On Friday, the Online News Association announced the winners of its annual Online Journalism Awards, which honor excellence in digital journalism around the world. ProPublica was honored with four awards, three of which recognized Local Reporting Network projects.
ProPublica won for general excellence in online journalism in the medium newsroom category. Since launching in 2008, ProPublica has been named a finalist for a general excellence award 12 times and has won six times.
“Hawaii’s Beaches Are Disappearing,” a ProPublica Local Reporting Network project by Sophie Cocke of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Ash Ngu of ProPublica, won for explanatory reporting in the medium newsroom 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 about policy became easy to understand for readers, who were able to visualize the scale of the abuse and to search which properties had received permits to maintain or build seawalls.
“Unheard,” a Local Reporting Network project with Anchorage Daily News, won the Gather Award in Engaged Journalism in the overall excellence category. A first-of-its-kind story-sharing project, it was part of an ongoing investigation into sexual violence in Alaska, the state with 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 that 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 destigmatize 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, and ProPublica’s Adriana Gallardo, Nadia Sussman and Agnes Chang.
“Sound of Judgment,” a ProPublica Local Reporting Network project with the Raleigh News & Observer, won for excellence in social justice reporting in the single story category. Through an immersive story and short documentary, News & Observer reporter Carli Brosseau and visual journalist Julia Wall provided a rare window 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 recent fight over 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.
View the full list of winners.