• Winner – A collaboration of Kaiser Health News and Reveal; ‘Into the Covid ICU’: A New Doctor Bears Witness to the Isolation, Inequities of the Pandemic
This hourlong story is a stunningly rich depiction of the most vital actors in the war against COVID: the doctors on the front line. The story — at once heartbreaking and inspiring — is impossible to pause once begun, delivered as an immersive audio experience that transports listeners into the trenches of the battle against the once-in-a-generation threat. Published before the vaccine was widely available, the story translated for listeners the battle’s most pressing challenges while humanizing our most essential workers.
• Honorable Mention – Marketplace; How We Survive “White Gold” & “The Necessary Evil”
Natural sound, fascinating interviews and a skilled host make this series a standout among coverage of the climate crisis. The stories are layered, exposing problems and highlighting solutions in accessible fashion. The topic of climate change can feel unwieldy, even intractable, and this series succeeds in breaking it down while retaining the sense of urgency it deserves.
• Honorable Mention – A collaboration of Wall Street Journal and Gimlet Media; To the Moon
The GameStop stock saga was one of the biggest business stories of the year, and this series stands out among the coverage for its breadth, depth and accessibility. Through dozens of interviews, the series reminds listeners that the financial markets are not infallible, but rather a reflection of human behavior and emotion.
• Honorable Mention – Marketplace; The Uncertain Hour “To Catch a Chicken” and “Big Boss Little Boss”
This series seamlessly connects past, present and future to convey the arc of employment in America. Its interviews with workers are raw and eye-opening, while its research and delivery make for essential listening to understand what went wrong with the nature of work — and the implications for society.
• Winner – The Financial Times; Race and Finance
The FT did a fantastic job with its deep dive into why entrepreneurs from communities of color have a tougher time getting credit and why it’s more expensive. Likewise with its look at the hurdles facing Black student borrowers. The FT showed why minority business loans are considered more risky and why Black student loan holders wind up paying down very little of their debt over 20 years.
Some of the other entries in this category broke news with great shoe-leather reporting on complex topics. But this is arguably the most critical issue in finance today, and the one that most begs for a solution.
• Honorable Mention – Bloomberg News; The Collapse of Archegos Capital Management
Bloomberg’s Bill Hwang feature was the most entertaining and engaging treatment of this unassuming “whale.” Very well written.
• Winner – The Cincinnati Enquirer; Workhorse: How an unprofitable electric vehicle company made insiders millionaires
Solid digging and writing by a sole reporter that shined a bright light on possible executive wrongdoing, likely unjust enrichment based on inside information, and revealed a government investigation. Very good work.
• Honorable Mention – Globe and Mail; The Collapse of Bridging Finance
Deep, ongoing reporting that revealed what appears to be blatant skullduggery that resulted in regulatory action.
• Winner – The Counter; After a last-ditch lawsuit is filed in Texas, Black farmers wait to learn the fate of USDA’s imperiled debt relief program
Writing in The Counter, Safiya Charles weaves a story that grabs the reader from the first paragraph and takes them deep into a world of small farms and historical injustice that most know little to nothing about. Relying on court records, in-depth interviews, and leaked documents, Charles follows the struggle to secure debt relief for farmers of color, using a profile of one man trying to find his way out of crushing debt as a window onto the larger story.
The lead quote sums up this compelling and indignant article: “They make us all types of promises. In the end, it’s just words.”
• Honorable Mention – Portland Business Journal; Cracked Foundation
In its investigative report, “Cracked Foundation,” the Portland Business Journal drills down into local mortgage data to show how the banking industry continues to fall short of regulatory goals aimed at increasing minority home ownership. The package is an impressive combination of local reporting and analysis that builds on similar data-dives by other news organizations in recent years.
Best Range of Work
• Winner – Los Angeles Times; Sam Dean
Exceptional range demonstrating savvy, clever, analytical writing; plus, angles that separated him from the pack and showed readers new sides of widely reported stories.
• Honorable Mention – The New York Times; Kevin Roose
Innovative and authoritative work, smartly told across a variety of platforms.
• Winner – The Verge; Alex Heath
Alex showcased his ability to deliver news-breaking reporting, high-level analysis and great interview gets across a variety of mediums.
• Winner – St. Louis Business Journal; Nathan Rubbelke
A smart display of feature writing and analysis on a broad range of topics that demonstrates Nathan’s ability to find worthy ideas and develop them authoritatively.
• Winner – The Washington Post; The IRS Is a Hot Mess
Michelle Singletary’s columns about how the Internal Revenue Service is failing low-income citizens feature strong personal details and a well-crafted individual voice. The conversational tone of the columns makes her frustrations with the IRS all the more relatable.
• Honorable Mention – The New York Times; China’s Crackdown
Li Yuan’s columns shed light on the motivations for China’s aggressive crackdown on its tech, finance and other corporate giants, along with their founders. They clearly explain a shift in attitude among the country’s leaders and why it matters.
• Winner – Bloomberg Industry Group; Vivia Chen Unfiltered
Vivia Chen’s columns for Bloomberg Law stood out for sharp writing, superb ledes and reporting. Her lively writing style and decision to address timely topics, such as calls to end remote work and the trumpeting of corporate diversity targets, made her columns interesting to a more general business reader. Her columns are what you want to read from every opinion writer: strongly reported, incisive and smart.
• Honorable Mention – Fortune Magazine; Your Father’s Stock Market Is Never Coming Back
Joshua Brown’s article covering the generational divide in investing and offering tips to the older generation is smart and well written. He brings to life the changing dynamics in investing with wit and thoughtful insights, weaving in timely details about the shifts in the economy and job prospects for younger generations.
• Winner – The American Prospect; The Business of Strategic Consultants
The judges learned a lot reading this entry as it lifted the lid on the amorphous quality of the consultancy gig.
• Honorable Mention – The Counter; Innovation and the incinerated tongue: Notes on hot chicken, race, and culinary crossover
This entry stood out – the judges previously hadn’t thought at all about cultural appropriation of food. This entry brought it to the surface. There was more humanity, and it was very down to earth, but the story of how it happened hooked the judges.
• Winner – Bloomberg News; Race and Recovery
The Bloomberg Race and Recovery package used data to tell a story that was otherwise obscured by … data. The team’s ability to isolate – and effectively visualize – demographic nuance made for a more comprehensive picture than some of the other entries that explored the same topic. The slick data visualizations also complemented reporting on what accounted for what the data revealed, as voiced by on-the-ground experts within the communities being discussed. Overall, an exemplary showing of what data journalism can accomplish.
• Honorable Mention – Los Angeles Times; The groundwater crisis in California’s San Joaquin Valley
The LA Times groundwater crisis piece explored an old phenomenon: “Farms here have been overpumping groundwater for decades.” However, the data visualizations in the piece conveyed extremely effectively that the present situation is atypically dire. Heavy on facts and figures, the data was then complemented with the voices of those impacted in a way that made readers care. Bonus points for the deft usage of iconic heights (Transamerica Pyramid, Eiffel Tower) to make these great drill depths graspable. This piece was satisfyingly local and universal at the same time.
• Winner – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Troubled Transparency: Most Pennsylvania hospitals fail to reveal their prices to the public — as required by federal mandate
This package had amazing sweep and context on an issue that affects virtually everyone – how to find out how much hospitals charge for procedures. The reporters spent months looking at more than 100 hospital websites; they downloaded reams of data and crunched it to see which hospitals were complying with a transparency law requiring hospitals to post prices online. For those hospitals out of compliance, the reporters’ administrators pushed for answers and wouldn’t relent in the face of lame excuses. The pullout graphics were smart and helpful, and the interactive table was amazing to scroll through. Overall, was a masterpiece of accountability journalism using data in the public domain.
• Honorable Mention – A collaboration of The Arizona Republic and The Desert Sun; Draining the forests
The reporting team took a deep look at a critical issue for the western US, where water from national forests winds up, and why. The reporters pressed and pressed, filing multiple open-records requests and countless follow-up emails to government officials over months, despite lots of foot-dragging from the U.S. Forest Service. Their findings were helpful and probably infuriating to many readers. The design, photos, maps and graphics were impressive.
• Winner – Quartz; An analysis of 27,000 Instagram images shows that fashion’s BLM reckoning was mostly bluster
This was super creative. Who ordinarily thinks of images when we talk about data analysis? It was extremely well organized and presented, with numerous touch points to click through. The authors also bent over backwards to be upfront with readers on the limitations of their data and assumptions. A real public service.
• Honorable Mention – Crain’s New York Business; Car city
An outstanding piece of local business journalism that, through data, told the story of a cultural touchstone – how generations of New Yorkers accustomed to never driving suddenly decided to learn during the pandemic.
• Winner – The New York Times; Green Jobs
Time and again, President Biden has said a “green” economy will create “good” jobs for middle-class workers. That may sound plausible. Investors are pouring money into solar farms and electric-vehicle plants. But NYT economics reporter Noam Scheiber’s deep dive into the economics of a green economy turned up many reasons to doubt Biden’s upbeat predictions. While the need to reduce fossil-fuel use is obvious, it’s not at all clear that green jobs will easily replace existing high-paying jobs. This important issue is given serious treatment in the consistent, compelling voice of one dogged economics reporter.
• Honorable Mention – The Wall Street Journal; The Supply-Chain Snarl, Untangled
Throughout 2021, supply chain problems held back economic growth, drove inflation and frustrated shoppers, workers and business owners. Lots of reporters took a shot at explaining it, but the Wall Street Journal did a particularly good job of showing what was happening. It took apart a hot tub to demonstrate just how tricky it is to pull together 1,850 parts – coming from seven countries and 14 state – to build a single tub. And then reporters explained the supply-chain snarls involving dolls and ketchup packets. It was all very illuminating.
• Winner – ProPublica; The Secret IRS Files
The judges were impressed by the quality and depth of reporting and sourcing in The IRS Files. The stories broke new ground, raising questions about fairness in taxation, where billionaires find a way not to pay their fair share while others don’t have a choice. The policy implications from this coverage are hard to discount.
• Honorable Mention – Houston Chronicle; The great divide
This series was anchored in solid local reporting, where the reporter put a human face to important issues dividing our economy. The stories were thoughtfully conceptualized and well written.
• Winner – Chicago Booth Review; How the 1 percent’s savings buried the middle class in debt
This in-depth story brings to light one of the most problematic economic dynamics of our era. Not only are the rich getting richer, but their tendency to hoard their wealth is having negative consequences for economic growth and the financial security of the middle class. This story is told in a clear and compelling way, turning academic research into an engaging and thought-provoking feature. It’s an eye-opening conclusion that the debt of 90% of Americans is the financial asset of the top 1%. This story breaks new ground and provides an exclusive insight, plus the graphics really make this entry a complete package.
• Honorable Mention – Capital & Main; America’s Wealth Gap is Enormous and Getting Worse
This story tackles America’s tragic and enduring history of racial economic inequality and offers, not only compelling analysis and convincing data, but also real human voices and a review of potential solutions. Notably, it shows how the pandemic laid bare an existing wealth gap and how it continues to grow.
• Winner – A collaboration of NBC News Investigations, The New York Times and The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting; Rainforest Destruction: The Supply Chains To U.S. Consumers
This sweeping and ambitious group of pieces is impressive in its global reach and depth. Its exploration of world trade is exemplary, as is its use of multimedia elements. It also represents exceptional collaboration among media entities.
• Honorable Mention – Reuters; Corporate “greenwashing’
The example of dogged reporting in the face of corporate recalcitrance is a prime example of accountability journalism. It holds to the fire powerful entities that would rather have their shortcomings and excessive promises buried and forgotten.
• Honorable Mention – The New York Times; Race to the Future
This piece showcases the strength of a media organization with global reach and a willingness to take on big subjects and targets.
• Winner – The California Report; Bankrupt, a year-long investigation into profiteering from the nation’s first climate change bankruptcy
The reporting here was relentless and the impact was strong. This is a case where top-flight investigative journalism made a real difference in exposing and, to some degree, lessening a truly extraordinary concatenation of abuse and greed. The combination of clear, dramatic storytelling, with the exposure of yet another one of Wall Street’s breathtaking societal harms made for an exceptional body of work.
Very significant subject matter — not just locally but nationally. It revealed stuff that people almost certainly did not know and likely felt they needed/wanted to know. It brought three key dimensions of the story to life: the business story; the human impact story; the finance story — with government/political implications interlaced across all three. It was well-executed, w/strong detail and sourcing, and esp. data.
• Winner – The Counter; How a federal drought relief program left southern Oregon parched—and contributed to the ongoing groundwater crisis in the West
Jessica Fu’s smart reporting untangles the complicated factors behind drought conditions in southern Oregon. The judges were impressed with the clarity of her writing, the use of visual elements, and the extensive sourcing and research that went into reporting a piece about the complicated challenges facing multiple communities.
• Honorable Mention – The Texas Tribune; The Winter Storm and the Texas Power Grid
The team at the Texas Tribune did an amazing job delivering an in depth look at how regulators responded to last year’s devastating Winter Storm in the state. The thoroughness of their reporting was extremely eye-opening, breaking down a complex side of the story many never knew.
• Honorable Mention – Arctic Today; A changing Bering Sea
Yereth Rosen of Arctic Today expertly unpacked the affects climate change is wreaking on Alaska’s economy, including in unexpected ways for which the state is not prepared to handle.
• Winner – The New York Times; The Amazon Workplace
This series stood out because of its penetrating reporting and authoritative narration of Amazon’s labor model. Normally HR practices don’t make news, but those of the nation’s fastest growing employer deserve such deep scrutiny, especially when they puncture Amazon’s reputation for perfect efficiency and a progressive ethos. The inside documents and interviews with employees up and down the corporate hierarchy created an unparalleled view of the company’s callousness towards its frontline workers as they took great risks with their health and allowed millions of Americans to stay home safe.
• Honorable Mention – Los Angeles Times; The COVID economy
There are many ways to capture the impact of a year-old pandemic. We found the multi-media interactive piece on Pico Boulevard, even without extensive statistics and expert input, to be an engrossing and powerful way to do that. The individual vignettes of small business owners all strung together by a geographic narrative device gave a panoramic snapshot of the city’s struggle to endure an unprecedented disruption — and some of the creative workarounds that allowed some to thrive in spite of it.
• Winner – Fortune Magazine; Insulin’s Deadly Cost
How to rein in the high cost of life-saving drugs such as insulin for diabetics has bedeviled Congress for years. This investigation takes readers into what it calls “a surreal world in which manufacturers compete not by cutting prices but by raising them.”
Specifically, it’s a clearly written, deep-dive into the little-known world of pharmacy benefit managers and their role in sky-high drug costs. It. goes to the heart of an issue that concerns all of us but is a mystery to most people.
• Honorable Mention – Kaiser Health News; A Pandemic Year in American Hospitals: Banner Profits or Bankruptcy
Trailblazing exploration of how the pandemic continued to widen the health-care gap between wealthy hospitals and their patients and rural communities and the less well-off.
• Honorable Mention – Omaha World-Herald; The State of Beef
Strong local reporting — the best of explanatory reporting in taking on a big part of the economy, one that remains opaque to most Americans, and describing how it really works.
• Honorable Mention – A collaboration of The Boston Globe and Portland Press Herald; The Lobster Trap
Unique, beautifully written and cinematic account of how climate change is affecting a key industry in the Northeast.
• Winner – ACBJ National Content Desk; Death, taxes and ivory towers
The national desk at American City Business Journals took a hard look at a deeply entrenched tax benefit given to America’s educational institutions, revealing the unintended economic and social consequences to the cities that are home to major universities and colleges. ACBJ presented a well-written and organized series of stories based on thorough and meticulous reporting, data and exclusive information obtained through Freedom of Information requests.
• Honorable Mention – The Center for Public Integrity; Cheated at Work
The Center for Public Integrity provided a comprehensive evaluation of a little-known and little-understood issue that divides corporate America and its workers. The reporters did excellent data work on a significant social and economic issue, showing how thousands of U.S. companies illegally underpay their workers to the tune of almost $300 million in unpaid wages a year.
• Honorable Mention – The Texas Tribune; The Power Grid Crisis in Texas
The Texas Tribune’s coverage dissected the issues that caused the worst outage in state history. The balanced and deep reporting set the record straight with great fact-checking of misinformation, exposing many systemic flaws while also pointing out how some emergency responses helped avert a worse situation. They made excellent use of graphics and visualizations to support their strong storytelling.
• Winner – CNBC.com; Inside Afghanistan’s cryptocurrency underground as the country plunges into turmoil
In a competitive category, CNBC’s Mackenzie Sigalos’ story about what happens to the money in a crumbling country rose to the top. The judges felt it was innovative and addressed a complex topic with clear writing and engaging characters.
• Honorable Mention – The Washington Post; Facebook under fire
In a crowded field, The Washington Post managed to break new ground with its accounting of Facebook’s role leading up to the Jan. 6 uprising. The story is riveting and bolstered by the Post’s own original reporting.
• Honorable Mention – National Public Radio; The value of low-wage work in America
NPR’s Alina Selyukh’s compelling characters and meticulous attention to detail elevated this story. Her reporting uncovered the depth of despair felt by low-wage workers during the pandemic and it impacted readers, who started online fundraisers to help the workers.
• Winner – WIRED; Get That Money! He thought he could outfox the gig economy. He was wrong.
In “Get That Money,” Lauren Smiley pulls off a feature writing trifecta: It is a joy to read, it brings an essential business subject to life and it effortlessly advances our knowledge of a telling event. In three short opening paragraphs, Smiley manages to introduce Jeffrey Fang, his addiction to his gig job and public condemnation of his parenting skills while throwing the reader immediately into the action on the night his car was stolen with his kids inside.
The pace never relents as we delve deeply into Fang’s fascinating personal backstory and see him buffeted by family expectations, California politics and a global pandemic. This is a tale we couldn’t put down — written with pizazz, verve and the sweep of a master storyteller. And through it all, Smiley never loses sight of the underlying business lesson: “His phone lured him like a blackjack table. Each offer sliding on the screen was an enticing gambler; it might bring 18 bucks, 24 bucks, or, if he played it extremely well, 100 bucks. He ignored his friends’ and family’s pleas to get out, thinking he could somehow beat the financial odds.”
• Honorable Mention – Fortune Magazine; Hawkeye Elegy
Erika Fry’s “Hawkeye Elegy” offers a front row seat to a monster storm that tore apart the very fabric of her home state of Iowa at a time when it was already ravaged by the pandemic. The so-called inland hurricane, the costliest U.S. thunderstorm on record, was not only a major news event for Fry but also a personal journey. Her account is written with the authority of an accomplished business journalist and the compassion of native daughter, drawing the reader into a world that might otherwise feel distant and unknowable. “It’s not fair to reduce Iowa’s very real disasters to symbol, but on Aug. 10, with its flattened fields and exploded barns, Iowa looked like America felt,” she wrote.
• Honorable Mention – Nikkei Asia; Beijing’s secret chipmaking champions: How Washington’s sanctions boosted China’s semiconductor sector
It comes as no surprise that Cheng Ting-Fang and Lauly Li’s cover piece on China’s semiconductor industry was Nikkei Asia’s most read in 2021. The two tech reporters deliver a highly readable tour de force on the global chip making competition between the United States and China, delivering both exclusive details and authoritative sweep on a beat that is fiercely difficult to penetrate. Months later, Beijing’s mission to remove U.S. leverage over its economy by fast-tracking its homegrown semiconductor industry is all the more relevant as the Biden administration threatens to use its advantage to influence China’s relations with Russia over the war in Ukraine.
• Honorable Mention – The Boston Globe; After the boom
Robert Weisman’s engrossing three-part series, “After the Boom,” deftly explores the pandemic’s economic and psychological impact on baby boomers. This series is notable for its narrative and on-the-record interviews with numerous members of that mega-generation born between 1946 and 1964, who made life-changing decisions – some forced – during the Covid crisis. Weisman dissects how growing income inequality has shaped boomers’ choices and prospects. For those who did not benefit from asset increases, he walks us through the daunting job re-entry into a post-Covid world. All of it is telling and powerful reading.
• Winner – Fast Company; The Ascent of Sara Nelson, Workers’ Great Hope
A profile of a maverick leader who played a crucial role during the pandemic, this well-reported story provides an illuminating look at the state of the labor movement in America and its future directions.
• Honorable Mention – Nashville Business Journal; Darrell Freeman profile
A close-up look at the most successful Black entrepreneur in Nashville.
• Honorable Mention – The Information; Tim Cook’s Secret Deal
A deep investigation into Apple’s questionable dealings in China, this report was later cited by major business publications around the globe.
• Winner – The Counter; Food is just food. Until you tell its story.
A compelling body of work that examines the people, policy and money behind the food we eat and where and how we eat it. Karen Stabiner’s story about the collision between the homeless and Google in the streets and restaurants of a bohemian Venice, Calif., neighborhood was meticulously reported and beautifully written. An investigation into prison labor and the food industry, breaking news about a co-founder leaving his company after a research breakthrough, and beautifully photographed essay on a sustainable family farm rounded out The Counter’s work, which set a new bar for excellence in this category.
• Winner – The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal’s compelling package of business journalism included one of the year’s major investigative stories: “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show”. The impact of this Facebook Files project has been truly far-reaching. Similarly, the breaking-news scoop on stock-trading by the Dallas Fed’s Robert Kaplan had immediate national repercussions on the Federal Reserve.
The Journal made highly imaginative use of autobots as part of an outstanding visual explanation of how TikTok’s secretive algorithms mold what its millions of users each get to see on screen. The Journal package also included a strongly backgrounded and analytical spot-news account of the breakup of General Electric.
In a highly competitive category, the Wall Street Journal’s range of work and top-notch journalism was best in class in 2021.
• Winner – Nikkei Asia
The judges were impressed by the scope and depth of the reporting, especially an entry on Apple Inc.’s supply chain problems that examined each component of the iPhone, the suppliers and the specific delivery issues. Nikkei found the smaller and cheaper components were the most problematic issues.
Other notable entries included a report from Vietnam where workers were sleeping overnight in their factories in order to continue production during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nikkei’s work contained memorable graphics, photos and high-quality storytelling, all displaying excellence in modern business journalism.
• Honorable Mention – Kaiser Health News
Kaiser Health News for a deeply reported and well-written series of articles, notably reports about how the business of trauma centers and the resulting high medical bills patients can face for unnecessary treatment. Another involved an expose of medical device makers who had funneled billions of dollars to orthopedic surgeons who use their products.
In all cases, Kaiser Health News broke down the complexity of the medical bureaucracy into vivid human terms, with well-reported anecdotes of patients affected by these trends. The level of difficulty in the reporting was high and the storytelling excellent.
• Winner – Crain’s Detroit Business
Beyond great storytelling — breakers, features, news analyses — what struck us most about Crain’s Detroit Business is its total commitment to tackling difficult issues in an honest way and without concern for the negative light it may cast on its local subjects. Crain’s Detroit doesn’t shy away from holding those in power accountable, whether it’s government officials and plastic manufacturers (“Great Lakes Pollution”) or state-funded preschool programs (“Child Care Conundrum”). This kind of reporting is so vital right now, as local news is shrinking or disappearing from so many areas of the country.
• Honorable Mention – Nashville Business Journal
The breadth and depth of reporting at NBJ was inspiring: It scooped and owned the story of Oracle building a massive hub with 8,000 local jobs; an insightful profile of a black entrepreneur turned mentor; and an in-depth investigation of how a once-hot start-up went bust.
• Winner – The Wall Street Journal; Hidden Interests
The Journal reviewed financial disclosure forms filed annually for 2010 through 2018 by 700 federal judges who reported holding individual stocks of companies they heard cases on. These three stories reflect a massive amount of investigative journalism that brought significant info to light. Reporters identified 131 federal judges who heard hundreds of cases between 2010 and 2018 involving companies in which they or a family member owned stock—in violation of federal law and judicial-ethics rules.
The stories triggered action: 56 of the judges have directed court clerks to notify parties in 329 lawsuits that they should have recused themselves. About two-thirds of their rulings came down in favor of their or their family’s financial interests. The Journal even found 61 judges trading the stocks during cases.
• Honorable Mention – The Wall Street Journal; The Growing Use of Commercial Data Spying
To quote one of these stories, Tau’s reporting provides an “unusual glimpse at how data flows in a largely unregulated industry that buys and sells the precise movements of billions of people’s smartphones.” It’s as fascinating as it is concerning.
This series of crisp, well-reported articles offers a revealing look at how consumer data is being used in frightening ways by governments and commercial entities, risking not only our privacy but perhaps even our national security.
• Winner – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; National Guard turmoil
The Milwaukee paper’s article on the Guard’s handling of sexual assault allegations, as well as its articles on the suicides of four Wisconsin Guardsmen who had returned from service in Afghanistan, handled the victims’ stories sensitively.
The reporters’ empathy for the members of the Guard and their families came through as did the broader theme of innocents caught in situations beyond their control. The newspaper’s editor points out that the articles prompted changes in how the Guard handles sexual assault cases and an increase in state funding to combat suicides.
• Honorable Mention – ProPublica; Unchecked: America’s Broken Food Safety System
ProPublica investigated a salmonella outbreak among dozens of people who had eaten chicken or turkey products. It painstakingly looked at all the federal agencies that are supposed to protect the food supply and public health. (It also provided a database so that consumers could look up the plants that processed their chicken and turkey.)
Its chilling conclusion was that government enforcement had fallen through the cracks. The outbreak, the reporters said, was “the byproduct of a baffling and largely toothless food safety system that is ill-equipped to protect consumers or rebuff industry influence.” Its articles also led the Agriculture Department to announce that it was rethinking its approach to salmonella.
• Honorable Mention – Fortune Magazine; Dominion Voting: Big Lies vs. Big Lawsuits
Fortune’s article on the misinformation spread about Dominion’s voting machines provided details on the roots of the conspiracy theory and told the tale so well that the judges were all impressed. And the article presciently noted the implications for libel law of Dominion’s lawsuits. “Whatever their outcome,” it said, “those cases could send ripples throughout the media,” adding that the court decisions could end up “redefining the role of organizations in both covering and correcting misinformation.”
• Winner – The Center for Public Integrity; Cheated at Work
“Cheated at Work” exposed a major wrongdoing — and it took exhaustive research to show the scope of a problem afflicting some of the most-vulnerable members of the U.S. workforce. It’s never easy to report on what amounts to the hole in the doughnut, in this case, the absence of the Labor Department action. The project succeeded in doing that. The examples were vivid. It was ambitious in scope, crisply written, sharply edited and relied on a deep well of data.
• Honorable Mention – The Counter; What, exactly, is going on with the Covid-19 restaurant relief fund?
“What, exactly, is going on with the Covid-19 restaurant relief fund?” zeroed in on how some restaurateurs got crushed by the Small Business Administration’s quiet cutoff of relief applications.
• Winner – The Wall Street Journal; The Hidden Truth: Hospitals’ Pricing Power
We appreciated that the reporters untangled the “insanity of U.S. healthcare pricing” with hard data and a compelling narrative. In what should be a wakeup call for lawmakers, the reporting left little doubt that many providers are skirting a federal rule that hospitals make pricing public and easily accessible to consumers. The stories were deeply reported and anchored by crisp writing and real-world examples that brought heart to this comprehensive analysis.
• Honorable Mention – The Financial Times; Covid-19 vaccine rollout
This series provided a fascinating behind-the-curtain look at the winners and losers of the vaccine rollout. The entry included three great tales all told in a comprehensive way, all zeroed in on the tension and drama.
• Winner – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Wires and Fires
This series went deep on an issue most people don’t think about but is ever-present: the threat of electrical fires. Illustrating how it affects low-income households more profoundly than others made the series even more impactful. The Milwaukee Journal could have stopped there but it hired an expert to look at properties, driving the point about inequities even harder. Excellent work all around, with an impressive presentation that was both informative and easily digestible.
• Honorable Mention – A collaboration of ProPublica, The Texas Tribune and Mountain State Spotlight; Sacrifice Zones: Mapping Cancer-Causing Industrial Air Pollution
This entry was fascinating and beautifully laid out with a useful and thorough map. Well reported and well explained overall.
• Honorable Mention – Fortune Magazine; Insulin’s Deadly Cost
A smart approach to examining the high cost of drugs through the lens of insulin. The reporter does a good job of explaining the complicated web of the health care system and the impact on real people who are so dependent on insulin as a matter of life or death.
• Winner – A collaboration of Block Club Chicago and Better Government Association; Loretto Hospital
In 2021, Covid vaccine deliveries showcased the best and worst of America. U.S. research and innovation drove a shockingly fast development process that offered a credible defense against the worst ravages of the disease. But once the shots were on offer, many Americans stepped over anyone they had to in order to get theirs first, and hospital staff stretched to their limits received little in the way of backup. Kelly Bauer and David Jackson’s coverage of vaccine distribution at Loretto Hospital shows us the real damage that was done as a result.
Bauer and Jackson delivered a string of remarkable scoops that regularly drove coverage of the widening scandals at Loretto, a safety-net hospital that set aside doses for wealthy pals when it was supposed to be helping Chicago’s neediest. Their extensive documentation of the straight lines between payoffs for key hospital officials and deteriorating services at the short-staffed hospital forced reforms, resignations, and criminal probes. The work also offers a grim reminder that the deadliest problem in America’s health care system isn’t the coronavirus.
• Honorable Mention – STAT; Selling Certainty: In a sea of skeptics, this physician was one of fibromyalgia patients’ few true allies. Or was he?
In “Selling Certainty,” Stat’s Eric Boodman exposes a high-profile doctor’s highly questionable practices. That doctor, Bruce Gillis, suggested to patients that they could qualify for a clinical study if they bought his test for fibromyalgia, an autoimmune disorder some medical experts view with skepticism. It turns out that test was hardly conclusive. And the trial? It didn’t exist. Stat called Boodman’s investigation “Selling Certainty,” but it could be called “Selling Hope.”
Boodman tells the stories of patients who endure unexplained pain, using vivid details to show what it’s like to live every day in agony. The roughly 4 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with fibromyalgia could relate to this story and, potentially, not fall prey to the false hope offered by the next doctor trying to sell them certainty.
This story also has implications for millions of others diagnosed with autoimmune disorders. As Boodman notes, women are more frequently diagnosed with autoimmune disorders than men — perhaps it’s not a coincidence some doctors question whether these ailments are real. At a time when medical experts are just starting to understand the effects of long COVID, another condition affecting women more than men, this investigation could be more relevant than ever.
• Honorable Mention – STAT; How America’s largest Catholic hospital system is moonlighting as a private equity firm
Many reporters are tackling the problems that arise when private equity firms think they can run hospital systems, but what about when a hospital system wants to run a private equity firm? Stat’s Rachel Cohrs has the receipts to show how Ascension, a sprawling network of hospitals that takes in roughly $27 billion a year across a dozen states, has spent years shifting its aims away from patient care and toward financialization. Among other things, she documents Ascension officials guiding PE investment strategies in ways that most peer institutions could scarcely imagine.
In Ascension’s case, the kinds of problems typically associated with PE controls of hospitals are coming from inside the house. Cohrs lays out in cleareyed detail how management fees have spiked and patient services have suffered over the past decade. The Catholic nonprofit’s share of spending on charity care, ostensibly a core part of its mission, has fallen from well above the national average to well below it. Cohrs shows the system shuttering safety-net hospitals even as it pours money into a troubled debt collector, raising the question of whether Ascension is still earning its tax-exempt status.
• Winner – The New York Times; Immersive 3-D Storytelling
The judges award first place to the New York Times’ three-part entry. The Times marshaled their resources to produce interesting and important journalism, using visual storytelling techniques that are second to none. The Tulsa project was perhaps the most impressive, given the historical distance and the enormity of the crime, but all were first-class projects and displayed significant imagination and ambition.
• Winner – A collaboration of ProPublica, The Texas Tribune and Mountain State Spotlight; Sacrifice Zones: Mapping Cancer-Causing Industrial Air Pollution
This entry stood out early as an exemplar of journalistic innovation. It did so by pairing creative thinking with the best of investigative reporting’s tools to ferret out a big-picture truth that had eluded federal and state regulators for decades.
This innovative project led to changes in regulatory oversight that are likely to improve public health and perhaps save lives.
• Winner – CoStar Group; Path of Amazon’s 100 Million-Square-Foot Journey to Real Estate Dominance
Lots of really detailed work here. And it’s great to see smaller news orgs shining a light on the types of mega-corporations that demand such scrutiny. Also, the map zoom-ins were very nicely done.
• Winner – Bloomberg Green; Methane Emissions
These important stories shed new light on climate-threatening methane emissions — where they are, how to find them, and what is and isn’t being done about them. Said one judge: “The storytelling, the impact, the use of multiple media all stood out.” While dealing with a highly technical topic, the reporters diligently avoided climate jargon and unpacked dense issues with their engaging writing. Even in a contest category that brimmed with excellent submissions, this high-impact work stood out.
• Honorable Mention – The Financial Times; David Cameron lobbying scandal
When “follow the money” leads to the former British prime minister and a massive lobbying scandal: The Financial Times provides a clear-eyed look through a messy web of corruption that prompted a number of government investigations and international scrutiny. This entry is a teachable example of the power of business journalism.
Medium and small divisions
• Winner – Nikkei Asia; Inside Cambodia’s online scam gangs
This well-written series illuminated the devastation that online scam gangs cause. It deftly wove strong research into stories of real-life loss, and did so in a way that allowed readers to truly grasp how significant the issue is.
• Honorable Mention – The Information; Apple’s Compromises in China
The series provided insight into an issue that was not widely known. These are well-researched, thought-provoking stories.
• Winner – The Wall Street Journal; The Facebook Files
In an example of truly exemplary reporting that arguably had scope beyond compare, the judges unanimously chose Facebook Files as the winner in our category.
The series featured remarkable reporting and writing that exposed the ways Facebook knew it was injuring its 3-billion-plus users and the repeated failures to make efforts to protect the users. Among the failures captured were the toxic mental-health effects of Instagram on some teenage girls; the failure to stop the proliferation of sex and human trafficking on its platforms; the company’s secret justice system for VIPs; and the role of algorithms in fueling political misinformation and unhealthy debate and polarization. The impact was meaningful, including hearings by lawmakers, major product changes and a harsh global reckoning.
• Honorable Mention – Los Angeles Times; CBS TV stations
Congratulations to Meg James of The Los Angeles Times for her exemplary work on following a tip out of Philadelphia regarding a TV deal in New York that unearthed how CBS ignored complaints about Dunn during its investigation into sexual misconduct claims against former CBS leader Leslie Moonves.
• Honorable Mention – A collaboration of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, The Miami Herald and The Washington Post; Pandora Papers
Hearty congratulations to International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, The Washington Post, Miami Herald and nearly 150 other media partners around the world for unique, broad work on the Pandora Papers. Much discussed, the work will be remembered for years, and has had an impact around the globe.
• Honorable Mention – The Washington Post; Inside Huawei
The reporting on Huawei in 2021 overcame significant hurdles and increased public understanding about a secretive and important Chinese company.
• Winner – ProPublica; Unchecked: America’s Broken Food Safety System
ProPublica’s expose alarmed readers about the persistent prevalence of drug-resistant salmonella in the nation’s chicken supply. The work shows that as much as one-third of all ground chicken may be infected. The reporting documented how correcting the problem has been hindered by ineffective government regulation and lackadaisical efforts by chicken producers and processors.
Reported by Bernice Yeung, Michael Grabell, Irena Hwang and Mollie Simon, the exhaustive reporting and ingenious research included analyzing genomic sequencing data to demonstrate the spread of salmonella throughout U.S. poultry.
As ProPublica summarized its eight-month investigation, the unchecked spread of salmonella was “all but inevitable, the byproduct of a baffling and largely toothless food safety system that is ill-equipped to protect consumers or rebuff industry influence.” ProPublica also produced an effective consumer protection tool as a sidebar: a data base called Chicken Checker that allows individuals to track the safety records of the companies’ plants that process the chicken or turkey they are about to eat. The conclusion of this informative work is that the public will not be safe until laws governing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control are strengthened to reform food safety.
• Honorable Mention – Kaiser Health News; The Spinal Tap
This Kaiser Health News series revealed the troubling financial relationships between medical device companies and orthopedic surgeons, a rapport at best cozy, at worst outrageously corrupt. Reporters Fred Schulte and Elizabeth Lucas traced the billions of dollars involved to dig into what goes on in operating rooms across the country. The series featured impressive reporting, deft organization and smart storytelling navigating readers through comprehensive coverage of a complicated rarely-explored part of the medical world.
• Honorable Mention – Star Tribune; Unsettled: Cashing in on Accident Victims
The Star Tribune series exposed a system that allows predatory financial companies to take advantage of traumatized accident victims who have received structured lifetime disability payments by buying rights to their future cash flow for pennies on the dollar. Reporters Jeff Meitrodt and Nicole Norfleet documented how victims with brain injuries and mental health issues are persuaded by companies such as J.G. Wentworth to agree to disadvantageous financial arrangements that sometimes leave them destitute. The series also shows how state court judges often approve these settlements, which average only 40 cents on the dollar, despite clear evidence that they harm the victims. And the series identifies a potential solution: Court-appointed guardians to protect these victims from being fleeced again.
• Winner – STAT; Coverage of the controversial approval of an Alzheimer’s drug
Adam Feuerstein, Damian Garde, Matthew Herper, Nicholas Florko’s work for STAT on the FDA approval of Biogen’s Aduhelm treatment is a powerful expose on the ways industry can maneuver to sway regulators. Their work is brimming with exclusive details about an off-the-books meeting and other dealings that led to the approval of the first new medicine to treat Alzheimer’s in nearly two decades. The stories had strong presentations and were thoroughly reported. It is great to see the solid impact the stories appear to have had in explaining this saga.
• Honorable Mention – Portland Business Journal; Exiled on Main Street
The judges loved Matthew Kish’s look into the effects that Nike’s decision to more aggressively pursue its direct-to-consumer business has had on small retailers across the country. The story is filled with examples of family-owned businesses that relied heavily on their relationship with Nike for their success, only to have that lifeline unceremoniously severed.
• Honorable Mention – Investigate Midwest; Pain Denied: At one of the country’s largest meatpacking plants, workers say their injuries were ignored
Madison McVan’s look into the workplace conditions of Seaboard Foods, one of the nation’s largest meatpacking plants, is a solid investigative piece, with strong reporting and a solid narrative. Its focus on regulatory laxity and detailed descriptions of the treatment of Seaboard’s workers give it a strong accountability factor. Nice work.
• Winner – Bloomberg News; Crypto Craze
Most of the important financial news last year was generated by Main Street investors participating in novel and risky market activity. Bloomberg Wealth did a fantastic job of exploring one of the wildest dimensions of the phenomenon – the emergence of cryptocurrency.
In a smart series of three stories, Bloomberg reporters explained crypto, non-fungible tokens and other digital assets from the point of view of the guy-next-door traders who were creating the new products at their kitchen tables.
The Bloomberg reporters’ engaging storytelling animated the dangers, absurdity and potential lucrative payoffs of the crypto markets through colorful sources who were as sanguine about being the victims of ripoffs as they were nonchalant about perpetrating them. The writing was as rollicking and risky as the protagonists themselves. The series provided the kind of information and context that would be helpful for readers and regulators.
• Honorable Mention – The New York Times; Cryptoland
In these three colorful and entertaining stories, Erin Griffith, Kevin Roose and David Segal of the New York Times explored multiple facets of the cryptocurrency craze. The authors used vivid examples and found great characters like Dogecoin millionaire Glauber Contesso, while tying the crypto mania to wider trends in the financial markets. The judges were particularly impressed with the reporting of David Segal, who intrepidly entered the online crypto world, even creating his own “Idiot Coin” to illustrate the absurdity of this new world of easy money.
• Winner – Bloomberg Industry Group; Clients Cry Foul Over Litigious Litigation Finance Company
Bloomberg Law’s “Clients Cry Foul Over Litigious Litigation Finance Company” sheds light on a growing yet little-known part of the legal profession. On the face of it, litigation finance promises to help lawyers underwrite the costs of litigation until a decision is reached, but Bloomberg Law’s in-depth reporting highlighted the pitfalls that some attorneys have encountered with these complex deals — including bankruptcy and other financial harms. The deep reporting was scrupulously fair while also showing the human impact of these tricky financing agreements.
• Honorable Mention – Arizent; Build what better?
The Bond Buyer’s series digs into a massive issue that will touch everyone in America. With last year’s passage of the infrastructure spending bill, this series illustrates what is at stake for both investors and citizens, nicely tying together the impact on both Wall Street and Main Street.
• Winner – The Information; Venture Capital Upheaval
Kate Clark and Berber Jin delivered a series of deeply reported and clearly written articles on a seismic shift in the venture capital industry. Thoroughly sourced in a business that is often highly secretive, the stories explained the genesis of the changes and demonstrated their impact on how startups are funded — helping to drive discussions in Silicon Valley and among industry regulators and politicians.
• Winner – Los Angeles Times; CBS TV stations
The LA Times’ reporting showed that while CBS took steps to reform its troubled workplace culture in recent years, it didn’t address alleged discrimination involving managers of the 28 local TV stations it owns—despite previously hiring two white-shoe law firms to conduct an investigation. As a result of this laborious reporting, the CBS TV Stations president and several other longtime top executives departed.
• Honorable Mention – The Wall Street Journal; Misconduct at Activision
The Journal broke news that federal securities regulators were investigating how videogame publisher Activision handled employees’ allegations of sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination. Then it reported that the company’s CEO didn’t disclose certain allegations to his board of directors, prompting outcry inside and outside the company. The resulting crisis caused Activision to sell itself to Microsoft.
Medium and small divisions
• Winner – The Atlantic; A Eulogy for the Free Press in Hong Kong
The story by Timothy McLaughlin and Rachel Cheung takes us behind the untimely demise of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, an independent, pro-democracy newspaper. The paper lasted more than a quarter century but was unable to survive under new legal restrictions imposed by Beijing when it decided to bring Hong Kong under its tighter control.
The reporters tap a wealth of sources to take us through the paper’s origins, its growth as a beacon of free speech and independent journalism, and the withering attacks it endured under a new security law used to crush it – jailings, raids, freezing its assets. The story illuminates the larger implications for not just journalism in Hong Kong but freedom itself for people who now face a dark future.
• Honorable Mention – The Information; The Streaming Wars
The trio of articles by Jessica Toonkel and Sahil Patel expertly dissects the streaming industry, and how the companies involved are transforming the TV landscape. The stories dive deep into the competition between both established firms and traditional companies, and rely on excellent sourcing, deep understanding of the business, and strong, compelling narratives.
• Winner – Financial Times; Unhedged
The Financial Times’ “Unhedged,” is a very unique newsletter specific to capital markets topics that is refreshingly contrarian. “Unhedged” is smart, succinct and heavy on voice. Veteran columnist Robert Armstrong dives into some of the biggest fallacies dished up by market participants in a witty engaging way. Armstrong hooks readers by tapping high-level sources and quoting them at length. This is what a well-done newsletter looks like.
• Honorable Mention – Bloomberg News; The Dose
Tiffany Kary’s weekly newsletter on the emerging industry for cannabis, psychedelics and other mind-altering substances is fascinating, well-written and, like its subject, somewhat edgy. “The Dose” offers Bloomberg readers a weekly chronicle of the biggest news about the companies and personalities that are shaping this industry. The reporting astutely analyzes an industry that has gone from taboo to mainstream, tames the excitement surrounding the trend and provides readers with serious analysis. “The Dose” makes great use of quotes and sources and tackles serious topics like psychedelics in a serious manner. Nice touches raised this newsletter above many of the others.
• Winner – Investopedia.com; The Investopedia Express Newsletter
Everything an investor or financial-markets aficionado needs to start their day. Clean and tight writing, good format, good mix of stories. It’s clear the writers know their audience. This is well curated and informed.
• Winner – ImpactAlpha; ImpactAlpha “The Brief”
The newsletter dives deeply into the dynamic world of impact investment, focusing on the players who are attempting to bring social and economic freedom to often-oppressed cultures across the globe. While the newsletter offers a sense of promise about such possibilities as African startups using cryptocurrency, it also highlights the challenges Nigeria faced in falling victim to hacks and scams.
Writers demonstrate they have a clear-eyed view of the sector and people, spotlighting what they describe as a star of impact investing who allegedly was caught up in the college admissions scandal.
• Honorable Mention – The Information; Rise of the Creators
The newsletter focuses on the little-covered emerging industry surrounding superstar social media stars — a topic bound to draw a ton of traffic from young audiences. Who wouldn’t be interested in reading about twenty-somethings who are quickly becoming millionaires with their savvy branding and over-the-top personalities and lifestyles? The articles are lively and provide insights on a range of issues — the ups and downs of being a social media influencer, a QVC for millennials and talk of startups providing a support and brand-building services for influencers.
• Winner – Bloomberg News; At 93, She Waged War on JPMorgan—and Her Own Grandsons
Tom Schoenberg’s entry is a remarkably well-executed cautionary tale for family members, money managers or others advising elderly people on their personal finances. It involves a legendary family of means in the retailing industry — the Schottensteins of Columbus, Ohio. The principal story — about the elder abuse by two grandsons who worked for J.P. Morgan — was written almost as a thriller, with all the elements of high drama in a family feud. This story provides critical lessons in personal finance along with being a great read.
• Honorable Mention – The New York Times; How to Buy Happiness
Ron Lieber’s columns are about the importance of happiness in making decisions regarding personal finance. So much of personal finance journalism is about performance: endless stories about how to spend, save and invest to maximize financial gains. NY Times financial columnist Ron Lieber took a fresh, offbeat approach by writing about the importance of directing our resources and time to strategies that lead to enduring happiness instead of material gains. Help bring the old gang back together again by renting a house where everybody can gather for a few days. Join a mutual aid network. Fly off to visit a longtime friend who can’t afford to visit you. Lieber took us onto a road less travelled.
• Winner – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; The Year of COVID Unemployment
A powerful package that shows in gripping detail how Pennsylvania’s inability to deliver jobless benefits upended the lives and personal finances of some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. Impressive use of multimedia, including data, video, graphics, photography and anecdotes to make the stories come alive. The reporting also points clearly to needed policy change.
• Winner – AARP Bulletin; Lessons from Inside the Fraud Factory
This entry is a gripping narrative about a software engineer who infiltrated the computers of dozens of telephone scammers as they tried to deceive callers into sending money. AARP Bulletin also makes masterful use of graphics and sidebar stories to detail scams and explain safeguards. The overall package is powerful.
• Winner – Bloomberg News; A Trump Tax Break Kicked Off a Race to Redraw U.S. Census Maps
Before the Census Bureau even published its maps for 2020, Bloomberg reporters Noah Buhayar and Lydia O’Neal were busy exposing that local leaders, members of Congress and senior Trump administration officials were lobbying to get Census Bureau geographers to change maps to benefit wealthy investors and businesses.
A benefit meant to pump more money into overlooked and under-developed communities was, instead, a vehicle for abuse. Combining deep data and source reporting with compelling graphics, maps and imagery makes this entry a unanimous winner by the judges.
• Honorable Mention – NBC News and Outlier Media; The ‘fake landlord’ scam destroys lives in Detroit. But culprits rarely face consequences.
Bringing to light a societal problem that few know about — and whose victims are powerless to effect change — is one of the hallmarks of good journalism. City leaders in Detroit, and leaders in many other cities who would go on to learn about the “fake landlord” scam, seemed to have no idea the extent of the problem until NBC News and Outlier Media investigated. Their work not only prompted leaders to do something about it, but readers around the country offered more than $18,000 in donations to assist one of the victims portrayed in the story and a lawyer worked out a deal to allow the resident to stay and ultimately drop the case at the heart of the story.
• Honorable Mention – A collaboration of The Center for Public Integrity and Associated Press; The COVID housing crisis
The inequity of Covid relief was a major story over the past year and the stories here speak to government accountability and the racial wealth gap — all while telling the stories through the eyes of residents and eviction-diversion advocates and showing how politics played a major role in the “mind boggling” amount of money that never made it to those who needed it most. This collaboration between The Center for Public Integrity and The Associated Press provided a version of the article in Spanish and offered compelling data, charts and infographics.
• Winner – A collaboration of The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times; Offshore funds flood Florida affordable housing
The judges felt like the stories were very well reported and dealt with complex issues in clear and easily digestible ways. Judges were impressed by the seamless use of data, anecdotes and color to help explain how outside investors are changing the face of Florida’s real estate market. It was an impressive example of collaborative reporting.
• Honorable Mention – The Arizona Republic; Pandemic evictions were halted, but metro Phoenix landlords still filed for almost 30,000
An important story that shows how eviction laws were enforced at random by using data as well as anecdotes to highlight the human impact. The stories were nicely packaged and included helpful details for readers, such as a glossary of terms on eviction jargon.
• Winner – Realtor.com; A Forgotten Chapter in U.S. History: When Women Had To Choose Between Mortgages and Motherhood
Realtor.com author Clare Trapasso chronicles the long and painful history of housing and lending discrimination against women in the U.S. Trapasso spent years investigating the practice, digging into government documents and congressional transcripts. She also conducted numerous interviews with victims past and present as well as historians and legal experts.
Though housing and lending discrimination based on gender has been illegal since 1974, Trapasso uncovered how lenders today continue to deny loans to pregnant women and mothers on maternity leave. Trapasso’s exhaustive research led to a response from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to examine the issue.
• Honorable Mention – Portland Business Journal; Revitalizing a hub for Black culture
The judges were impressed by the depth of research into an important topic and the presentation. The piece adds to the current conversation about race, wealth and righting historical wrongs.
• Honorable Mention – Capital & Main; The Gatekeepers
The judges admired the mix of investigation, research and on-the-ground reporting for this entry. Housing affordability is one of the biggest issues facing the U.S. economy and these strong pieces exposed some of the reasons why, and also sought to hold those responsible groups accountable.
Live On-Air – All News Organizations
• Winner – CNBC; CNBC’s real-time reporting and analysis of the Omicron Variant
Meg and the CNBC team have done remarkable and trend-setting work covering the vaccine drugmakers and the policies that were major headlines in 2021. Meg was able to synthesize complicated press releases and explain their significance to the general public and investors, alike. CNBC’s use of graphics and related materials also helped the viewer understand the news as it was breaking in real time.
Written, Large division
• Winner – The Washington Post; The banning of Trump
The Washington Post delivered a series of scoops around the slow motion – then all-at-once – move by the social media giants to expel former President Donald Trump from their platforms. The coverage was quick, authoritative and added important context and compelling color to the unfolding action.
Written, Medium division
• Winner – Detroit News; Ford’s Historic Move South
The Detroit News offered compelling and important insights in covering a major breaking story with widespread reader interest and ramifications. The journalists delved into how the decision was made to choose those locations and went beyond reporting the breaking news to include in-depth background and context, presented in a clear, lively and highly understandable way.
Written, Small division
• Winner – St. Louis Business Journal; St. Louis’ $790M NFL settlement
The St. Louis Business Journal did solid work on the lengthy and complex lawsuit filed by St. Louis interests against the owner of the once-St. Louis Rams franchise. Included: how the lawyers got 35% — $276 million — of the settlement plus expenses; why the plaintiffs settled instead of continuing the fight; questions regarding one lawyer’s involvement as a potential witness; and more. It was a comprehensive package of real-time reporting.
• Winner – The New York Times; Target and Racial Equity
This in-depth reporting digs deep below the surface of a common retail phenomenon in urban America to reveal the severe negative impact big-box store closings can have on striving neighborhoods. With extensive interviews and copious detail, it tells the real story of a primarily Black neighborhood severely impacted by a Target store closing. It also hints at possible remedies that would benefit both commerce and communities.
• Honorable Mention – Bloomberg News; Fake Meat Gets a Reality Check
With great narrative and use of statistics, charts and key interviews, this reporting proves hype does not necessary foreshadow success. It seems that fake meat is not displacing real meat after all. Leaders in that field, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, have struggled with high product prices, delayed rollouts, executive turnover, complicated ingredient lists and hard-to-predict consumer tastes. Result: It remains an interesting emerging food category, but not the homerun Wall Street expected.
• Honorable Mention – The Wall Street Journal; Fashion’s New China Problem
This solid reporting and vivid documentation reveals how bullying by China has caused big retailers to pull or alter their statements critical of China’s labor policies in the Xinjiang cotton-producing region. A decision by retail industry group Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to have its members take a position on that issue caused backlash by China against H&M, greatly damaging its sales. This in-depth probe produced exclusives on how four other big retailers backtracked on the issue. It is a growing problem to monitor closely.
• Winner – Kaiser Health News; The Last Drugstore
The Last Drugstore explores the nation’s pharmacy deserts, largely focused on rural America but also including urban areas, highlighting the ways communities lose their last pharmacy and what that means for them. The well-written and engaging stories show how the vertical integration of the pharmaceutical supply chain has changed the economics of independent pharmacies.
The judges were impressed by the depth of reporting in these stories, and the many aspects covered, from the impacts on the communities that lose their local pharmacies to the consumers who must navigate an opaque and unresponsive health care system to get the medications they need. The reporting also touched on the resourcefulness of some of these communities, including a Chicago neighborhood that keeps a historic drugstore in business.
• Winner – Portland Business Journal; Exiled on Main Street
In this deeply reported story, Matthew Kish goes beyond simply explaining the business rationale behind Nike’s shift away from mom-and-pop stores in favor of its own retail outlets. By digging into dozens of lawsuits and interviewing shop owners, he shows how the move is putting independent retailers out of business and, in some cases, leaving them with six-figure debts. The judges were impressed by the balanced and informative reporting, eye-catching graphics and polished presentation.
• Honorable Mention – Puget Sound Business Journal; The Waiting Game: Washington’s restaurateurs pin hopes on Covid-19 vaccine
Megan Campbell delivers a compelling look at the restaurant industry’s struggle to operate while workers waited months to qualify for COVID-19 vaccines. The well-researched piece focused on equity, using data, strong interviews and punchy graphics to show that in Washington State, restaurants had the most COVID-19 outbreaks outside of the health-care industry, and yet the industry’s workers had to wait until Phase 2 of the vaccine roll-out, after other non-health-care essential workers. As one industry CEO put it, “It’s almost like the restaurant workers are the forgotten worker.”
• Winner – The Wall Street Journal; The New Realities of Work
These stories were deeply reported, full of real people, colorful details and surprising turns. The tale of remote workers secretly taking on multiple jobs was one of the most memorable of the year in any category.
• Honorable Mention – The New York Times; How We Work
Sometimes the best stories are hidden in plain sight. These three features take a brilliantly poignant– and sympathetic — look at the chaotic new realities of work today. Each piece combines microscopic precision and wide-ranging insight. The result is a wealth of insights about everything from Gen Z-vs.-millennial jockeying to the relentless spread of “Covid fog.”
• Winner – Houston Chronicle; Will to live
The judges appreciated the journalistic impact, effort and skill of Rebecca Carballo’s two pieces focused on African American entrepreneurs. Full of well-researched facts and varied quotes that demonstrated energetic legwork, her narratives provided wider contexts of the inner city COVID catastrophe that gave the story of black small business struggles compelling depth. The result were pieces that went well beyond traditional business reporting to paint a lively fresco of human resilience.
• Honorable Mention – Newsday; Fraud costing billions, Restaurant grants rescinded, Restaurant relief
Madore’s investigative energy knitted together a host of compelling facts that spotlighted what was not a surprising story. The surprise would have been if there was little or no corruption in the Trump-era pandemic rush by politicians to throw money at problems. The bonanza for white businesses in particular was good to see detailed — right down to the 3rd installment’s list of names and businesses who fed at the government’s trough in the places like Long Island that are hardly Democratic strongholds.
Madore’s work, which the judges thought the most solid of several articles on the corruption theme in these entries, no doubt helped lay the groundwork for the current (Q1 2022) DOJ investigation into rampant COVID aid fraud. A model of solid journalism holding up a mirror to the community and (perhaps) even forcing it to blush.
• Winner – Quartz; A famous type foundry’s sale to a PE-backed giant has rattled the font industry
Anne Quito’s piece in Quartz on the world’s biggest font seller’s purchase of H&Co explores a niche industry in meticulous detail and offers a window on the worries arising from such an acquisition. “To understand the gravity of H&Co’s decision to sell to Monotype, a primer on how digital typefaces are made and sold may be useful,” Quito says high in the story. She delivers that primer, to useful and entertaining effect. The story is illuminating and often funny. Quito’s canny reporting and deft writing won our hearts and minds.
• Honorable Mention – Capital & Main; Cart Battle: Los Angeles’ Code War Against Street Vendors
The trio of stories from Capital & Main shed light on the people and regulations shaping a business many of us might overlook or take for granted: the food truck. Janette Villafana and Jack Ross reported extensively on the challenges Los Angeles’s 10,000 food vendors face in meeting an uber-strict health code and staying in business. The coverage vividly chronicled raids by the Los Angeles health authorities and police on vendors. The reporters’ balanced and well-executed series also delved into the bureaucratic battle over getting approval for a new tamale cart design.
Projects and collaborations
• Winner – Reynolds School of Journalism; The Hitchcock Project
The entry does a fine job of exploring the tension between economic development and the environment in the West. The judges particularly liked the “Nevada Roots” documentary. It offered excellent storytelling as well as excellent information. Some professional journalists could (and should) learn from these students.
The video, combined with the death threat to the Dixie Valley Toad species; social and geographic dangers posed by a lithium mine; and the report on an attempt to reform Nevada’s laws regarding electronic waste, helped give the project breadth as well as depth.
Stories for professional media outlets
• Winner – University of South Carolina; Voices from Jefferson Street
Emma Dooling’s winning entry stood out because it built upon the sound premise that business journalism is, in good part, about people and how they interact with commerce and its interests. Human stories can often stand equally alongside the numbers and analysis that also undergird great business stories.
Her story topic resonated as well, given the ongoing reckoning around race in America. That, too, has strong economic underpinnings, which “Jefferson Street” uses as a foundational element of its storytelling. As the entry letter explains: “Nashville’s white-hot boom has been threatening to overwhelm Jefferson Street, Nashville’s historically Black business district, for the better part of a decade. When Oracle announced plans last year to build a massive campus across the river from Jefferson Street, Emma grasped that the stakes for those longtime businesses and residents immediately jumped to impossible heights. She wanted to tell their stories. And without getting in the way, that’s what she did.”
• Honorable Mention – New York University; John Hyatt’s stories for Forbes
John Hyatt’s story on the saga of a Chinese billionaire’s land purchases in South Texas detailed how environmental concerns combined with anti-Chinese sentiment and not-in-my-backyard politics to temporarily scuttle a massive, proposed wind farm. The piece sucked readers in from the start, came to life with rich details and well-reported anecdotes and maintained a confident tempo and cadence throughout – not an easy accomplishment for a story of this length.
As student journalism, the submission read more like the work of a seasoned investigative journalist. Hyatt’s story on rich Americans borrowing against stock to get liquidity without incurring tax liabilities did an admirable job of sorting through available records including corporate filings to name the beneficiaries of a well-known strategy.
Stories for student media outlets
• Winner – University of South Carolina; The Impact of Supply Chains and Inflation on Columbia Businesses
This three-story package brings home the circumstances of individual businesses and offers context with the views of experts. There’s a lot of detail in each story that helps readers appreciate the difficulty that businesses are facing. The stories were well timed given the impact of supply chain issues on consumer prices and product availability. The judges also were impressed that the reporters got the top U.S. Small Business Administration official in the area to comment extensively.
• Honorable Mention – The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications; Amazon fashion takes over TikTok #FYPs everywhere
In “Amazon fashion takes over TikTok #FYPs everywhere,” Syracuse University’s Kyra Surgent delivers a well-reported and illuminating take on an e-commerce trend fueled by Gen-Z trendsetters. By combining statistics with insightful interviews from young adults filming these TikToks, authorities on tech, marketing and fashion and a key staffer at media-shy Amazon, she explains why these posts are often hugely successful. But the story is no puff piece, since Surgent notes why some content creators won’t collaborate with Amazon and the company’s role in the climate crisis.
• Winner – Bloomberg News; Amazon’s Machine Bosses
Of all the stories written about Amazon’s algorithms over the past decade, this package holds its own. Matt Day and Spencer Soper’s entries showed how policies or mistakes that might sink a smaller business get diluted by Amazon’s scale. In fact, they are built into the algorithms. Sober writing and excellent sourcing pull these pieces ahead.
• Honorable Mention – Associated Press; How AI-powered tech landed man in jail, with scant evidence
The “Shot Spotter” story was a beautiful intersection between a life and a system. Strong technical and legal research was stark against the human experience.
• Winner – Nikkei Asia; Techsploitation
The Techsploitation series dealt with a very important topic, but one which is not very well covered or understood. It is not easy to find sources who will talk about this, so we appreciated the great reporting the authors did for this series. We also thought they had a vivid approach to storytelling, which revealed a dark side of the tech industry that few of us get to see.
It humanized an industry that is most often strictly “product-based.” A lot of consumers use their state-of-the-art products at prices they can afford but don’t realize the human price being paid. There was a lot of great reporting in this category, but we found this series so outstanding that our decision was unanimous — this was the winner.
• Honorable Mention – Nikkei Asia; Chips in a changing world
The chips series took something that’s been reported on a lot — supply-chain issues — and told the story in a way that drove it home. We’ve heard countless economists or politicians talk about the supply chain from a 10,000-foot view — how it has driven shortages of consumer products and fueled inflation. This article used a common product and, literally, broke it down in a way that makes complex economic and global health issues understandable.
The entry contained great diagrams that helped illustrate and propel the story. The deconstruction of the iPhone gave us a unique appreciation of how one part caught in a series of supply disruptions, or shutdowns in Malaysia or Vietnam, could create such a bottleneck for the entire supply chain.
• Winner – The Counter; Lab-grown meat is supposed to be inevitable. The science tells a different story.
So many of us want to believe that laboratory-produced food – manufacturing main dishes from petri dishes – will feed a hungry world, save the planet from climate change, and fill the bellies of consumers and investors alike. The Counter smelled something off about these claims and the result is an important and disturbing report.
Joe Fassler’s frightening tour through the brave new world of lab-grown meat separates hope from hype and exposes the fakery behind fake meat. This blunt and extensively researched work is independent investigative journalism at its best.
• Honorable Mention – The American Prospect; Silicon Valley Takes the Battlespace
Former Google CEO-turned Washington insider Eric Schmidt has been working his relationships in the Biden administration to turn an AI company he backs into the winner of several lucrative government contracts.
Rebel Alliance, which gets its name from the good guys in Star Wars, has gone out of its way to fly under the radar, but Jonathan Guyer’s in-depth reporting shined a light on the young company and laid out the many connections between the federal government and the tech industry.
• Honorable Mention – CyberScoop; Trial and Error in Kuwait
In a world where ransomware hackers can make millions, Sean Lungaas’ reporting shows the ways a “service disruption” may point to the SWIFT system being used for cyber heists. With a focus on independent security expert Mohammed Aldoub, the story takes us on a powerful turn in the world of social media, executive action and the Kuwait legal system. The reporting raises important questions for consumers — both wealthy and ordinary — about the lack of transparency and safety concerns of our banking systems.
The Business of Sports
• Winner – The New York Times; Inner Workings of the N.F.L.
This entry was a nice combination of scoops and insightful, in-depth enterprise. New York Times reporters Belson and Rosman showed their extensive sourcing within the notoriously private NFL. They uncovered not one but two blockbuster stories from within the league. The reporting resulted in resignation of Las Vegas Raiders coach John Gruden. And it gave readers exclusive insight into the scandalous relationship between the Washington football team and NFL’s general counsel during the investigation and assessment of penalties.
• Winner – Marketplace; The Uncertain Hour “Inside Baseball”
This excellent explanation of the economics and politics of labor law reported from the cheap seats at minor league baseball fields was clear and clever and is the obvious winner in this category. This is a story in plain sight that only a good journalist would spot.
• Winner – Portland Business Journal; The New College Playbook
This story conveys well the different facets of an issue that has crossed from sports coverage into the mainstream. The vignettes help grasp the nuances and implications of sponsorship deals for college athletes, and the clear writing makes the story accessible and engaging despite the wealth of data and extensive reporting.
• Winner – The Wall Street Journal; The Middle Seat
Scott McCartney’s Middle Seat column has been a must-read for years. In his final year, it’s only fitting that he exits with a SABEW award. His work in one of the most tumultuous years in aviation history was original, insightful and delightful.
• Honorable Mention – The Wall Street Journal; The Electric-Vehicle Race Hits Speed Bumps
A really strong team effort, with each story detailing different aspects of the complexities and challenges involved in transitioning from gas-powered to electric vehicles.
• Winner – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission: Powerful state agency shrouded in secrecy
This entry featured strong reporting and writing that examines the commission and its members. The impressive reporting shed light on an agency whose decisions affect not only hundreds of workers but millions of drivers. A lot of legwork went into this entry.
• Winner – Capital & Main; A Drunk Mechanic, Shackled Immigrants, a Crash Landing: The Dangers of ICE Flights
The story shines a light on federal aviation contractors that largely operate out of public view. The reporter uses Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents, court filings and expert interviews to show how carriers that transport undocumented immigrants have shoddy maintenance, inadequate training and poor oversight.
• Honorable Mention – The Information; Amazon’s Trucking Toll
Impressive reporting that seems to advance the coverage of a very hot topic, which is saying something given how many news organizations have their sights on the Bezos company. The graphics and visuals are strong, and the story itself contains chilling detail.
• Winner – Bloomberg Green; Methane Menace Video Series
Methane Menace is a shining example of how video can be a powerful medium for storytelling. The visuals are incredibly compelling and bring heightened urgency to a big challenge in climate change. The reporting is very impressive, putting a spotlight on a massive energy company few have ever heard of.
• Honorable Mention – The Wall Street Journal; How TikTok’s Algorithm Figures Out Your Deepest Desires
This story explores a hugely important, underappreciated factor, especially in young people’s lives: the “black box” of TikTok’s proprietary algorithm–the one that puts videos in front of our eyes, regardless of whether we watch them and end up laughing or crying. The reporting is ambitious and clever and clearly video is the perfect medium. It’s also so fun to watch.
• Winner – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; America’s Dairyland at the Crossroads
This was terrific storytelling about a dying industry that affects not only generations of families but also a wider population. Gripping interviews and great video.
• Winner – Chicago Booth Review; How much do parents care about investing equally in their kids?
The video gave a thorough explanation about a phenomenon that’s around us every day but little-discussed: how parents choose allocation of resources between their children.