Best Reporter (Newspaper Division) St. Louis 2009 - Joe Mahr
Late in the afternoon of Friday, July 18, 2008, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department announced it would hold a press conference at its headquarters — a telltale sign they're trying to hide something. "The Friday-afternoon press conference is the classic m.o. of an agency trying to bury significant news," says St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigative reporter and editor Joe Mahr, who, along with reporter Jeremy Kohler, had been working for weeks on a tip involving corruption at the police department and St. Louis Metropolitan Towing. Aware that Mahr and Kohler had been snooping around, the department scheduled the press conference to assert that no laws had been broken. Mahr, Kohler and fellow reporter David Hunn quickly put together a story that laid out the contradictions between the official version of events and the "three-armed" scandal that was actually transpiring: Then-chief Joe Mokwa's daughter was being supplied with impounded cars for personal use; the towing company was overcharging the City of St. Louis; and the citizenry was paying for all of it via inflated towing and storage fees. "We luckily had enough information at that point to show their contradictions," recounts the 36-year-old Mahr, who'd previously been part of a team at the Toledo Blade that snagged a Pulitzer Prize. "They said, 'The case is closed.' We were able to show the case was far from closed."