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(From left to right) Daffodil Altan (’04), Andrés Cediel (’04) and Abbie VanSickle (Berkeley School of Law ’11)

The Investigative Reporting Program’s PBS Frontline documentary “Trafficked in America” has been named one of seven finalists for the prestigious Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

“Trafficked in America” investigates how teenagers from Central America were smuggled into the U.S. by traffickers who promised them jobs and a better life, only to force them to live and work in virtual slavery to pay off their debts. The documentary exposes a criminal network that exploited undocumented minors, the companies that profited from their forced labor, and the U.S. government policies and practices that helped deliver some teens directly to their traffickers.

The Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, which carries a $10,000 award for finalists and $25,000 for the winner, recognizes journalism that promotes more effective and ethical conduct of government, the making of public policy, or the practice of politics.

In the announcement, Shorenstein Center Director Nicco Mele said, “Our finalists demonstrate the critical role of the press in our democracy, from holding the highest levels of federal government accountable and directly impacting national policy, to uncovering abuses of power in small towns and communities and making an enormous tangible difference to people’s everyday lives.”

The judges said “Trafficked in America” uncovered “widespread criminal abuse,” and highlighted that it will be used as a Department of Justice Anti-Human Trafficking training tool for thousands of law enforcement officials and prosecutors.

The film was written and produced by Daffodil Altan and Prof. Andrés Cediel, both from the class of ’04. Altan is also the film’s correspondent. Previously they produced “Rape on the Night Shift” (2015) and “Rape in the Fields” (2013) – award-winning investigations about sexual abuse in the agricultural and janitorial industries. Lecturer Abbie VanSickle (UC Berkeley School of Law ’11) was the film’s reporter. IRP founder, Prof. Lowell Bergman and IRP director, Prof. John Temple, were the film’s executive producers. Alums Loi Almeron (’16) and Kathleen Seccombe (’15) were the film’s associate producers.

“The entire team did a remarkable job,” said Dean Edward Wasserman. “I couldn’t be prouder.”

“The students you meet and work with at the J-School become life-long colleagues,” Altan said. “Andrés and I were students together 15 years ago. Our J-School experience absolutely built the foundation for the professional work we are able to do today. So when we are recognized for our work in this remarkable way the honor feels like one truly shared with the J-School.”

Various alums worked on the film: The IRP’s Zachary Stauffer (’08) was one of the film’s directors of photography. Alums Steve Fisher (’14) and Melina Tupa (’16) contributed reporting and field producing. Nadine Sebai (’16) provided research for the film. Dan Steiner (’16) provided assistant editing. Faviola Leyva (’16) and Marcos Martinez (’17) assisted with transcriptions and Spanish translations.

The winner of the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting will be announced at an awards ceremony on March 12 at the Kennedy School. Additionally, Marty Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, will receive the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism.

By Marlena Telvick