The Better Government Association announced today that three investigative projects from ProPublica Illinois are among five finalists for the Richard H. Driehaus Awards for Investigative Reporting. The Driehaus Awards honor investigative journalism that reveals governmental corruption, waste, inefficiency, mismanagement, mistreatment and injustice.
The finalists include “The Quiet Rooms” series, a collaboration between ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune. The series by ProPublica Illinois reporter Jodi S. Cohen, the Chicago Tribune’s Jennifer Smith Richards and former ProPublica Illinois fellow Lakeidra Chavis showed how Illinois schools frequently put children in stark “isolated timeout” spaces, or physically restrained them, for reasons that violated state law. The series prompted Illinois’ governor and state education officials to commit to sweeping change, beginning with emergency restrictions.
A four-part investigation into video gambling across the state of Illinois, a collaboration between former ProPublica Illinois reporters Jason Grotto and Sandhya Kambhampati and WBEZ Public Radio reporter Dan Mihalopoulos, examined the impact slot and poker machines have had on the state’s finances and the social costs associated with video gambling. “The Bad Bet” uncovered how the gambling industry’s massive growth in Illinois has fueled an increase in gambling addiction among thousands of residents and ceded outsized political influence to industry insiders, all while failing to deliver the financial windfall lawmakers had promised cash-strapped communities around the state. This comprehensive examination held legislators to account for their actions and prompted concrete change, including an increase in funding to combat addiction and to strengthen the state gaming board.
“You’re Destroying Families,” by Melissa Sanchez and Duaa Eldeib, co-published with the Chicago Sun-Times, revealed the failures of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to serve Spanish-speaking families whose children enter the foster care system. Their investigation also revealed that the legal aid organization assigned to represent Spanish-speaking, Latino families in Illinois had not ensured the state was doing its job. As a result of the investigation, agency officials implemented multiple reforms.
The winners of the Driehaus Foundation Awards will be announced at 4:30 p.m. (CT) on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, during a virtual ceremony. Three winners will be selected by a panel of judges. One project will also be selected for this year’s new 2020 Reader’s Choice Award by the public. Vote for your favorite investigation here. (Voting closes on Sunday, July, 12, 2020.)