The Scripps Howard Foundation announced Tuesday that two projects from the ProPublica Local Reporting Network won Scripps Howard National Journalism Awards.
“Lawless” by the Anchorage Daily News won the award for community journalism. Led by Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins, the first-of-its-kind investigation uncovered a sexual assault crisis in Alaska — which has the highest rate of sexual violence in America — and how it is compounded by a profound lack of public safety services. The series specifically laid bare Alaska’s failing, two-tiered criminal justice system in which rural indigenous communities are systematically denied first responders.
For example, at least 70 communities have no local public safety officers. Victims wait hours and sometimes days for first responders to fly into far-flung villages, while some small cities have resorted to hiring police officers convicted of felonies, domestic violence and sexual offenses. Hopkins and Daily News photographers traveled to villages where it is up to the residents to tackle active shooters and restrain them with duct tape, where generations of children were sexually assaulted by Jesuit priests and where abusive husbands hide from visiting troopers with impunity.
The Daily News’ Loren Holmes, Bill Roth, Marc Lester, David Hulen, Alex Demarban, Michelle Theriault Boots and Tess Williams, as well as ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein, Adriana Gallardo, Beena Raghavendran and Nadia Sussman also contributed to the series.
After the series began publishing, the Department of Justice promised more than $52 million in federal funding for public safety in Alaska villages. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage also announced the hiring of additional rural prosecutors, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the state will hire 15 additional state troopers.
“A 911 Emergency” by The Public’s Radio won the award for radio/podcast. The investigation of Rhode Island’s 911 system revealed how inadequate training, weak regulatory oversight and powerful political forces are harming emergency medical care and costing lives.
Lynn Arditi, the health reporter at The Public’s Radio in Providence, Rhode Island, knew that something was terribly wrong with her state’s emergency medical system when she listened to a 911 call made by the family of a 6-month-old baby who stopped breathing in his crib. That call, in which the call taker failed to answer the family’s repeated pleas for help and gave incorrect information, launched Arditi on a yearlong investigation that confirmed growing concerns in the medical community about substandard pre-hospital emergency care in the state.
The series documented the consequences of the state’s failure to train 911 call takers to provide CPR instructions over the phone. She also exposed how a lifesaving tool used by EMS personnel on patients in cardiac arrest can turn deadly. The investigation led to the removal of Rhode Island’s acting 911 director, an increased training budget and new emergency medical training for all of the state’s 911 call takers.
Launched in 2018, the ProPublica Local Reporting Network supports local and regional newsrooms as they work on important investigative projects affecting their communities. Participating reporters collaborate with ProPublica senior editors as they embark on investigative journalism within their communities. ProPublica reimburses one year’s salary and benefits for each of the participating reporters and also supports projects with its expertise in data, research, audience and engagement elements of the work.