The Society of Professional Journalists announced that ProPublica won three Sigma Delta Chi Awards. The awards honor exceptional professional journalism produced in 2020, with entries spanning television and radio broadcasts, newspapers, online news outlets and magazines.
“New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States” by Al Shaw, Abrahm Lustgarten and Jeremy W. Goldsmith won in the data visualization category. The team combined data on different kinds of climate risks — from temperature to sea level rise to economic damages in dollars — to give a holistic picture of how climate change will affect the country. They showed this through three different visualizations: a globe showing how regions with the most liveable temperatures and precipitation will move northward by midcentury, a set of county maps and a ranked table to let the reader explore these variables individually and then how they stack up together.
“What Coronavirus Job Losses Reveal About Racism in America” by Lena V. Groeger won for COVID-19 data visualization. While Americans often think about the unemployment rate as one number, it can be wildly different depending on your age, gender, education, income — and race. Groeger made an interactive graphic that lets users explore each of those variables. The graphic lets people find themselves in one of the many hundreds of lines, allowing them to tell their own story inside a national one. The graphic also highlights that not only were Black Americans and other workers of color hit harder when the coronavirus hit, they were hit harder long before it took its toll. At the beginning of 2020, when the U.S. was at what most would have considered peak economic prosperity, the unemployment rate for Black workers was more than double that of their white counterparts.
The “Pandemic Profiteers” series won in the COVID-19 nondeadline reporting category. This investigation began soon after the COVID-19 crisis set in, with a story showing how the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had paid tens of millions of dollars to develop low-cost portable ventilators that the contractor never delivered. Then reporters Patricia Callahan and Sebastian Rotella exposed that the White House had struck a new deal to get the ventilators – but for four times the original price.
ProPublica went on to find multiple ill-advised contracts tied to the White House. J. David McSwane and Ryan Gabrielson uncovered a $7.3 million deal for test tubes from a first-time federal contractor with a sketchy owner, only to get unusable mini soda bottles. Using the news app tracking coronavirus contracts, created by Derek Willis and Moiz Syed, reporters were able to focus on red flags that the government’s due diligence apparently missed. Some 345 federal contracts, worth almost $2 billion, went to first-time contractors, many of whom had formed their companies days or weeks before landing multimillion-dollar deals.
McSwane plunged into the world of these contractors, journeying across America to meet what he called the “buccaneers and pirates” trying to make a fast buck from the country’s misfortune. His journey ended at a South Dakota VA hospital, where he found a nurse tending to COVID-19 patients in a dirty, reused N-95 mask because of the supply chain failures.
See the full list of Sigma Delta Chi Award winners here.