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ProPublica Wins Medal in Best of Digital Design Competition

The Society for News Design honored ProPublica with a bronze medal in this year’s Best of Digital Design competition.

Recognized in the commissioned illustration category, “The Scandal That Never Happened,” by Anat Rubin, examined a Louisiana appeals court of all-white judges that systematically ignored thousands of wrongful conviction claims from prisoners, most of them Black, while collecting at least $1.7 million for the unread appeals. A suicide note from Jerrold Peterson, a high-level court official who developed a system integral for the rapid dispensing of these claims, helped to bring this system to light.

The art direction from Alex Bandoni and Lisa Larson-Walker sought to reconcile the dramatic significance of Peterson’s note with the thousands of petitions from prisoners. The opening scrolling illustration by James Lee Chiahan unleashes a torrent of pages representing the many lives interrupted by this unjust system, then cascades into the pivotal scene of Peterson’s desk and the single whistle-blowing note. Illustrated section breaks of free-falling pages punctuate the unfolding story, and larger scenic illustrations establish the scenes of court and incarceration crucial to the narrative. The story’s epilogue focuses on Nathan Brown, a former prisoner whose claim had been initially ignored and who was later exonerated, and is accompanied by an illustration of Brown’s portrait emerging from a pile of countless other claims that were also neglected.

Additionally, ProPublica received 16 Awards of Excellence:

See all the winners.

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