The Online News Association has named ProPublica a finalist for seven Online Journalism Awards, which honor excellence in digital journalism around the world. Four of the seven finalists were Local Reporting Network projects. ProPublica is a finalist for general excellence in online journalism, medium newsroom. Since launching in 2008, ProPublica has been named a finalist for general excellence 12 times and won five times.
“Sound of Judgment,” a ProPublica Local Reporting Network project with the News & Observer, was named a Single Story finalist for Excellence in Social Justice Reporting. Through an immersive story and short documentary, News & Observer reporter Carli Brosseau and visual journalist Julia Wall provided a rare view into the racial justice movement in small-town America. Over the course of eight months, Brosseau and Wall immersed themselves in vastly different social environments in the town of Graham, located in central North Carolina’s Alamance County, spending hundreds of hours with people whose affiliations ranged from the New Black Panther Party to defenders of the Confederacy. The reporting team also delved into extensive archival and genealogical research to understand a county whose long history of violence and the fight for the removal of a Confederate monument created a salient battlefield in the national conflict over race, police accountability and political power. This extensive documentation allowed Brosseau to write with authority about people with opposing worldviews in an unsettled time.
“Hawaii’s Beaches Are Disappearing,” a ProPublica Local Reporting Network project by Sophie Cocke of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Ash Ngu of ProPublica, was a medium newsroom finalist for the explanatory reporting category. The story exposed the ways in which coastal homeowners have used various loopholes to circumvent Hawaii’s environmental laws at the expense of the state’s beaches. Some got permission from the state to build new seawalls or keep existing ones. Others got state approvals to use sandbags and heavy tarps, which can have the same damaging effects as seawalls. Using drone footage and shoreline maps, the story included interactive graphics that showed, for the first time, the collective impact of shoreline armoring. What might have been a dense story on policy became easy to understand for readers, who were able to visualize the scale of the misuse and to search which properties had received permits to maintain or build seawalls.
“State of Denial,” a Local Reporting Network project with the Arizona Daily Star, was named an Overall Excellence finalist for the Gather Award in Engaged Journalism. The series was an in-depth investigation into Arizona’s Division of Developmental Disabilities. The state has long enjoyed a reputation for having the best services in the country for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But years of mismanagement, funding shortfalls and turnover at every level of the agency have resulted in a much different story. Stories in the project revealed the demise of independent oversight committees designed to provide outside accountability, as well as the failure of the state to fulfill recommendations made by a governor’s task force on abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities. One of the project’s main goals was to include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the reporting of these stories in meaningful ways, through their own voices. Journalist Amy Silverman, reporting for the Daily Star, reporter Alex Devoid of the Daily Star, ProPublica’s Maya Miller and former ProPublica engagement reporter Beena Raghavendran reviewed thousands of pages of documents, analyzed data and interviewed more than 100 people with disabilities and their family members as well as advocates, caregivers, attorneys, doctors and bureaucrats to reveal the system’s inadequacies. Impact from the investigation included the story of an 11-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who waited 18 months for a communication device. Her mother got a call the day after the story was published that her daughter’s device was ready.
“Unheard,” a Local Reporting Network project with Anchorage Daily News, was also named an Overall Excellence finalist for the Gather Award in Engaged Journalism. A first-of-its-kind story-sharing project, it was part of an ongoing investigation into sexual violence in Alaska, which has the highest rate of sexual assault and child sex abuse in the U.S. Yet for generations it has been an unspoken epidemic. Predators have assumed, often correctly, that victims would remain silent or no one would listen. The powerful digital and print project features the portraits and stories of 29 Alaskan survivors who chose to talk about what they experienced, giving a voice to those who have been sexually assaulted in the state. Participants were women and men of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds, Native and non-Native, all seeking to inspire change in Alaska’s justice system and to de-stigmatize being a survivor of sexual violence. “Unheard” was a collaboration between Kyle Hopkins, Michelle Theriault Boots, Anne Raup, Marc Lester and Loren Holmes of the Daily News, as well as ProPublica’s Adriana Gallardo, Nadia Sussman and Agnes Chang.
“What Parler Saw During the Attack on the Capitol” was named a finalist for the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award. As supporters of President Donald Trump took part in a violent riot at the Capitol, users of the social media service Parler posted videos of themselves and others joining the fray. ProPublica reviewed thousands of videos uploaded publicly to the service that were archived by a programmer before Parler was taken offline by its web host. The result was a collection of more than 500 videos that, taken together, provide one of the most comprehensive track records of a dark moment in American history through the eyes of those who took part.
“The NYPD Files” was named a finalist for the University of Florida Award in Investigative Journalism Award in the small/medium newsroom category. The series investigated abuse and impunity inside the New York Police Department using thousands of previously unpublished police disciplinary records. After New York lawmakers repealed a law that kept police disciplinary records secret, ProPublica requested records of every active-duty police officer who had at least one substantiated complaint and transformed this vast trove of records into an online database available to the public. It became an unprecedented examination of how a veneer of civilian oversight belies the reality that America’s largest police force largely polices itself.
See a full list of finalists here.