The Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) announced today that ProPublica won two awards, in addition to receiving an honorable mention, in its annual Best in Business competition recognizing excellence in business journalism.
Hell and High Water, a multimedia collaboration between ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, won in the innovation category. The project showed that Houston is at risk of a major disaster: a hurricane with the potential to devastate the region. Combining science journalism with cutting-edge technology, the package included accurate, playable simulations based on complex storm models, a lookup tool that lets Houstonians see how their own homes could be affected, and maps showing how the loss of undeveloped prairie endangers lower-lying parts of the city.
After the story’s publication, President Obama signed into law a bill to expedite a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study that will determine how best to protect Houston from such a hurricane. The law included a bill that U.S. Sen. John Cornyn filed in April — just one month after ProPublica and the Texas Tribune jointly published stories on the problem.
The Rent Racket, a series that documented how backroom deals and a lack of official oversight have undermined legal protections for New York City tenants, won the award’s real estate category. Reporters Cezary Podkul and Marcelo Rochabrun found that landlords and developers were enjoying massive tax breaks in return for agreeing to limit rent hikes, only to break their promises, which city and state officials failed to enforce. Following the series, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a large-scale enforcement program, saying that building owners who fail to follow the law will lose their tax breaks. Officials from the city housing authority and finance department have pledged also to end the practice of granting the tax benefit without checking to make sure landlords comply with the rent rules.
In addition, ProPublica’s Machine Bias series, exploring the algorithms that are increasingly making decisions about our lives, received an honorable mention in the investigative category.
See a list of all the SABEW Best in Business winners here.