aclarge_2A.C. Thompson, a reporter whose work led to federal charges against seven New Orleans police officers in connection with the shooting of civilians after Hurricane Katrina, received the 2013 Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for courageous journalism Oct. 27.

Thompson, 41, who works for ProPublica, explained in his address how he chooses stories. “Early in my career,” he said, “I began asking myself a simple question at the beginning of the reporting process for each story. I would say, ‘Is this a story about human suffering that is needless, that is unnecessary?’ And if the answer was yes, I would plunge in.”

In his talk the told of Donnell Herrington, shot twice by white vigilantes as he sought refuge from Katrina’s flooding. He chronicled the death of Henry Glover, first shot by a police officer, then left to die in a car which was later burned by another officer with Glover’s body still inside.

Thompson praised his sources as the courageous heroes of his stories— people at real risk if they talked about police abuses. “They refused to shut up even in the face of danger, and I am inspired by their actions.”

The day began with a conference on college journalism in the information age, attended by 40 students from seven New England colleges. A panel discussion followed, probing the evolution of crisis coverage from the JFK assassination and the space shuttle Challenger disaster to the Boston marathon bombings. The convocation in Lorimer Chapel capped the day’s activities.

The committee that chose Thompson for the award comprises Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard; Mike Pride, editor emeritus of the Concord Monitor; David Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Rebecca Corbett ’74, senior enterprise editor for the New York Times; Gregory Moore, editor of the Denver Post; Professor Dan Shea, director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby; and Steve Engelberg, editor-in-chief of ProPublica (who recused himself from the vote).

Last year the Lovejoy was awarded to Bob Woodward, who 40 years earlier helped break the Watergate story that toppled President Richard Nixon. Past winners include Jerry Mitchell, whose reporting brought Ku Klux Klansmen to justice for civil rights era murders; Paul Salopek, currently on a 22,000-mile reporting walk; Daniel Pearl (posthumous) of the Wall Street Journal; and David Halberstam.