Robert W. Greene, a Newsday reporter and editor who led investigative teams that won two Pulitzer Prizes and brought together reporters...

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Robert W. Greene, a Newsday reporter and editor who led investigative teams that won two Pulitzer Prizes and brought together reporters from across the country to uncover corruption in Arizona after a journalist there was murdered, died Thursday in Smithtown, N.Y. He was 78.

The cause was heart failure, said his wife, Kathleen.

The Pulitzers notwithstanding, Mr. Greene regarded what became known as the Arizona Project as the greatest achievement of his 37-year career at Newsday, Long Island’s dominant newspaper.

The project began after Don Bolles, a reporter for The Arizona Republic who had been investigating ties between organized crime and politicians, was killed by a car bomb on June 13, 1976. Bolles had been a founding member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, a national organization that Mr. Greene had helped start.

Mr. Greene assembled a team from that organization, and they spent six months in Phoenix putting together a 23-part series that expanded the investigation Bolles had begun; it ran in newspapers across the country.

At the time, according to the organization’s Web site, Mr. Greene said the project would make people “think twice” about killing journalists. “We are buying life insurance on our own reporters,” he said then.

The two Pulitzers that Newsday won under Mr. Greene were for public service. The first, in 1970, was for exposing land scandals in which politicians were investing in properties on Long Island, then passing zoning changes that enhanced property values. The investigation went so far as to reveal that a high-level editor at Newsday had been one of those profiting from the deals.

The second Pulitzer came four years later for “The Heroin Trail,” a series that tracked heroin from Turkish poppy fields to the streets of Long Island.

“Before the techniques Bob championed became widespread, investigations in newspapers were mostly based on what the D.A. or the police wanted to tell us,” Newsday’s editor, John Mancini, said Friday. “Bob pioneered the technique of building a journalistic case independent of what the authorities wanted us to know — creating databases and going through records in painstaking ways that revealed the story that was already there.”

Robert William Greene was born in Jamaica, N.Y., on July 12, 1929, a son of Francis and Mary Clancy Greene. His father was a lawyer. After attending Fordham University for two years, Mr. Greene worked for several years as a reporter for The Jersey Journal.

Before joining Newsday in 1955, he worked as an investigator for the New York City Anti-Crime Committee. In 1957, he took a year off from Newsday to work as an investigator for the U.S. Senate Rackets Committee.

Mr. Greene held several editing positions at Newsday, including that of Suffolk editor. His urge to expose corruption prompted him to urge local beat reporters to dig below the everyday details of town and village politics.

A bearish man, Mr. Greene could be somewhat overbearing. Robert F. Keeler, the author of “Newsday: A Candid History of the Respectable Tabloid” (Arbor House, 1990), was one of those who felt the pressure. Keeler, now an editorial writer at the paper, said Friday: “He was a larger-than-life throwback to an earlier form of journalism. Those of us who worked under him — and, believe me, it wasn’t always easy — always learned something about this craft in the process.”

Mr. Greene retired from Newsday in 1992 and began teaching journalism at Hofstra University and then at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He lived in Kings Park, N.Y.

Besides his wife, he is survived by a son, a sister, a brother and four grandchildren.