Duff Wilson, 48, has worked as an investigative reporter for The Seattle Times since 1989 and, before that, for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Associated Press. He is the first two-time winner of the Harvard University Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, among more than 30 national and regional journalism awards, including twice a Pulitzer finalist and public-service honors from both the Associated Press Managing Editors and The Newspaper Guild.
Wilson recently published a nonfiction book, Fateful Harvest: The True Story of a Small Town, a Global Industry, and a Toxic Secret (HarperCollins, 304 pages, Sept. 4, 2001). He has contributed to three journalism books, including the second-most-used university text, News Writing and Reporting for Today's Media (McGraw-Hill, New York).
Wilson wrote "Uninformed Consent: What patients at 'The Hutch' weren't told about the experiments in which they died" with Times staff reporter David Heath in 2001. This 25,000-word series led to additional national debate, a blue-ribbon panel at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center recommending adoption the toughest conflict-of-interest rules in the nation, and lawsuits against the Hutch by survivors of eleven patients who died, all actions still pending.
Wilson's 1997 articles, "Fear in the Fields: How hazardous wastes become fertilizer," exposed a growing, nationwide practice of recycling hazardous wastes into fertilizer. It was perfectly legal, and saved industries millions of dollars in disposal costs, yet few farmers or consumers knew about it. The articles detailed the dangerous lack of standards, testing or disclosure of toxic metals and dioxins in fertilizer in this country. Several states, the EPA, a national regulators group and industry responded with further testing or legislation.
Wilson's reporting in 1996 on a record number of children dying under the care of state Child Protective Services led to reforms that will help prevent future child deaths. Both houses of the legislature unanimously passed a law to make more information public when a child dies in state care. The governor set aside $1 million for a statewide system of child death reviews. Other newspapers have followed Wilson's blueprint in this reporting.
In 1995, Wilson and Times staff reporter Eric Nalder investigated the Seattle Fire Department, chronicling 24 mistakes in responding to a warehouse fire that resulted in four firefighter deaths. The newspaper's findings were reinforced by two professional reviews that followed, and city officials bought new equipment, boosted safety procedures, and settled lawsuits out-of-court.
Wilson uncovered business conflicts of interest affecting decisions by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which controls the nation's largest fishery, off the coast of Alaska. That 1990 work led to changes in Congress including more openness and non-industry members on the group.
Wilson broke the 1989 story about then-U.S. Senator Brock Adam's sexual assault on an aide in Congress, one of the first of what became a genre. Adams eventually dropped out of a re-election campaign because of the aide's and other allegations of sexual assault, for which he was never prosecuted.
A King County Superior Court judge committed suicide on the eve of a 1988 story detailing his pedophilia as a teacher and judge. Wilson's investigative articles sparked a state constitutional amendment by the legislature and voters to open up the process of disciplining judges, and furthered self-examination by the media that had failed to report the story earlier.
Wilson's series of articles on Seattle Municipal Court, "A Court in Crisis," led the Seattle City Council to increasing the numbers of judges and prosecutors. His article on FAA inspectors awarding each other credentials to fly bigger and bigger jets caused three of them to be fired by a major airline. His computer-assisted article on school bus drivers without driving licenses led to one firing, three suspensions, and improved screening for bus drivers. And his series "Betrayal of Trust" with Nancy Montgomery raised the profile of domestic violence issues and won JCPenney-University of Missouri writing honors (Certificate of Merit - Paul Myhre Award).
Wilson speaks often to professional and university groups. He has written public records guides for two newspapers. He was profiled in the May/June 2001 Columbia Journalism Review. He is a member of the First Amendment Committee of the nonprofit group Investigative Reporters and Editors and volunteer webmaster of the Reporter's Desktop at the Reporter's Desktop at http://www.reporter.org/desktop.
Wilson is a 1976 graduate of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., and a 1982 graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. His brother publishes a weekly newspaper in Washington State, as did their father. Duff lives near Seattle with his wife, son and two dogs. His daughter attends Wesleyan University.
Major journalism awards:
2002 Harvard University Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting
2001 Investigative Reporters and Editors Book Award
2001 Associated Press Managing Editors' Public Service Award
2001 Heywood Broun Award, The Newspaper Guild
2001 George Polk Award for Medical Reporting
2001 National Journalism Award for Public Service Reporting, Scripps Howard Foundation
2001 National Headliner Award
Finalist, Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, 2001
1998 Harvard University Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting (co-winner)
1998 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism
1998 Robert L. Kozik Award for Environmental Reporting, National Press Club
1998 Clarion Award, The Association for Women in Communications
1997 National Headliner Award
Finalist, Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, 1997
1996 International Association of Firefighters News Story Award