The Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing announced on Thursday that ProPublica and partners won five awards and received four honorable mentions in its Best in Business competition recognizing excellence in business journalism.
“Inside Google’s Black Box Ad Business,” with contributions from Craig Silverman, Ruth Talbot and Jeff Kao, won in the data journalism and media/entertainment categories. Combining traditional investigative reporting with innovative coding and a web tool to analyze more than 7 million websites, this series revealed more about the functioning and abuses of Google’s billion-dollar ad business than ever before. It resulted in the removal of scores of partners, websites and article pages from Google’s ad network, choking off ad revenue for notorious disinformers and ad fraudsters, and pressured Congress to bring effective oversight to one of the most influential companies in the world.
“The Hospice Hustle,” a collaboration between ProPublica and The New Yorker, won in the feature category. Half of all Americans die in hospice, and Ava Kofman’s groundbreaking investigation provoked a national conversation on the American way of death — along with demands to reform an industry that has long been ignored. Less than three weeks after the exposé was published, bipartisan members of Congress sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services requesting the agency “immediately investigate the situation.” In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reformed how it inspects hospice providers.
The “Toxic Burden” series, with contributions from Neil Bedi, Kathleen McGrory and Sharon Lerner, won in the investigative category. While dozens of other countries banned asbestos, the U.S. let two major chemical companies use the carcinogen to make chlorine, largely because they insisted they were keeping their workers safe. But this reporting revealed dangerous working conditions experts called “unacceptable.” In response, public health leaders called on the Environmental Protection Agency to expedite its proposed asbestos ban and urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to reconsider its lax supervision of the plants.
“The Landlord & The Tenant,” by ProPublica reporter Ken Armstrong and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Raquel Rutledge, won in the explanatory category. This cinematic story described, in searing detail, two systems of justice — one for wealthy property owners and another for impoverished renters — that intersected 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 propelled readers through an epic saga collaged together using evocative scenes and compelling evidence. The result was a Dickensian portrait of the rich and poor in an average American city today.
Four other ProPublica projects received honorable mentions. “The Hidden Fees Making Your Bananas, and Everything Else, Cost More,” by Michael Grabell, which revealed how ocean shipping companies were taking advantage of the inflation crisis to charge obscure fees, received an honorable mention in the explanatory category. “Inside Google’s Quest to Digitize Troops’ Tissue Samples,” by James Bandler, which uncovered Google’s secret campaign to gain exclusive access to one of the world’s most valuable collections of biomedical data, received an honorable mention in the technology category. With contributions from Heather Vogell, Haru Coryne, Erin Smith and Ryan Little, “Rent Barons” received an honorable mention in real estate for showing how Wall Street’s growing stake in the American apartment industry is worsening the nation’s rental housing crisis. “The COVID Testing Company That Missed 96% of Cases,” by Anjeanette Damon, which exposed corporate and governmental negligence and became a central issue in the governor’s race in Nevada, received an honorable mention in health science.
See a list of all the SABEW Award winners.