Nathaniel Popper, the Forward’s senior writer, was honored with a Deadline Club award for his coverage of illegal labor practices in the kosher meat industry.
He won for reporting in the category “Newspapers Under 100,000 Circulation” at a May 19 awards dinner. The event was organized by the New York Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, also known as the Deadline Club, which annually honors the best in New York area journalism. The club honored work published in 2008 in more than two dozen categories.
The Forward’s work on the kosher industry was also a finalist in the public service category, an omnibus award for all New York publications. In that category, the reporting of Popper and the editorials by the Forward’s editorial director, J.J. Goldberg, were cited. The top prize in that category went to a team of writers at the Associated Press for an investigative series about pharmaceuticals in America’s water supply.
Popper began reporting on the poor working conditions at the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, Agriprocessors, in 2006, two years before a May 2008 immigration raid on the plant made national headlines. The Forward’s coverage became an impetus for Jewish groups to set new standards for kosher-food production and, when the raid came, its reporting was cited in the government’s affidavit.
The Deadline Club award recognized excellence in reporting in three stories written in 2008 about the kosher meat industry: one about Agriprocessors’ Brooklyn warehouse, where various legal maneuvers were used to handle undocumented workers; another about labor complaints at one of Agriprocessors’ largest competitors, and a third detailing the growth of Agriprocessors from a small butcher shop in Brooklyn to an industry giant, whose collapse had a ripple effect throughout the Jewish community.
The awards reception was held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and featured a keynote address by Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times.