Columbia Journalism School’s Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma announced Thursday that a collaboration between ProPublica and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel won a 2023 Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma.
“The Landlord & the Tenant,” by ProPublica reporter Ken Armstrong and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Raquel Rutledge, describes in searing detail two systems of justice — one for wealthy property owners and another for impoverished renters — that intersect in a devastating house fire outside of Milwaukee. Using the present tense, plain-spoken English and powerfully vivid writing, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Rutledge and Armstrong propel readers through an epic saga collaged together using evocative scenes and compelling evidence.
The judging panel described the story as “Dickensian in its depth, range and storytelling power,” and “a gripping account of how two people are treated so vastly differently by the law.” They commended the team for offering a “comprehensive,” “complex,” “nuanced” tale that integrates “intergenerational trauma, longitudinal systemic failures and best intentions gone awry.” They said the “brilliance of the piece is in the details,” and called the level of reporting required “incredibly difficult,” and the writing “both dispassionate and uniquely powerful.” Judges praised Rutledge and Armstrong for providing a “masterclass in not only urban reporting but systemic reporting around trauma and injustice.”
Two additional projects were named finalists: “The Night Raids,” by Lynzy Billing, and “She Wanted an Abortion. A Judge Said She Wasn’t Mature Enough to Decide,” by Lizzie Presser, a collaboration with The New York Times.