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ProPublica’s ‘Too Broke for Bankruptcy’ Wins ASNE Award

The series showed that the bankruptcy system routinely fails those it is meant to aid.

The American Society of News Editors announced “Too Broke for Bankruptcy” by Paul Kiel and Hannah Fresques as the winner of its 2018 Dori J. Maynard Award for Justice in Journalism.

The investigative series showed that the bankruptcy system routinely fails those it is meant to aid and particularly punishes poor black Americans. Securing never-before-released data and doing sophisticated analysis, Kiel and Fresques showed in stark detail that blacks were failing to finish their bankruptcy payment plans in startling numbers—leaving them in worse straits.

Zooming in closer on a couple of cities, they identified the driving force behind this trend. A handful of attorneys, mostly white, steer their African-American clients into Chapter 13 rather than Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, which makes it more likely that bankruptcy petitioners will pay their legal fees – but less likely that they will get lasting debt relief.

"'Too Broke for Bankruptcy' skillfully marries masterful data journalism with nuanced reporting about those affected to create a powerful report that shines light on a little-known but deeply disturbing trend,” said contest judges. “It truly meets the criteria of this award, journalism that fights for justice for those who are disadvantaged."

Honoring the best in print, digital, photo and video content in 10 categories, ASNE Award judges narrowed the winners down from 481 entries.

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