The American Bar Association Journal has been selected to receive The American Legion's Fourth Estate Award for the article "The Cemetery Sea," in its May 2009 edition. The Fourth Estate Award is presented annually by The American Legion for outstanding achievement in the field of journalism.
"The journal chronicled the sinking of the Alaska Ranger, a 203-foot mackerel boat, 120 miles off the Alaskan coast during a severe storm from a catastrophic hull breach," National Commander Clarence E. Hill said. "It was a compelling story of a disaster at sea, and the role the legal and regulatory system played in allowing that disaster to happen."
The article noted that, currently, inspections of vessels like the Alaska Ranger are done under a voluntary-compliance program that critics call de facto self-policing by the industry. A 2006 U.S. Coast Guard study estimated that 127 fishing vessels would be lost annually until safety regulation becomes more stringent.
In July 2009, the National Transportation Safety Board cited the story when it recommended that Congress give the Coast Guard authority to inspect the nation's commercial-fishing fleets, which currently happens only on a voluntary basis. Legislation pending in the 111th Congress - the Maritime Safety Act - would require mandatory inspections.
"This extensive article elevated these dangerous shortcomings of the fishing industry to the legal community, and garnered the attention of those in Washington who can finally address these issues," Hill stated. "Thanks to this outstanding piece of journalism, a clarion call to ensure the safety of our fishing fleets has been sounded. We salute the ABA Journal for taking on this important and complex issue."
"It is an honor for the ABA Journal to be recognized for its coverage of the sinking of the Alaska Ranger," said Edward A. Adams, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal. "The crew had much in common with members of The American Legion - courage, a sense of mission, and a bond with one another that could not be broken, even in death."
Previous winners of the award include "Dateline NBC", C-SPAN, United Press International, USA TODAY, The Detroit News, Fortune, ABC News, and Life, among others.
The award will be presented on Sept. 2, during the 92nd National Convention of The American Legion in Milwaukee. "The Cemetery Sea" may be viewed here.