Center punches above its weight in journalism awards

Professional recognition for the investigative work of Center journalists



Punching above our weight

The Center has a history of punching above its weight in the rich field of journalism awards in the United States. Last year’s Pulitzer for the Breathless and Burdened package was of course the pinnacle.

This week the team was struck by a shortlist for the Online News Association with no fewer than seven finalists — more by my count than any other news organization other than The New York Times (with 10). It’s a strong field across the board in many categories with entries from around the world. What is so gratifying — and will hopefully lead to awards —  is the spread across our portfolio from Juvenile Justice to Money & Politics and to the International Consortium of Journalists’ work on two major projects. [I've updated this to elaborate on those who contributed to the ICIJ work.]

It’s a credit to the team to get these kudos from peers and we know donors in particular value the professional recognition. It adds to the ways we measure impact through readership engagement, social media, distribution with media partners and real-world change.

Our ONA finalists include one where we are the sole nomination for the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award for small newsrooms, the work on Profiting from Prisoners by our former colleague Dan Wagner, now at BuzzFeed and our video editor Eleanor Bell. It's a powerful piece.

Others include: Susan Ferriss’ work on the incarceration of children which is also credited to RevealNews for its podcast version, the work on the US broadband duopoly by Allan Holmes and Chris Zubak-Skees, the ICIJ series on the World Bank’s broken promises for the ICIJ in partnership with Huffington Post  project managed by Michael Hudson and originated by Sasha Chavkin and the huge SwissLeaks project by the ICIJ. [On the World Bank report, Michael Hudson wrote a valuable explanatory piece spelling out the collaboration that goes in to any ICIJ and was typified by the World Bank project.]

The shortlist for the ONA awards is here and is filled with our partners and our competitors.

EPA stays quiet under the barrage

The Center’s Environment team piled on more evidence that the Environmental Protection Agency has failed in its duty to protect minority groups from “environmental racism” with example after example from communities as far afield as Oxnard, California, Syracuse, New York, and poignantly, a town near Selma, Alabama – site of a huge hazardous waste dump.

What strikes me about so much of the coverage is the lame response from the EPA itself. It appears to feel no sense of obligation to explain itself. In a partnership with NBC the Center has interviewed the the director of the agency’s civil-rights office, Velveta Golightly-Howell, who says the civil rights requirements are a “priority”. That’s not what the body of evidence suggests and we’re trying the EPA again.

Unfortunately it looks like a good candidate for our communications manager Bill Gray’s Tumblr “couldn’t be reached” for those times when public officials really don’t feel they ought to explain their actions to the media.

Anatomy of an investigation

Bill Buzenberg, my predecessor heading the Center, has been at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He’s produced an account of what goes into an ICIJ investigation by Gerard Ryle and his team, specifically the SwissLeaks story and the way the consortium was to reveal the secrets of HSBC’s Swiss banking operation. It’s a compelling perspective on the collaborative approach the ICIJ has pioneered over the past few years, bringing hundreds of lone wolves together in a pack.

What we’re reading

The MacArthur Foundation is a mover and shaker in the philanthropic world and a long-time backer of the Center. It’s President, Julia M. Stasch, sets a new direction for the organization in this extract from the MacArthur annual report.

The upheaval at the New Republic magazine has been educational for me and this from the Poynter Institute is illuminating.

And from the “we’re not dead yet” department, Jim Romenesko notes the Cleveland Plain Dealer has realized investigative journalism seems to work online. Meanwhile Recode reports that long-form is shared more than short-form

On a day when it was confirmed NBC Universal’s investing $200m each in Vox and BuzzFeed, this on the BuzzFeed phenomenon from Gawker. 

I welcome any feedback on this note.



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