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ProPublica Illinois and ProPublica Earn Three NABJ Salute to Excellence Awards Nominations

Three projects from ProPublica Illinois and ProPublica were named finalists for the National Association of Black Journalists’ 2019 Salute to Excellence Awards.

The Driven Into Debt series, begun by ProPublica Illinois and continued in partnership with WBEZ Chicago, received a nomination in the Digital Media - Online News Project category. The investigation revealed that Chicago’s parking ticket system has been driving motorists into bankruptcy through fines and fees that unfairly target majority-black neighborhoods and people who can least afford to pay. The reporting led to a number of policy proposals and reforms, including city officials agreeing to refund or dismiss 35,000 duplicate citations and calls for action from Chicago mayoral election candidates. ProPublica Illinois reporter Melissa Sanchez and WBEZ Chicago’s digital editor Elliott Ramos collaborated on the series, with contributions from ProPublica Illinois news applications developer David Eads and former data reporter Sandhya Kambhampati.

ProPublica’s Miseducation was also nominated in the Digital Media - Online News Project category. The online news application allows users across the country to look up racial disparities in education opportunity and school discipline for more than 96,000 schools and 17,000 districts using data from the 2015-16 school year. The many local stories informed by the Miseducation database included examinations of the history of segregation and resistance to integration in Charlottesville, Virginia, and how discrimination has fueled high school dropouts on a Montana reservation. Eads, ProPublica reporter Annie Waldman, news applications developer Lena V. Groeger and New York Times correspondent Erica L. Green collaborated on the project.

I Don’t Want to Shoot You, Brother,” an investigative narrative about a fatal police shooting in Weirton, West Virginia, was named a finalist in the Digital Media - Single Story category. Written by ProPublica senior editor Joe Sexton and published in partnership with The Frontline Dispatch, the story highlights how police officer Stephen Mader opted to defuse a tense situation rather than shooting a young man, and the surprising ramifications of his decision.

ProPublica Illinois reporting fellow Lakeidra Chavis was also nominated in the Radio News Series Category (Top 15 Markets) for “Chicago’s Black Communities Hit Hardest in Opioid Overdoses.” The story, which aired while she worked at WBEZ Chicago before joining ProPublica Illinois, highlighted how the opioid epidemic deeply affects African Americans in the city, even as most narratives about the crisis have focused on white, suburban areas. WBEZ Chicago senior news editor Rob Wildeboer also contributed to the project.

For a full list of finalists and to learn more about the NABJ Salute to Excellence Awards, visit

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