Starting with their first project in 1971, Barlett and Steele specialized in systematically researching, analyzing and writing about the complex issues and institutions that profoundly affect American life. They worked together as an investigative reporting team for more than 40 years, first at the Philadelphia Inquirer (1971-1997), at Time Inc. (1997-2006), and then at Vanity Fair. Their work earned them dozens of national awards. They are the only reporting team ever to have received two Pulitzer Prizes for newspaper reporting and two National Magazine Awards for magazine work.
The Washington Journalism Review has said of Barlett and Steele that “they are almost certainly the best team in the history of investigative reporting.” James H. Dygert, in his book, “The Investigative Journalist: Folk Heroes of a New Era,” described them as “perhaps the most systematic and thorough investigative reporting team in the United States.” And Steve Weinberg, in the book “Investigative Reporting,” wrote that “(Barlett and Steele) believe people really should be treated equally, that the playing field should be level, that government should not favor one group over another, that private-sector entities should be watched as closely as the public sector.”
Barlett and Steele also pioneered in the use of reporting methods now standard in the profession. In 1972, they used a computer to analyze more than 1,000 cases of violent crime in Philadelphia. “Crime and Injustice” was the largest computer-assisted project of its time and was widely replicated by other journalists for years afterward.
Barlett was born in DuBois, Pennsylvania, on July 17, 1936, and he grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He attended Pennsylvania State University and served three years as a special agent with the United States Army Counter Intelligence Corps. Barlett began his journalism career in 1956 as a general assignment reporter at the Reading (Pennsylvania) Times, and later held a similar position at the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal. In 1965, he began working as a full-time investigative reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and subsequently moved to similar positions at the Chicago Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer before joining Time in 1997. In 2006, he became a contributing editor of Vanity Fair. Barlett is married and has a son and a stepson.
Steele was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, on January 3, 1943, and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. A graduate of the University of Missouri at Kansas City, he began his journalism career at the Kansas City Times, where he covered labor, politics and urban affairs before moving to The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1970. After 27 years as an investigative reporter at The Inquirer, he joined Time in 1997. In 2006, he became a contributing editor of Vanity Fair. Steele is married and has a daughter.
“Don and Jim don't ignore rotten apples, but their passion is for writing about rotten barrels.”
— Norman Pearlstine, editor-in-chief of TIME Inc.
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The Barlett and Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism
The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State University established the Barlett and Steele Awards in 2007 in recognition of their contribution to investigative reporting and to foster in-depth journalism by the media. Each year an independent jury reviews entries and awards three prizes: a gold medal and $5,000; a silver medal and $2,000; and a bronze medal and $1,000.
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