Two ProPublica projects have been honored with the National Association of Black Journalists’ 2018 Salute to Excellence Awards.
“Lost Mothers,” a collaboration with NPR on the maternal mortality crisis in the U.S., won in the Digital Interactive News Story category. ProPublica reporters Nina Martin, Adriana Gallardo and Annie Waldman, along with NPR special correspondent Renee Montagne, explored the myriad reasons behind this crisis. Their body of work included an analysis of the social inequities that contribute to African-American women’s disproportionate rates of maternal mortality, as well as how unconscious biases throughout the medical system affect quality of medical care. Another piece used patient discharge data to document racial disparities at the hospital level, acquiring and analyzing inpatient records in New York, Illinois and Florida.
Another element of the series was a callout, asking people who knew someone who died or nearly died from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes to tell ProPublica their stories. Almost 4,500 readers responded, including 3,862 who said they had almost died themselves. These responses helped the reporters create a first-of-its kind database of mothers who died from pregnancy-related complications. NYU journalism graduate students Emma Cillekens and Alessandra Freita also contributed to the series. Citing “Lost Mothers,” state and local lawmakers around the country have adopted a flurry of bills aimed at reforming how maternal deaths are identified and investigated. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which sets standards of care for obstetrician-gynecologists, also released sweeping new recommendations for improving maternal care, including guidelines for doctors to see new mothers sooner and more frequently and for insurers to cover the increased visits.
“Walking While Black,” a joint investigation with the Florida Times-Union, won in the Online News Project category. Led by ProPublica reporter Topher Sanders and Florida Times Union reporter Ben Conarck, the story examined Jacksonville, Florida’s enforcement of pedestrian violations in showing sharp racial disparities in who gets stopped and penalized. ProPublica’s Lucas Waldron, Ranjani Chakraborty and Kate Rabinowitz also contributed to the series.
Sanders and Conarck found that black residents were overrepresented, receiving 55 percent of all pedestrian tickets in Jacksonville while accounting for only 29 percent of the population. They also staked out downtown locations to witness dozens of uniformed officers violating the same pedestrian laws for which their agency issued citations.
The investigation prompted the sheriff to seek guidance from the local state attorney on whether his officers were properly interpreting the statutes, and he ordered officers to cease writing erroneous tickets for pedestrians who did not have ID on them. The sheriff’s office also initiated bias training for officers who work in Jacksonville’s predominantly black communities, and state transit experts said the articles armed them with additional evidence for rewriting Florida’s pedestrian statutes.
A full list of NABJ Salute to Excellence Award winners can be found here.