THE ICON: Karen Gadbois
THE LEGACY: Karen Gadbois was “just” a blogger during those dark days after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina hit, working from the kitchen table in her ruined Carrollton home and venting her outrage on a site she called Squandered Heritage. But she was a determined one; public officials who underestimated her did so at their own peril. Her digging, dismissed by some as “amateur investigations,” ended up uncovering widespread misuse of federal recovery money by local public agencies and — working with TV reporter Lee Zurik — led to such coveted journalism honors as a Peabody Award and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award. It would also set her on a new and unexpected career path as a founder of the local nonprofit investigative newsroom The Lens — and prove once more the indispensable value of solid watchdog journalism.
THE ARTIST: Connie Kittok
THE INSPIRATION: “It has set off a bomb that has exploded in slow motion here in the past three weeks, largely thanks to Ms. Gadbois: the federally financed program to gut and repair the storm-damaged homes of the poor and elderly, on which the city spent $1.8 million, has been exposed as — at least partly — a sham.” — The New York Times’ Adam Nossiter, in a 2008 story about Karen Gadbois’ work