SOURCE: Owners' Counsel of America

Owners' Counsel of America logo

February 10, 2010 14:00 ET

Owners' Counsel of America Honors Journalists for Investigative Reporting of Eminent Domain

JACKSONVILLE, FL--(Marketwire - February 10, 2010) -  Owners' Counsel of America (OCA) Members recently honored two journalists with the Crystal Eagle Award for exceptional journalism, critical analysis, and objectivity in investigating the government's use of eminent domainNorman Oder, Brooklyn-based journalist and creator of the watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report, and Robbie Whelan, Business/Real Estate Reporter for The Daily Record in Baltimore, Maryland were awarded crystal eagle statues at OCA's tenth annual meeting February 6, 2010.

Throughout his 25-year career, Norman Oder's work has appeared in The New York Times, The American Lawyer, Columbia Journalism Report and The Village Voice. In 1989 while at the Charleston (WV) Gazette, he received the ABA's Silver Gavel Award for Media and the Arts. Oder attended Yale Law School on a journalism fellowship and received a Master of Studies in Law. He currently works as News Editor for a NYC-based trade magazine, volunteering a second shift daily on his blog, Atlantic Yards Report. The blog takes a critical look at Atlantic Yards -- a project to construct a basketball arena and 16 towers in Brooklyn -- and follows broader issues of development policy and eminent domain around New York.

As Oder professes skepticism of the developer's claims, the expected economic benefits of the project, and the fairness of the process, he comes closer to aligning himself with project opponents than with the government and developer. "My goal as a blogger is fairness, not some 'he said she said' version of objectivity," he asserts. He maintains rigorous standards, sourcing his work with links and critiquing project opponents when they stray from the facts.

Oder's work involves assessments of media coverage, reporting of events such as public hearings and oral arguments, and detailed analyses of legal briefs, environmental reports and other documents. His reporting bridges the gap between legal formality and ground-level reality by demonstrating that the state's claims of blight in and around the project footprint are suspect. Oder offers a longitudinal view of an enormously contested project while analyzing the process by which the city and New York State, considered to have the most condemnor-friendly eminent domain laws in the nation, go about development and condemnation.

Robbie Whelan is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University where he was co-editor of The Johns Hopkins News-Letter. Whelan began his career as a freelance journalist writing for The Washington Post, Baltimore City Paper, Pittsburgh City Paper, Hindustan Times, The Brooklyn Rail, The Next American City, Mental Floss and Urbanite. Whelan has worked as a staff reporter for The Daily Record since 2007.

In December 2008, Whelan authored a three-part series investigating eminent domain in the Baltimore area. The series, "Condemned: The Use of Eminent Domain in Baltimore," focused on Baltimore's plans for urban renewal and the use of the "quick-take" method of condemnation to remove less desirable properties deemed "blighted." In Baltimore, Condemnation Drives Urban Renewal, December 4, 2008, Whelan wrote: "But in Baltimore, the use of condemnation powers -- otherwise known as eminent domain -- has become synonymous with urban renewal." Whelan exposed the abusive practices of Baltimore's city government which included designating as blighted those buildings and properties which the city deemed would be better utilized as an urban renewal or economic development project.

Whelan's work effected changes in the city government's approach to eminent domain. After the series ran, the number of "quick-take" actions filed by the city decreased dramatically. Whelan's series was nominated for both the 2009 MD-DC Press Association Editorial Awards and UCLA's Gerald Loeb Award in Business Journalism.

Annually, OCA identifies individuals who have made substantial contributions toward advancing property rights and presents the Crystal Eagle Award. Past recipients include Gideon Kanner (Professor Emeritus, Loyola School of Law and of-counsel, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP), Dana Berliner (Senior Attorney, Institute for Justice), Dean Starkman (Journalist), Professor James Ely (Vanderbilt University and author of The Guardian of Every Other Right), Dennis Hartig (former News Editor, The Virginian-Pilot) as well as Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes (former co-hosts of Hannity & Colmes, Fox News Channel).


Owners' Counsel of America (OCA),, is a voluntary network of experienced eminent domain attorneys from across the nation, representing property owners facing condemnation or other infringements to the constitutional guarantee of private ownership, and dedicated to advancing the cause of property rights. OCA is a non-profit association committed to preserve and defend the rights of private property owners, large and small, locally and nationally.

Contact Information