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ProPublica Workers’ Comp Investigation Wins IRE Medal

Investigative Reporters and Editors announced today that ProPublica is the winner of one of three IRE Medals, the highest honor the organization bestows. ProPublica also won two IRE Awards recognizing the best in investigative reporting.

Insult to Injury, a collaboration between ProPublica and NPR, was honored with an IRE Medal, along with an award in the Print/Online Large category. The project, by Michael Grabell, Lena Groeger, Sisi Wei and Yue Qiu of ProPublica, and Howard Berkes of NPR, showed how states have been driven by big business and insurers to dismantle workers’ compensation. As states slash benefits to injured workers and make it more difficult for them to get care, employers are paying the lowest rates for workers’ comp insurance since the 1970s.

“Tackling an often overlooked topic, the reporters built databases tracking legislative changes in each state over the past dozen years, obtained benefit plans from some of the country’s largest companies and combed through thousands of pages of depositions,” said the contest judges. “They used heartbreaking stories and interactive tools to present complex material in an elegant way. Their work paid off in legislative changes in several states, investigations and a wider discussion about needed changes. We are awarding this project an IRE Medal for its wide impact and its fresh approach to showing how employers continue to benefit at the expense of workers.”

ProPublica and NPR's Red Cross series, which revealed how one of the country’s most venerated charities has failed disaster victims and made dubious claims of success, won in the Radio/Audio category. A joint investigation by ProPublica’s Justin Elliot and NPR’s Laura Sullivan, it looked into the nearly half of billion dollars that Americans donated to the Red Cross after the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, finding that the charity built just six permanent homes in all of Haiti.

“The reporting involved multiple trips to Haiti and focused on leaked internal documents from the charity,” said the contest judges of the winning selection. “Congressmen called for investigations while the charity itself withholds details of how it spent the money that donors contributed.”

In the student category, ProPublica reporting fellow Marcelo Rochabrun was also honored for his investigation from the Daily Princetonian, showing how lavish social “eating” clubs at Princeton University set up educational foundations to give tax breaks to donors, in violation of IRS guidelines.

Click here for a complete list of winners.

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