with a way to find stories that big corporate media chains aren't covering. News consumers decide if these Watchdog City journalists are successful by buying their stories and evaluating their work for others.