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ProPublica Receives Eight Nominations for Peter Lisagor Awards

The Chicago Headline Club, the nation’s largest chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, named ProPublica as a finalist in seven categories for the Peter Lisagor Awards. The contest honors the best journalism produced across the Chicago region. ProPublica received three nominations in the Best All Media categories, which span all news media and platform sizes, and five nominations in the Online categories.

Here are the nominated projects:

Conservationists See Rare Nature Sanctuaries. Black Farmers See a Legacy Bought Out From Under Them” by Tony Briscoe is a finalist in the Best Investigative/Public Service Online category. Briscoe explored racial inequity in the historically Black farming area of Pembroke Township. With data reporter Haru Coryne, Briscoe showed how The Nature Conservancy had been buying land at foreclosure auctions, sometimes obtaining property that once belonged to Black farmers. The practice echoed some of the predatory tactics that have undermined Black communities and diminished Black property ownership in the past. Members of the Pembroke community also expressed frustration that The Nature Conservancy was not listening to their concerns about how conservation restrictions would upend a way of life.

As Briscoe began to question The Nature Conservancy about its actions, he started to hear a quiet acknowledgement from the group that it had made missteps. Then, following additional questions right before publication, the group told him that two top officials who specialize in diversity and equity had been assigned to work with its Illinois team in Pembroke. Significantly, the organization also promised a review of its previous activity there.

Photographer Rashod Taylor is also nominated for best photography and best online photography for his work on the project.

The Murder Chicago Didn’t Want to Solve” by Mick Dumke is a finalist in the Best Feature Story category. Dumke married narrative writing and investigative reporting to evoke the Chicago of 60 years ago and show how police and prosecutors failed to pursue leads in the February 1963 murder of Ben Lewis, the first Black alderman elected to serve Chicago’s West Side. Despite the challenge of working on a story about a decades-old crime, Dumke persuaded crucial figures in the case, many of whom had never spoken publicly about it, to talk. He also obtained documents that had not been previously released, making for a gripping investigation that explored reverberating issues of race and politics in Chicago and identified the people most likely involved in the alderman’s long-unsolved murder.

A series of investigations into Chicago’s last Black-owned bank, by Dumke, Coryne and Mariam Elba is a finalist in the Best Online Business or Consumer Reporting category. Dumke explored the potential demise of the last Black-owned bank in Chicago — and one of the last of its kind in the country — and the federal government’s failure to fulfill its legal obligation to “preserve and promote” Black-owned financial institutions.

The reporters showed how the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency had allowed a Ghanaian businessman, Papa Kwesi Nduom, to take over a bank with deep roots on Chicago’s South Side, one that began in an effort to give Black residents a banking option where few had previously existed. The reporters revealed the deal was struck before a complete background investigation on Nduom had been completed — one that would have shown a faltering business empire in his native Ghana.

In a second story, Dumke and Coryne also revealed some of the politics behind the government’s efforts to help Black-owned financial institutions. The reporters showed how multimillion-dollar deposits from the state of Illinois and city of Chicago actually hurt the bank because it didn’t make enough income from mortgages to cover the interest on the city and state’s money.

Last winter, with the COVID-19 pandemic in its second year, ProPublica’s Duaa Eldeib embarked on a reporting journey that revealed the coronavirus’s hidden toll, one that, like COVID-19 itself, disproportionately affects Black and Latino Americans. She illustrated the disparities she uncovered through the lens of two other deadly diseases — cancer and end-stage renal disease. Eldeib’s work is a finalist for the Best Investigative/Public Service Online Reporting category and Best Online Health or Science Reporting on COVID-19 category.

In “A Crisis of Undiagnosed Cancers Is Emerging in the Pandemic’s Second Year,” Eldeib explored the impact of pandemic-related delays in diagnosis and treatment through the experiences of three people, each of whom illustrated a different facet of the crisis. Eldeib’s second investigation, “They Were the Pandemic’s Perfect Victims,” showed how COVID-19 disrupted dialysis care for an already-vulnerable population, and how their deaths went largely unnoticed.

Eldeib found that the same racial disparities that played out in cancer treatment — and across the health care system — were present in dialysis treatment. During the pandemic, according to federal data, dialysis patients who were Black or Latino suffered higher rates of COVID-19 no matter how the virus’s impact was measured, by infection, hospitalization or death. Eldeib discovered that the government failed dialysis patients as well, falling behind on inspections of dialysis centers. The story also sparked renewed interest in legislation that would make it easier to get home dialysis, which had been introduced with little fanfare but later attracted the attention of other lawmakers.

Illustrator Dominic Bodden is nominated in the Best Illustration category for his work in this story.

See a list of all the Peter Lisagor Awards finalists.

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