The News Leaders Association announced on Monday that projects by ProPublica, ProPublica Illinois and the ProPublica Local Reporting Network are the winners of three NLA Awards.
“Fight the Ship” by Robert Faturechi, T. Christian Miller and Megan Rose won the NLA’s Deborah Howell Award for Writing Excellence. The multimedia story reconstructed the 2017 crash of the USS Fitzgerald, one of the Navy’s deadliest accidents. The reporting revealed that the accident was entirely preventable, and that the Navy’s senior leadership doomed the warship from the start by staffing an overworked and undertrained crew on a declining vessel with outdated and poorly maintained equipment. “Based on secret documents, first-hand accounts, aging ship blueprints and data wizardry, it was a tour de force of longform, compelling accountability storytelling,” contest judges said of the piece. “All of it was used to create an experience that was painstakingly precise, bravely unflinching, utterly damning.”
“The Quiet Rooms,” a collaboration between ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune, won the Frank Blethen Award for Local Accountability Reporting - Large. The series by ProPublica Illinois reporter Jodi S. Cohen, the Tribune’s Jennifer Smith Richards and ProPublica Illinois reporting fellow Lakeidra Chavis showed how Illinois schools frequently put children in stark “isolated timeout” spaces, or physically restrained them, for reasons that violated state law. The day after the first story was published, Illinois’ governor and state education officials committed to sweeping change, beginning with emergency restrictions. State officials banned locked seclusion immediately, put new restrictions on schools’ use of physical restraint and also announced plans to invest $7.5 million over the next three years to train Illinois educators on more positive ways to work with students. “This collaborative partnership from ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune exposed alarming and outrageous actions inside Illinois schools and prompted significant results,” contest judges said.
“Lawless,” a ProPublica Local Reporting Network project with the Anchorage Daily News, won the Frank Blethen Award for Local Accountability Reporting - Small. Led by Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins, the series uncovered a sexual assault crisis in rural Alaska and how it is compounded by a profound lack of public safety services. Following the series’ publication, U.S. Attorney General William Barr visited the state and declared the lack of law enforcement in rural Alaska to be a federal emergency. The declaration has led the Department of Justice to promise more than $52 million in federal funding for public safety in Alaska villages. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage also announced the hiring of additional rural prosecutors, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the state will hire 15 additional state troopers. “The series is relentless, illuminating and important, marked by superb execution throughout,” contest judges said.
In addition, stories by A.C. Thompson about white supremacist groups for ProPublica’s “Documenting Hate” series were recognized as a finalist for the Batten Medal for Courage in Journalism, Pamela Colloff’s reporting on the use of jailhouse informants in the justice system was a finalist for the Deborah Howell Award for Writing Excellence - Large, and Lizzie Presser’s reporting on African American land loss in the South was a finalist for the Dori J. Maynard Award for Justice in Journalism.
This is the second year of the NLA Awards, continuing the traditions of the previously separate ASNE and APME Awards. See a list of all the NLA Award winners here.