James Polk · 1994
Name any big national or international story of misdeed, fraud, extortion, espionage, terrorism, crime or corruption from the last 20 years and it’s a safe bet it will carry Jim Polk’s byline or broadcast imprimatur.
Polk won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for his coverage of Watergate for the late, great Washington Star. He also received the Raymond Clapper award twice as best reporter in Washington and has won the Sigma Delta Chi national reporting award.
In his work for NBC News from 1975 to 1992, he covered a probe that brought down the Mafia’s top Godfathers … the CIA role in flying arms to Nicaragua in the Iran-Contra scandal … the racketeering case against Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos … baseball’s cocaine scandal … Abscam … the downfall of Pete Rose … and trials of several Cabinet members and congressmen.
And then there was his run in with former CIA Director William Casey. Because of Polk’s coverage of the spy trial of a National Security Agency turncoat, Casey asked the Justice Department to prosecute Polk. Casey later apologized.
Polk’s yearning to cover news has Hoosier roots. He is a native of Oaktown, Ind., where he wrote his first stories as an 8-year-old sports reporter for the weekly Oaktown Press. Before long he was stringing sports stories for papers in Terre Haute, Evansville and Vincennes.
He followed that interest to Indiana University (after three years in the Navy), and while there became a full-time reporter for the Bloomington Herald-Telephone while going to school. He also was president of his sophomore class and held other student offices. His degree is in government.
After college, Polk joined the Associated Press bureau in Indianapolis and while there covered a couple of stories as big to Indiana as Abscam and Iran-Contra would become to Washington: the fatal Fairgrounds Coliseum explosion and the Palm Sunday tornadoes. He also covered the slightly less turbulent Indiana General Assembly.
From Indianapolis, he went first to Wisconsin and then to Washington with the AP.
Now, Polk is a senior producer for CNN’s Special Assignment and is based in Atlanta _ and
still covering big stories.
He helped direct CNN’s coverage of the investigation into the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center, scoring many major breaks in the story including news of the first three arrests in New York and Egypt.
At CNN, Polk also has uncovered exclusives on State Department insiders selling real U.S. passports to Jamaican and Colombian drug dealers … on a $100 million price-fixing scandal in the school lunch program … and on a billion dollar bank fraud reaching from a Mafia front in New Jersey to secret accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Polk lives in an Atlanta suburb with his wife, Cara, and his daughter, Abigail.