Marcus Stern (journalist)

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Marcus Stern
Born April 30, 1953 (1953-04-30) (age 65)
Nationality American
Occupation journalist
Known for breaking the story about Duke Cunningham's corruption

Marcus Stern (born April 30, 1953) is an American journalist who worked for the Copley News Service for nearly 25 years. In 2005 he launched the investigation that led to the bribery conviction of Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a Republican from San Diego County, California.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Journalism ran in Stern's family. His grandfather August "Gus" Stern was a copy editor at the Washington Post. His father Laurence Marcus "Larry" Stern also worked at the Washington Post, becoming assistant managing editor for national news.[2]

Marcus Stern attended Woodrow Wilson High School (Washington, D.C.)[3] and graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in psychology.

Reporting career[edit]

After using his psychology degree to work in several psychiatric hospitals, he turned to journalism at age 26. He worked for the San Pedro News-Pilot in California and the States News Service in Washington, D.C. In 1983 he landed a job covering the Los Angeles area from the Copley News Service's Washington bureau.[2] During the 1990s he wrote extensively about immigration issues. That coverage won him the Katz Award (1998) from the Center for Immigration Studies[4] and the James Aronson Award (1999) for the story "America's Immigration Dilemma".[5] During the early 2000s he often reported from combat and disaster zones including Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan.

He worked at the Copley News Service Washington bureau until 2007; the bureau closed in 2008.[6] He then worked for ProPublica and Thomson Reuters. He is currently an investigative researcher for Strategic Research.[7]

Cunningham story[edit]

Stern stumbled across the Cunningham story while looking into congressional travel; unable to explain some of Cunningham's trips abroad, he did a "lifestyle audit" of Cunningham's finances and discovered a suspicious sale of Cunningham's home to a defense contractor for an inflated price.[8] The story, published in the San Diego Union-Tribune on June 12, 2005, did not involve any insider leaks or unnamed sources; it was all based on publicly available information such as real estate sales and company websites.[2] Stern went on to write multiple articles about Cunningham's finances and associates,[9] usually with the assistance of Pulitzer co-winner Jerry Kammer in San Diego.[10]

The stories resulted in government investigations, which ultimately led to the exposure of sweetheart deals and outright bribery involving Cunningham and defense contractors whose interests he supported in Congress. "Without Marc Stern's story there might not have been a Cunningham case," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Halpern, one of the lead prosecutors. He considered Stern the "genesis of the investigation" and added "This is the first time in my [25-year] career I have predicated a case upon a news story."[2]

On July 14, just one month after Stern's first story, Cunningham announced he would not run for re-election,[11] and in November he pleaded guilty to tax evasion, conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud in federal court in San Diego.[12]

Stern and Kammer were cited by name in the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting award given to the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Copley News Service.[9] Stern and Kammer, together with Union-Tribune reporter Dean Calbreath, also shared the Polk Award for political reporting in 2005.[13] Stern and Kammer also shared the 2006 Edgar A. Poe Award for excellence in news of national and regional importance, given by the White House Correspondents Association.[14]

Stern and his colleagues later wrote a book about the Cunningham affair, The Wrong Stuff: The extraordinary saga of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the most corrupt congressman ever caught.[3][15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Astor, Dave (April 17, 2006). "Copley's Stern Says Pulitzer Shows What Regional Papers Can Do". Editor & Publisher. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Meyers, Jessica (April–May 2006). "Stern Watchdog". American Journalism Review. Retrieved October 14, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Stern, Marcus; Kammer, Jerry; Calbreath, Dean; Condon, George E. Jr (2007). The Wrong Stuff: The extraordinary saga of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the most corrupt congressman ever caught. Public Affairs, a member of the Perseus Books Group. ISBN 1586484796. 
  4. ^ "The Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration". Center for Immigration Studies. Retrieved October 14, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Winners". The Aronson Awards. Archived from the original on November 3, 2014. Retrieved October 14, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Copley News Service Shuts Down". Media Bistro. November 12, 2007. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Marcus Stern". Strategic Research. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  8. ^ Stern, Marcus (June 12, 2005). "Lawmaker's home sale questioned". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Marcus Stern, Pulitzer Prize Winner for National Reporting in 2006". Find the Data. Pulitzer Prize. Archived from the original on October 13, 2013. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Jerry Kammer". Find the data. Pulitzer Prize. Archived from the original on October 13, 2013. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  11. ^ Bennett, William Finn (July 15, 2005). "Cunningham says he will step down at end of term". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Plea Agreement by Randy "Duke" Cunningham and the U.S. Attorney". U.S. District Court, Southern District of California. November 28, 2005. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  13. ^ "2005 George Polk Award winners". Long Island University. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  14. ^ "WHCA's 2006 Award Winners". MediaBistro. April 4, 2006. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Marcus Stern: On the Trail of Congressional Corruption". NPR. May 23, 2007. Retrieved October 13, 2013.