The American Society of Magazine Editors has named ProPublica a finalist for three of its 2023 National Magazine Awards, also known as the Ellies, which honor excellence in print and digital journalism. The finalists were recognized in the categories of reporting, feature writing and public interest. The finalist for feature writing was a partner project.
“Night Raids,” by Afghan-born journalist Lynzy Billing, was nominated in the reporting category. This deeply reported and personal story unravels the legacy of the secretive, U.S.-backed Zero Units that killed countless civilians in Afghanistan. The ProPublica investigation shed new light on the CIA’s “classified” war in Afghanistan, where lines of accountability were so obscured that no one had to answer for operations that went wrong. More than three years of reporting and 350 interviews went into compiling the first-ever database of 452 Afghan civilians killed by night raids. While this is almost certainly an undercount, without Billing’s reporting these deaths would never have never been acknowledged nor would we know the true costs of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan.
“The Landlord & The Tenant,” by ProPublica reporter Ken Armstrong and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Raquel Rutledge, was nominated in the feature writing category. This cinematic story describes, in searing detail, two systems of justice — one for wealthy property owners and another for impoverished renters — that intersect 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 propel readers through an epic saga collaged together using evocative scenes and compelling evidence. The result is a Dickensian portrait of the rich and poor in an average American city today.
ProPublica reporter Cezary Podkul’s three-part series on pig butchering scams was nominated in the public interest category. The first story, “Human Trafficking’s Newest Abuse: Forcing Victims Into Cyberscamming,” brings to light the mechanics, scale and corporate complicity involved in this dark global enterprise that forces people into criminal scamming operations on pain of a beating or a shock from a cattle prod. The second story served as a practical guide to detecting and avoiding the scams. The final story showcased how Podkul’s reporting led Apple to stop selling an app that was enabling the scam and helped pressure the Cambodian government to raid multiple scam compounds.
See a list of all National Magazine Award finalists.