Times writer wins honor

Times Staff Writer

Henry Weinstein, one of The Times’ most respected journalists, has been named winner of the John Chancellor Award for Excellence, which recognizes a body of work marked by “courage, integrity, curiosity and intelligence.”

Weinstein will be honored at a black-tie dinner Tuesday night in New York City. The prize is awarded annually to a single journalist and is administered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Nicholas Lemann, dean of the journalism school, said in a news release that Weinstein’s work “is a study in journalistic commitment and a genuine love of reporting.”

Douglas Frantz, a Times managing editor, said of Weinstein: “He is fearless and committed, without ever being biased or judgmental. His work is rooted in the deep passion that journalism should make a difference.”

Weinstein, 62, The Times’ legal affairs reporter, began his career with the paper in 1978. He has covered housing, organized labor, politics and local government among other beats.

His 1979 series on housing loan fraud in L.A. detailed how more than a thousand families lost their homes to swindlers. In 1982, his reports on the city’s worst slumlord led to changes in court procedures, enforcement of local laws and a prison term for the slumlord. More recently, he wrote about two Texas murder trials in which the defendants’ lawyers slept through parts of the proceedings.

Also memorable was his legal analysis of the courtroom dramas that dominated Los Angeles culture and politics during the 1990s — the trials of O.J. Simpson and of the police officers who beat Rodney G. King.

“He is an investigative reporter and a beat reporter who understands the grace of modesty,” Dean Baquet, the recently departed editor of The Times, wrote in nominating Weinstein for the award. “Henry does not hype or boast. He follows his conscience, not just orders. He leads.”

The Chancellor Award judges noted that Weinstein was among Times journalists who spoke out against a decision by Times management in 1999 to share profits from a special issue of the paper’s magazine with Staples Center, the subject of that issue.

Weinstein was similarly outspoken in recent weeks as The Times was shaken by the ouster of Publisher Jeffrey M. Johnson and later Baquet after conflicts with the paper’s owner, Chicago-based Tribune Co. Weinstein expressed support for Baquet’s and Johnson’s refusal to make further cuts in staffing.

Author David Halberstam, who serves on the Chancellor board, alluded to Weinstein’s newsroom leadership: “Weinstein embodies the best moral and ethical sense of the profession. He is the kind of person every city room needs but all too few have.”

A native of Los Angeles, Weinstein received a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a law degree from the university’s Boalt Hall School of Law. He reported for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the San Francisco Examiner before joining the Los Angeles Times.

The Chancellor Award is accompanied by a $25,000 check. It was established in 1995 to honor the late John Chancellor, a pioneering broadcast journalist and longtime NBC News anchor.