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ProPublica Wins Three SABEW Awards for Business Journalism

The Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) announced Monday that ProPublica won three awards in its Best in Business competition recognizing excellence in business journalism.

Our reporting on President Donald Trump’s taxes won in the banking/finance category. Over two articles, reporter Heather Vogell and contributor Doris Burke revealed that Trump’s company has told different stories to tax authorities and loan officials, making his operations look less profitable for tax purposes and more profitable to lenders. The mission required delving deep into financial and tax documents, carefully analyzing and comparing the data to identify the discrepancies. “This was a tour de force of investigative journalism that broke new ground in a series of well-structured stories about President Donald Trump and his family business,” contest judges said. “The articles gave some of the clearest and most detailed accounts of the finances of the Trump Organization and the Trump family.”

The Extortion Economy,” by Renee Dudley and Jeff Kao, won in the technology category. Millions of ransomware attacks have struck corporations, governments, hospitals and individuals — a common cybercrime typically viewed as a foreign and unsolvable problem. ProPublica’s investigation revealed how American firms that purport to help victims of ransomware, using proprietary technology, usually just pay the ransom to recover victims’ files and charge a substantial fee on top. In essence, the ransomware targets are victimized twice, first by the hackers and then by the data recovery firms. “Compellingly written, these stories not only trace ransomware attacks to their international sources; they also shed important light on the failure of officials at publicly traded companies to adequately disclose their companies’ victimization by these internet pirates,” contest judges said. “These stories have already led to executive and legislative action to address lack of corporate transparency and weak regulations.”

A collaboration with BuzzFeed News on the grueling, sometimes deadly conditions endured by drivers who work in Amazon’s delivery network won in the retail category. The joint investigation by ProPublica’s Patricia Callahan, James Bandler and Doris Burke and BuzzFeed News’ Ken Bensinger and Caroline O’Donovan exposed how the company ignored or dismissed driver safety concerns to prioritize speed, low costs and explosive growth. Drawing on confidential corporate documents as well as interviews with more than 40 Amazon managers, the reporters showed that executives repeatedly quashed or delayed safety initiatives because they might have slowed deliveries. “ProPublica and BuzzFeed deliver deep, meaningful, fearless reporting on the biggest name in retail,” contest judges said. “Their work uncovers the human costs of a secretive culture hellbent on delivery speed and efficiency.”

Three other ProPublica projects received honorable mentions. A collaboration with American Banker, by Jesse Eisinger, Nick Varchaver, Kevin Wack and Alan Kline, on how Trump’s political appointees intervened to reduce sanctions against two large banking organizations involved in trading risky securities leading to the 2008 financial crisis, received honorable mention in the banking/finance category. “The TurboTax Trap” by Justin Elliott, Paul Kiel and Lucas Waldron, which showed how the tax preparation industry, particularly Intuit’s TurboTax, misled the public with bogus offers of free online tax preparation, received honorable mention in the government category. Reporting by Caroline Chen on how the transplant team at Newark Beth Israel Hospital failed to consult families about treatment decisions, even as it kept a vegetative patient on life support to boost its survival rate, received honorable mention in the health/science category.

See a list of all the SABEW Award winners here.

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