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Times writers honored for stories on Toyota woes

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Times reporters Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian won the 2010 Gerald Loeb Award in the beat reporting category for their series of articles on Toyota Motor Corp.'s vehicle safety problems.

The Loebs, which are the most prestigious award in business journalism, were announced Tuesday night in New York.

In presenting the prize to The Times reporters, the judges said, “This series of reports revealed how Toyota and federal regulators have ignored or misclassified complaints of sudden acceleration by drivers of late-model Toyotas.”

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Bensinger and Vartabedian’s articles, beginning last fall, investigated complaints that Toyota vehicles would suddenly accelerate out of control. A Lexus crash in San Diego blamed on the problem had killed an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer and three relatives.

The reporters questioned company and federal highway safety regulators. Toyota had a series of recalls. In January, the automaker took the rare step of ordering its dealers to stop selling several of its most popular models.

Bensinger and Vartabedian were among more than a dozen winners of this year’s Loeb Awards.

“We are honored and proud to uphold the fine tradition of investigative journalism that this newsroom is known for,” said Russ Stanton, editor of The Times. “The work of Ken and Ralph was clearly among the best journalism of 2009 and, along with the other Loeb winners, reaffirms the importance of financial reporting.”

Eddy Hartenstein, publisher of The Times, said of the awards, “We’re upholding the finest tradition of investigative journalism, informing our readers, and quite possibly saving future lives.”

This is Vartabedian’s second Loeb Award and the 12th for The Times’ staff since the program was founded. Business columnist Michael Hiltzik won in 2004.

The awards were established in 1957 by Gerald Loeb, the founding partner of E.F. Hutton & Co., as a way to honor outstanding reporting in the business, economy and finance fields. The awards are sponsored by the G. and R. Loeb Foundation Inc. and have been presented by the UCLA Anderson School of Management since 1973.

kristena.hansen@latimes.com


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