The American Society of Magazine Editors nominated ProPublica for five of its 2021 National Magazine Awards (also known as the Ellies), which honor excellence in print and digital media. ProPublica was recognized as a finalist for public interest, coverage of race, social media, digital innovation and community journalism.
A series by Lizzie Presser, which highlighted racial disparities in diabetic amputations and kidney care, was nominated for public interest. For years, diabetes has been disabling and killing Black Americans at startling rates, then came COVID-19, which targeted Black diabetics with deadly efficiency. In “The Black American Amputation Epidemic,” trailing a crusading Mississippi doctor, Presser’s immersive reporting told a national story about hospital neglect and government failures, failures that affect millions of Americans with diabetes. As a result, federal legislators introduced a sweeping bill to reduce unnecessary amputations — the most significant legislative effort to date — and the American Diabetes Association announced its first-ever initiative to curb amputations. In “Tethered to the Machine,” Presser captures the descent of JaMarcus Crews, a young Black man on dialysis trying to get on the waitlist for a kidney, and illustrates with great precision how corporate healthcare stood in the way.
“How COVID-19 Hollowed Out a Generation of Young Black Men,” by Akilah Johnson and Nina Martin, which challenged the idea that only entrenched “comorbidities” were to blame for the uneven impact of COVID-19 health outcomes, was nominated for race. Johnson and Martin scoured medical examiner data and news stories to find young Black men who died, then interviewed their loved ones, reviewed their autopsies and reconstructed their lives. Their findings supported the John Henryism theory, which holds that the racial stress Black men endure daily snowballs into chronic conditions that affect their blood pressure and overall health, ultimately shortening their lives.
“Grace: A Failure in Michigan’s Juvenile Justice System,” by Jodi S. Cohen and Duaa Eldeib, which told the story of Grace, a 15-year-old Black girl who was jailed for not doing her online schoolwork, was nominated for social media. Co-published with the Detroit Free Press, Bridge Michigan and Bridge Detroit, Cohen’s reporting on Grace’s case illuminated the deeply flawed juvenile justice system that allowed her detention and gained national attention — in part thanks to the viral hashtag #FreeGrace. Grace was freed from detention a month after ProPublica first reported on her case.
“Hawaii’s Beaches Are Disappearing,” by Ash Ngu of ProPublica and Sophie Cocke of Honolulu Star-Advertiser, a Local Reporting Network partner, created an interactive graphic mapping how coastal homeowners in Hawaii have used loopholes to circumvent environmental laws at the expense of the state’s beaches, and it was nominated for digital innovation. Using drone footage and shoreline maps, the project 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 older seawalls or build new ones.
“Unheard,” a Local Reporting Network project in partnership with Anchorage Daily News, investigated Alaska’s high rate of sexual assault and child sex abuse and the silence surrounding it, and was nominated for community journalism. 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, told the stories of 29 Alaskan sexual assault survivors who agreed to share their experiences, shattering generations of silence. These stories represented a new kind of collaborative journalism rooted in trust and respect for the people who step forward to share their stories.
See a list of all the National Magazine Award finalists here.