The Scripps Howard Foundation announced today that ProPublica has won two Scripps Howard Awards. ProPublica was the only news organization to win multiple awards in this year’s competition.
Reporter Alec MacGillis won the award for Topic of the Year for his portfolio of stories on the roots of the 2016 political season, including prescient reporting on the revolt of the white working class. MacGillis reported on the ground in Dayton, Ohio to understand how the stresses that created Trump voters had been building for decades. In “’White Trash’ – The Original Underclass,” an essay co-published with the Atlantic magazine, MacGillis analyzed two 2016 books on the history of the white working class. And just hours after the election, MacGillis wrote a piece of deeply reported analysis, “Revenge of the Forgotten Class.”
The award for Digital Innovation went to ProPublica’s Machine Bias series on the increasing influence of computer-generated algorithms – from the news we see, to the prices of items we buy, to decisions made in the criminal justice system – and how such algorithms can discriminate. In this project, Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Terry Parris Jr., Lauren Kirchner, and Surya Mattu used deep data analysis to reverse engineer algorithms, involved readers to crowdsource crucial data, and employed traditional shoe leather reporting, knocking on doors in multiple states.
Among other findings, they unveiled that algorithms used by courts around the country to predict a defendant’s risk of committing a future crime can be biased against black defendants, the retail giant Amazon uses its algorithms to advantage its own products and give a misleading impression of prices, and Facebook allowed advertisers to exclude people by race. The reporting was cited in a White House report, sparked criminal justice policy changes in several states, and led Facebook to reform its advertising policy.
You can view a full list of Scripps Howard Award winners here.