2016 Best in Business Honorees with Judges’ Comments

Airlines/Travel Large Winner

Associated Press

Justin Pritchard, Martha Mendoza, Scott Mayerowitz and David Koenig

Airport Security

This reporting team used FOIAs and persistent questions to TSA officials to produce this solid package of stories on travel security. The package is meaty, timely, and does a lot of work on an important subject. While critical of airport security and the TSA, stories also give a fair account of the agency’s challenges.


Airlines/Travel Medium Winner

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Lori Weisberg, Daniel Wheaton and Phillip Molnar

Airbnb: Opportunity or Nuisance?

An excellent in-depth look at how Airbnb can sweep through neighborhoods and change the places where we live. Well done in demonstrating real-world impact.


Airlines/Travel Small Winner

Honolulu Civil Beat

Nathan Eagle and Marina Riker

Dying for Vacation

Civil Beat made a compelling case that state efforts to post beach warnings and educate travelers were not sufficient to prevent 147 tourists in the last four years from drowning in waters that natives understand are dangerous. The stories identified loopholes in state regulations that allow tour operators to hire incompetent workers. Consider this high-impact lede: ”Married 32 years, Jane and Bob Jones did a lot in life together. They raised a family, served those in need and traveled when they could. They died together, too.” The story on snorkeling as a leading cause of tourist deaths was also very informative and had an arresting video. Overall, excellent reporting, writing and photography throughout.


Audio Winner

NPR News and Planet Money

Chris Arnold, Robert Smith, Elizabeth Kulas, Uri Berliner, Neal Carruth, Bryant Urstadt and Alex Goldmark

Wells Fargo Hustle

NPR’s reporting on the Wells Fargo account fraud story made for a compelling read as it told the story from the perspective of a young sales staff pressured to meet unrealistic goals. This offered new insights into the scale and scope of the problem and turned the story into a human-interest piece. No one can remain stoic when listening to the interview of the young woman so stressed she describes throwing up under her desk.


Audio Honorable Mention

Bloomberg News

Brad Stone, Aki Ito, Pia Gadkari, Magnus Henrikson, Liz Smith, Jordan Robertson, Sarah McBride, Marie Mawad and Spencer Soper


Bloomberg’s Decrypted series takes on the challenge of explaining extremely complex topics in a way that makes them accessible to listeners with no formal training in the topics explored.  The conversational nature of the work illustrates how tone can be used to lighten up the discussion of daunting subjects.


Autos/Transportation Medium and Large Winner


Geoffrey Smith and Roger Parloff


One of the most shocking business stories of the year was the revelation that Volkswagen tampered with the emission systems of 11 million cars in order to deceive air-quality regulators. Most major publications covered the basics of the reputation-shattering scandal. Fortune’s Hoaxwagen dug deeper into the fundamental elements of the fraud. The result was a compelling narrative of the company’s history of steamrolling regulars, its ruthless win-at-all-costs culture and even how Germany’s top political leaders served as enablers by blocking or weakening emission regulations.


Autos/Transportation Medium and Large Honorable Mention

Bloomberg News

Eric Newcomer, Selina Wang and Olivia Zaleski

Uber’s Upending the Transportation Industry

Uber’s initial success in the tech-driven ride-hailing business created breathless press coverage. But last year, cutthroat competition, high driver turnover and widening losses began to tarnish Uber’s reputation. In a series of stories with fine original reporting, Bloomberg pulled back the curtain on Uber’s darker side such as putting more cars on the road through predatory lending to drivers with poor credit ratings — or luring drivers toward leases that would have some paying double the fair market price for cars. Why would anyone sign a lease like that? Because the terms purportedly make it easier for the drivers to walk away.


Autos/Transportation Small Winner

Providence Business News

Mary MacDonald, Eli Sherman, Mark S. Murphy and Mike Mello

Bridges Too Far Gone

Whether by luck or foresight, Providence Business News got in front of an issue that is now in the headlines. Its coverage showed the obstacles in replacing a crumbling and dangerous bridge, by going beyond dollars and cents to examine the impact on people living in its shadow. We commend the PBN staff for going deep on a local topic that’s not easy to cover, yet has life-or-death implications. Special kudos for the visuals, particularly the photos of the deteriorating concrete.


Banking/Finance Large Winner

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, McClatchy D.C. Bureau and the Miami Herald

Panama Papers

Exceptional journalism on a topic of international importance – secret, offshore companies. This masterful investigation into a complex global subject shed light on a dark and arcane corner of international finance, explaining why it matters. Terrific reporting on what will surely be taught in journalism schools for generations to come.


Banking/Finance Large Honorable Mention


Matt Egan

Wells Fargo’s Broken Culture and the Devastation It Wrought

This package of stories put flesh and blood on one of the biggest business stories of the year. The telling of the abstraction of a bank’s vile sales practices reveals the human consequences for customers and employees alike. This CNN reporter stuck with it, exposing one of the largest household banking names and the corruption it tried to hide. CNNMoney is to be applauded for its doggedness in running this one to ground.


Banking/Finance Medium Winner


Stephen Gandel on banking

These stories demonstrate an array of good reporting skills — a breaking news article on a Wells Fargo executive’s bonus; an analysis of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s compensation changes; and, based on reporting that began in 2012, an article about the SEC’s decision to take a pass on Goldman Sachs’ RMBS conduct.


Banking/Finance Small Winner

Financial Planning

Ann Marsh

Johnny Burris investigation

It’s no shocker that whistleblowers get into trouble with former employers. But this package sheds a light on the institutional forces working against federal investigators who sided with a JPMorgan Chase whistleblower: They got fired themselves. As a new administration gears up in Washington, it’s worthwhile to recount the struggles of investigators in the previous administration’s Labor Department. “He’s not a whistleblower guy,” one person in the story said of former Labor Department Secretary Tom Perez. The details on the firing of OSHA investigators are backed up with on-the-record takes. The story presses on whistleblower protection (or lack thereof) with good writing, excellent reporting and nice national and political context.


Banking/Finance Small Honorable Mention


Kevin Wack, Dean Anason, Alan Kline and Marc Hochstein

How Wells Fargo’s Culture Soured

This package on the Wells Fargo crisis was revealing, deeply sourced, and authoritatively and skillfully written. Diligent reporting and a well-organized narrative provided insights into how Wells Fargo’s account-opening scandal has roots going back many years. Colorful anecdotes kept it fresh – such as former CEO who dressed up in a Yankees uniform at a sales event.


Breaking News Large Winner


Joseph Menn

Yahoo Secretly Scanned Customer Emails for U.S. Intelligence

Menn’s scoop is a rare story that pulls back the veil on how the government’s secret electronic surveillance programs operate in practice. This detailed, comprehensive reporting effort reveals not only how Yahoo came to secretly install special software on its servers, but also how that was received internally and its broader ramifications. The story was widely followed and, ultimately, had a significant impact on Yahoo, contributing to a series of factors that forced it to reduce its sale price.


Breaking News Large Honorable Mention

Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Monte Reel

Secret Cameras Record Baltimore’s Every Move From Above

In this compelling story, Reel reveals that Baltimore residents had been under secret aerial surveillance. The program, run by a company which refined its technology in war-torn Iraq, avoided scrutiny because it was funded by a private donor, whose identity was also unmasked by Reel. The story’s flawless execution, from reporting and writing through editing and presentation, draws in readers who otherwise may have been less interested in one city’s policing methods. In its wake, officials in 11 cities launched legislative efforts to bring open debate to the use of police surveillance.


Breaking News Medium Winner

Charlotte Observer

Rick Rothacker, Ely Portillo, Katherine Peralta, Deon Roberts and John Arwood

PayPal Withdraws Plans for Charlotte Expansion Over HB2

When PayPal announced it was canceling a $3.6 million North Carolina expansion, it cited a state measure to restrict the rights of LGBT individuals. The Charlotte Observer pushed out the news on Twitter and embarked on an ambitious package of stories. The team rounded up a range of perspective and insight on the issue, even managing to get PayPal’s CEO on the phone to explain his decision. The result was a breaking-news package that was smartly written, balanced and forward-looking, giving readers the context they needed to understand potential economic and political ramifications. The steady stream of tweets from the Observer’s business desk also demonstrated that the staff is in touch with how readers are consuming news.


Breaking News Medium Honorable Mention

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jacob Barker, Lisa Brown, Bryce Gray, Jim Gallagher and Samantha Liss

Bayer Buys Monsanto

Monsanto’s decision to be acquired by German biotech giant Bayer was major news for St. Louis, and the Post-Dispatch responded with deep and thorough coverage of the pending deal. The newspaper’s business desk covered a range of angles, including local job impact, the outlook for Monsanto’s charitable giving, and the likelihood that the deal would burnish the seed giant’s controversial reputation. The coverage was deeply analytical and forward-looking.


Breaking News Small Winner

Iraq Oil Report

Ben Lando, Ben Van Heuvelen, Patrick Osgood, Rawaz Tahir, Mohammed Hussein, Rebin Fatah and staff who are anonymous for their security

Liberating Qayarah

This package stands out for a successful blend of breaking news on the advance of Iraqi forces against the Islamic State with the human side of the story painted in memorable images such as the kids growing up covered in soot. Excellent sourcing combined with strong storytelling and concise writing left a lasting impression on the judges. In many instances, this small organization did a better job than its larger counterparts in its reporting on this major economic and political story.


Breaking News Small Honorable Mention

Crain’s New York Business

Aaron Elstein and Jeremy Smerd

Trump’s Middle Class Tax Break

Smart reporting resulted in Crain’s NY Business breaking news on a topic that other news outlets were chasing. The coverage advanced the story of how billionaire Donald Trump got a tax break intended for the middle class – and resulted in a piece that stands out for its sharp but fair writing, and its engaged and approachable storytelling.


Commentary/Opinion Large Winner

Bloomberg View

Timothy L. O’Brien

In these columns, O’Brien explores Donald Trump’s background as a business leader and challenges some of Trump’s mythology about his career. It shows how business journalists can play an essential watchdog function to oversee powerful business leaders. The column “Will a President Trump Still Be the King of Debt?” re-examined a controversial real-estate project and explained the role of an influential ally — not Trump — in key parts of the negotiations. The judges were especially impressed by O’Brien’s column, “I Saw Trump’s Tax Returns. You Should, Too.” Trump unsuccessfully sued O’Brien and, in the legal discovery process, O’Brien saw Trump’s tax returns. While the columnist was still bound by a legal nondisclosure agreement, he managed to convey to readers that the Trump tax controversy is real and that release of Trump’s tax returns would be newsworthy. This was a unique form of reporting that required skill and courage to continue to report on an especially litigious business leader. Businesses have attempted to use litigation or the threat of it to silence the press, and O’Brien’s work shows how journalists can still move forward and inform the public.


Commentary/Opinion Large Honorable Mention

The New York Times

James B. Stewart

Common Sense

Stewart’s “Common Sense” columns present a compelling and exceptionally detailed analysis of Donald Trump’s tax avoidance schemes in three deeply reported articles. Stewart pushed the news forward by describing the implications of Trump’s tax plans and how they could foster widespread tax avoidance. He also walked readers through a clear and engaging discussion of Trump’s tax loopholes. In summary: Exceptional work that was authoritative, deeply reported and cleanly written.


Commentary/Opinion Large Honorable Mention

Bloomberg Businessweek

Peter Coy

Coy deserves to be honored for three substantive and compelling columns on divergent subjects, showing his broad mastery of an impressively wide range of subject matter. His column on trade provided an impressive overview of the debate and poked holes in long-held beliefs. His column on blockchain technology showed how it could be a significant development in management theory. The column on Alexander Hamilton examined the cultural and political importance of Hamilton, linking Hamilton’s legacy to current issues, particularly economic nationalism, with great historical references. In summary: Coy has a real gift for explaining complex topics, brilliantly citing historical events to give his writing maximum impact.


Commentary/Opinion Medium Winner

The Atlantic

Derek Thompson

Thompson has knack for taking broad economic, political and social trends and turning them into incisive commentary about the state of the nation. Donald Trump’s election victory, for example, was not the result of Hillary Clinton ignoring the working class, but a battle between those supporting “pluralist social democracy” and “white nativist protectionism.” In his article “How America Lost its Mojo,” Thompson dismisses simplistic arguments from the left and right of the political spectrum as to why citizens move locations and jobs less than they used to and are less likely to start their own business. Instead, he offers a far more nuanced, in-depth assessment. And his piece “Total Inequality” offers a robust view on why neither income nor wealth inequality is sufficient to explain the many, at times multigenerational, disadvantages that poorer people suffer.


Commentary/Opinion Medium Honorable Mention

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Lee Schafer

Schafer’s mini-series on the challenges affecting mining in Minnesota impressed the judges for its knowledge, depth and focus on what recent developments mean for the state’s inhabitants.


Commentary/Opinion Medium Honorable Mention

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Matt Kempner

Unofficial Business

Kempner has a knack for snubbing his nose at the big guns of business and politics in Atlanta – such as how taxpayers are on the hook for Georgia Power’s hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns on a nuclear plant; Delta’s descent into being a “petty bully” against a local theater; or the effectiveness of Mayor Reed’s program to provide 15 female entrepreneurs a year with free office space.


Commentary/Opinion Small Winner

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Maggie Menderski

What’s in Store

Menderski deftly directs her “What’s in Store” column to inform readers about what’s really in store for retailers and consumers in Southwest Florida, based on trends and changes she sees first-hand. Through her thoughtful lens, the Sarasota area becomes a microcosm of the challenges that online shopping presents to developers and brick-and-mortar retailers across the U.S. Menderski puts us on the ground floor of this painful, broad economic shift. Her story about a model store employee reminds us of what we can’t get from an online experience, while a piece about efforts to redevelop shuttered Sears stores offers hope that traditional retailers can remain relevant in this increasingly digital world. In a clear, caring, and surprisingly poetic way, Menderski has produced an important and purposeful body of work.


Economics Large Winner

The Wall Street Journal

Jon Hilsenrath and Bob Davis

The Great Unraveling

During a surprising and often chaotic presidential election, The Wall Street Journal helped explain the underlying economic reasons for what was playing out in politics. Using data, graphics, economic analysis, and deep reporting, the WSJ showed the links between economic realities and voter frustrations. The reporting walked readers through the economic promises – and showed how they turned out to be so wrong for so many Americans. This is first-rate economics reporting.


Economics Medium Winner

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Adam Belz

Rising From Poverty

The series deploys data, graphics, photography, and design very effectively — and sustains that deployment over the course of three deeply reported pieces. The theme is also surprising: Far from being a neglected place without hope and riven by opioids, rural America can be the place with the greatest prospect of social mobility. And surprise is what news is all about.


Economics Small Winner


Louis Jacobson on economics

PolitiFact presented solid, timely analysis of economic rhetoric during a presidential campaign in which fact and fiction were hard to distinguish. Months before fact-checking candidates became a routine feature on the business page, these stories took both parties’ nominees to task for politicizing economic data. The dissection of Donald Trump’s comments about renegotiating U.S. debt was an insightful example of a complex topic explained in an accessible way, supported by multiple experts.


Energy/Natural Resources Large Winner

The Financial Times

Tom Burgis, Pilita Clark, Michael Peel, Charlie Bibby and Kari Ruth Pedersen

Great Land Rush

This multimedia series on the global rush to buy up land gave its audience a bit of everything — a tale with epic sweep (“from Myanmar to Saskatchewan”), parallax-scrolling web pages, graphics, maps, photos, videos, and a podcast. Even the writing was a visual feast. As the FT recounts, an Ethiopian agribusiness, Saudi Star, transformed the bush into a rice field “the size of 20,000 soccer pitches,” only to discover that “land is like the lion that prowls near Saudi Star’s farm: hard to tame.” We learn about the tycoons who would possess such lands, and the dispossessed who would have them back — peasants who feel connected to the land, in some cases, by the umbilical cords they buried there. To chronicle one of the biggest business stories of our times, three FT reporters crossed six continents and used just about every tool in a digital storyteller’s repertoire. The result is a multimedia tour-de-force that is not only outstanding journalism, it is beautiful.


Energy/Natural Resources Medium Winner

San Antonio Express-News

Jennifer Hiller

Mood Turns Black as Oil as a Boom Turns Bust

This piece explores the unraveling of an industry in the light of rock-bottom oil prices, with amazing breadth and depth. Hiller shows the humbling of companies and countries that are rethinking their oil strategies. It was the clear front-runner in a category with some very strong entries.


Energy/Natural Resources Medium Honorable Mention

Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Kathryn Mykleseth


The jury lauded Mykleseth’s reporting on an obscure state loan program for green energy that was set to become a prototype for the entire nation.


Energy/Natural Resources Small Winner

Iraq Oil Report

Ben Lando, Ben Van Heuvelen, Patrick Osgood, Rawaz Tahir, Mohammed Hussein, Mahmoud Zaki and staff who are anonymous for their security

ISIS and Iraq’s Oil

These tenacious reporters are to be credited for turning a swirl of conflicting facts in a war zone into well-sourced, actionable reports. Displaying an impressive grasp of industry and politics, the writers showed how developments in the energy sector would affect the daily lives of those in the region as well as the war against Islamic State. The use of a map helps to clarify the perilous situation for readers. Without the writers’ courage, determination, and insight, this important story might otherwise never have come to light in so intelligible a manner.


Explanatory Large Winner

Associated Press

Nicholas Riccardi, Christopher S. Rugaber and Josh Boak

Divided America

This is an outstanding example of explanatory journalism. The AP team explored the vast economic divides that fractured the country and ultimately transformed the 2016 presidential election. In three stories, they detail how average isn’t typical in understanding the recovery from the Great Recession, how rural and urban America represent disparate economic realities, and who today’s immigrants really are. Divided America offers context beyond what is typically reported and sheds light on a phenomenon that helps explain the unexpected campaign success of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. It is the epitome of explanatory journalism – revealing the story behind the story, and ultimately detailing that even the people who live next door can live in different worlds.


Explanatory Large Honorable Mention

Yahoo Finance

Rick Newman explanatory features

This extraordinary work details the business side of Donald Trump. Newman dissects the candidates’ assets and failings in the business world. The package includes an insightful look at the value of the “Trump” brand, which is the top source of revenue for the family business, not real estate. Also of note is the detailing of how Trump University sank itself when the project decided to ramp up the profits at the expense of learning.


Explanatory Large Honorable Mention


Nikhil Deogun, Jim Ackerman, Mitch Weitzner,  Reid Collins Jr., Meghan Lisson, Amber Mazzola, Patrick Ahearn, Steven T. Banton, Allison E. Stedman, Rich Korn, Justin Solomon, Charlotte Lewis, Alex Herrera, Roberto Leon, Gerry Miller, Jorge Pujol, Raul Jaramillo, Felipe Leon, Mary Murray, Orlando Matos, Odalys Garcia, Paola Larramendi, Margarita Alarcon, Carlos Bustamante, Evelyn Gruber, Veronica Albornoz, Mark Ohlsen, Christie Gripenburg, Elizabeth Kim, Rakeesha Wrigley, George Pierro, Richard Marko, Tom Russo, Angel Perez, Vito Tattoli, Victoria Todis, John Rehm, Jacqueline Dessel, Nick O’Connor, Salvatore Carosone, Lauren Ricci-Horn, Jonathan Altino, Lawrence Beer, Kyle Kinder, Jamie Bland, Julia Jester, Amanda Winograd, Erika Banoun, Annie Bryan, Aidan Kelley, Marlon Ramtahal and Erin Kitzie

The Profit in Cuba

Marcus Lemonis profiles everyday Cubans who are the frontier of entrepreneurism in the new Cuba. The documentary profiles entrepreneurs as they navigate obstacles: a clothing designer forced to buy fabric on the black market; a restaurant owner whose license limits him to 50 seats; and an aspiring artisan who isn’t allowed to expand her business. Woven throughout is the story of siblings who, thanks to the new law, have opened a bakery.


Explanatory Medium Winner

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today

John Fauber, Kristina Fiore and Matt Wynn

Illness Inflation

Who wouldn’t be interested in this story? An outstanding example of two media outlets with different audiences collaborating successfully to explain the outrageous practice of creating or exaggerating medical conditions to sell more drugs. Extremely well researched down to the amazing detail that one company admitted in a slide presentation that it created a disease from thin air. The use of graphics and sidebars helped illustrate the tale.


Explanatory Medium Honorable Mention

The Providence Journal

Kate Bramson

Following the People’s Money

What is it about aging athletes and business? The paper set itself a simple goal: Find out how much Rhode Island’s investment in former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s failed business cost taxpayers. With exhaustive research, the paper found the answer and walked readers through the whole sorry scandal. A true explanatory gem. It showed how a strong and clear story idea coupled with dogged investigation could produce an outstanding public service story.


Explanatory Medium Honorable Mention


Gwynn Guilford

Everything We Thought We Knew About Free Trade Is Wrong

Attempting to answer one of the most vexing questions of the Donald Trump economic era: Why has support for free trade collapsed? The Quartz piece shows that while sidebars, multimedia and other story elements can help a story, if the narrative is strong enough and incredibly well written, it can hold its own. The story reached back to the origins of free trade dogma with British political economist David Ricardo and traced how theory lost its way in the real world.


Explanatory Small Winner

The Desert Sun

Rosalie Murphy, Robert Hopwood and Christopher Weddle

Land leasing in Palm Springs

A series of stories educating readers on how little they understand about their own community. Half of Palm Springs, including hotels, shops, and timeshares worth a total of $2.4 billion, sits atop leased land. Those leases are doomed to expire and revert to Native American control or could fall into the hands of real-estate speculators. The reporter showed enormous enterprise in ferreting out the voluminous public records and other evidence needed to document the story. And the presentation of the package, customized for the internet, is spectacular, with an interactive map, a video feature, and panoramic photographs. The online presentation uses technology to advance the narrative, rather than just adding graphic elements for their own sake. This is everything explanatory journalism should be.


Explanatory Small Honorable Mention

Crain’s New York Business

Aaron Elstein, Peter D’Amato and Jeremy Smerd

Collection of explanatory stories

Who knew a $1 billion industry was born in 1979, when a chunk of masonry fell and killed a 17-year-old college student, leading New York City authorities to mandate the use of standardized scaffolding? Who knew that every aspect of scaffolds is micromanaged by the city, making them more expensive to take down than to leave standing? Who knew that the carcinogen perchloroethylene, which we all probably thought was banned years ago, is still being used by dry cleaners and devastating the health of workers and nearby residents? Who knew that the hardest thing about ensuring that a restaurant is kosher is verifying that there are no insects in the fruits and vegetables? New York is the biggest media market in the country, if not the world. Yet the reporter was able to deliver compelling stories about slices of city life that would otherwise have been overlooked.


Explanatory Small Honorable Mention

Los Angeles Business Journal

Henry Meier

Competitors Raise Stink Over Garlic

One of the most unusual and surprising stories we’ve read in quite a while. The reporter not only investigates an obscure industry most people have never stopped to give a second thought to — Garlic? Are you kidding?! — but he uncovers a remarkably complex web of connections and conflicts that fuel an unofficial but effective anti-competitive scheme connecting California to New Mexico to China. The backstabbing and double-crossing wouldn’t be out of place in a Raymond Chandler novel. It’s a great reminder that behind every closed door lies an amazing story, just waiting for the right reporter to dig it out. And this story carries even more weight now that trade policy has become a priority for the federal government. It’s an illustration of how policy is established and why it won’t be easy to change.


Feature Large Winner

Bloomberg Businessweek

Shannon Pettypiece and David Voreacos

Walmart’s Out-of-Control Crime Problem Is Driving Police Crazy

A tale of corporate irresponsibility with a new twist – Walmart is skimping on security, burdening local police, and putting employees and shoppers in danger. With telltale lack of cooperation from Walmart, the reporters admirably pieced together data for the story using police call logs and other sources and traveled the country to interview victims.


Feature Large Honorable Mention

Associated Press

Hannah Dreier

Venezuela, Life on the Line

A story that explains Venezuela’s economic collapse through the human lens of a food line, where hunger and desperation lead to violence and “need has an ugly dog’s face.” A beautiful example of feature writing told at great risk to the reporter.


Feature Large Honorable Mention

The Wall Street Journal

Justin Scheck

Tramadol: The Opioid Crisis for the Rest of the World

Through impressive on-the-ground reporting in the streets and pastures of Cameroon, Scheck tells the important story of how an unregulated opioid is wreaking havoc in the developing world.


Feature Medium Winner


Brian O’Keefe

Bitter Sweets

We felt that a strong storyline on a complex subject, on-the-ground reporting, and forward-looking elements of this piece stood out. Graphics break down the issues in vivid detail and bring the disparate elements of cultural and business conflicts into a cohesive narrative, giving Bitter Sweets the edge.


Feature Medium Honorable Mention


Erika Fry

Hot Mess

Explanatory reporting with compelling graphics in this detailed anatomy of a culture clash. The analysis of how quick noodles became a half-billion-dollar debacle for Nestle in India

could serve as a primer for multinational businesses on how to handle and avoid crisis.


Feature Medium Honorable Mention

Houston Chronicle

David Hunn

Behind Apache’s oil find

How do you find oil hiding in plain sight? This piece told the untold story of one of the largest oil and gas finds in decades. Forward-looking themes and compelling details made this entry stand out.


Feature Small Winner

Inc. Magazine

Burt Helm, Jon Fine and Will Yakowicz

The Stealthy Sales Kings of Amazon

The rich details in this story about an unexplored topic, combined with skillful writing and a solid narrative structure, brought it over the top for us. It was clear that Helm had spent time on the ground at Pharmapacks getting to know how it ran and what its executives are like. He told us how quickly items move in and out of its warehouse, how much revenue it produces, and how it gets featured on Amazon by picking just the right price. There were also great quotes and information about what products are unexpectedly the biggest sellers.


Feature Small Honorable Mention

Crain’s New York Business

Jeff Koyen and Jeremy Smerd

In Search of the Hot Dog Millionaire

Koyen used shoe-leather reporting to shed light on an industry whose vendors seem to be on every street corner in New York, but whose business model was not widely known. We learn that food-cart salespeople end up earning very little even if they sell plenty of dogs, because of the city’s outdated and arguably unfair system for approving necessary permits. From Hell’s Kitchen garages to Midtown street corners to the black-market permit hub of Astoria, Queens, readers move through the city to learn the costs, hassles and long hours spent trying to make a living selling hot dogs, bagels and coffee to the masses. The details and storytelling were excellent.


Feature Small Honorable Mention

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Janet Bodnar and Kimberly Lankford

Making a Plan for a Special Needs Child

Lankford’s story about how families can better manage the costs and available benefits for special-needs children is a great piece of service journalism. It was also eye-opening for readers unaffected by the issue, because the reporter brought us into the lives of specific parents who are trying to make sense of the system and make sure their children get the best possible care over the long-term. Great reporting and insights.


General Excellence Industry/Topic Specific Winner

Financial Planning

Financial Planning displayed a commitment to in-depth reporting and dynamic writing that deserves recognition. The publication covered key issues related to the people and companies in its industry and was willing to present uncomfortable truths about them. The stories also showed foresight, especially regarding the potential for changes in rules requiring advisers to act in the best interest of clients.


General Excellence Large Winner

Los Angeles Times

The Times entry ticked all the boxes, capped by a groundbreaking investigation of how the pharma house Purdue promised 12-hour relief for its OxyContin painkiller despite knowing for decades that this claim wasn’t supported by its own research. This false claim is at least partially responsible for the surge of addiction, deaths, and overdoses linked to OxyContin and other opioids that is ravaging the United States. The other parts of the entry also were strong, notably its scoop-worthy coverage of the Wells Fargo bogus bank-accounts scandal, and its sharp and timely analysis of Verizon’s acquisition of the struggling Yahoo. The Times also showed it knows how to cover its neighborhood, delivering a fine expose on Hollywood’s sketchy cottage industry of pay-to-play child modeling. In a category with many strong submissions, the Los Angeles Times stood above the rest and did it the old-fashioned way with well-conceived story lines that it brought home through deep reporting and great storytelling.


General Excellence Medium Winner

Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Star Tribune delivered stories of both national and local importance and stood above other entries for consistently demonstrating a sustained level of excellence. The paper’s investigation of Medtronic’s concealment of a study that cast doubt on one of its flagship medical devices was rigorously documented, balanced, well-presented, and held to account both government officials and the company. The story had national significance, while the paper’s exploration of the nexus between location and social mobility localized a national trend for readers. The paper also delivered on the local level, providing Minneapolis readers with a bread-and-butter consumer watchdog report on the dangers lurking behind the city’s growing ride-sharing culture. The paper’s non-enterprise reporting, including coverage of a Minneapolis-area hotel business deal and corporate infighting at a local hearing-aid manufacturer, was timely and insightful, providing details and context on tight deadline that could easily rival larger news outlets. Across all these efforts, the Star Tribune consistently delivered quality news coverage that is worthy of the general excellence award.


General Excellence Medium Honorable Mention

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Journal Sentinel showed exceptional reporting prowess both on a local and national scale. The story “Gaming the City’s Property System” revealed that unscrupulous Milwaukee landlords were milking decrepit rental housing for rental income while refusing to clean up housing-code violations. Then they were dumping the run-down properties in bankruptcy proceedings for the city to repossess, allowing the landlords to escape paying accumulated housing fines. The paper named the landlords, listed the money they owed, and brought the City of Milwaukee to task for turning a blind eye to the situation. In a hard-hitting report, the Journal Sentinel described how drug companies are redefining non-threatening conditions into medical “diseases” so they can sell drugs to treat them. “Binge-eating disorder” is said to afflict seven million Americans. You may be more familiar with it as overeating. Sixteen million Americans are said to be suffering from “intermittent explosive disorder,” better known as losing your temper. This story, with outstanding graphics and sidebars, also highlighted the role being played in this costly game by doctors taking drug-company money. It’s a story every American should read. The paper also produced solid stories on a local merger and a billionaire who paid no state taxes.


General Excellence Small Winner

Crain’s New York Business

The quality, range, and impact exhibited by Crain’s New York made it the unrivaled winner in this category. The staff clearly put tremendous time and care into its stories, from the scoop on Donald Trump’s tax break to its more investigative enterprise features, to the benefit of its readers and the public at large. As one judge put it, “These are stories I haven’t read anywhere else and I thought they did an outstanding job.”


General Excellence Small Honorable Mention

Nashville Business Journal

The Business Journal, with a lean staff, took on some big issues like income inequality in the city as it expands, while also providing well-researched scoops and analysis for its readers. Its stories appear to be told with the sort of insider knowledge that can only come from reporters who are constantly examining every facet of a city’s business community.


Health/Science Large Winner

Chicago Tribune

Sam Roe, Karisa King and Ray Long

Dangerous Doses

In the most comprehensive study of its kind, the Tribune tested 255 pharmacies to see how often stores would dispense dangerous drug combinations without warning patients. This piece had it all: investigative reporting, deep sourcing, solid writing and, significantly, the power to force change. A compelling topic well covered. Congratulations.


Health/Science Large Honorable Mention

Los Angeles Times

Melody Petersen

Hospitals’ losing battle with superbugs

Nice investigative work and hit the issue of hospital-borne superbugs from three very different angles.


Health/Science Medium Winner

The Sacramento Bee

Marjie Lundstrom and Phillip Reese

A Dangerous Mix

The Bee shone a harsh light on a largely unseen trend toward younger, sometimes dangerous, nursing-home residents. The story zeroed in on an important issue that seemed overlooked in the regular news cycle; the reporters tracked down documents and data to prove out the thesis with hard evidence; they delved deep enough into the subject matter to understand and illuminate the likely causes; and they wove it together with personal narratives to create a compelling and impactful story.


Health/Science Medium Honorable Mention


Matt Herper

The God Pill

Herper introduces us to the God Pill – a treatment from an obscure San Diego pharmaceutical company that seeks to reverse aging. This tale focuses on colorful founder and CEO Osman Kibar. It examines his short-lived foray into poker, detailing how the engineering Ph.D. and billionaire played the game, conquered it, and then promptly quit. From those first words, Herper draws a reader into a story that centers on a fascinating character and concept, providing rich detail and careful balance throughout. Herper explains Samumed’s potential and risk without ever fawning or coming across as unfairly critical. The reader walks away informed and thoroughly entertained.


Health/Science Small Winner


David Armstrong

Opioid Crisis

An engaging and groundbreaking series on one of the biggest health issues of our times, the opioid crisis. From the minutiae of the junk food needed to persuade a doctor to the harrowing tale of a young woman who died taking a legal version of a risky drug, the series combined meticulous reporting with powerful writing.


Health/Science Small Honorable Mention

Project on Government Oversight

David S. Hilzenrath

Drug Money

A revealing look at the myriad ways the industry impacts drug regulation. With rigorous reporting, it shows how the industry has devised a backhanded way to influence the Food and Drug Administration, by sponsoring and participating in patient advocacy groups, and how drug regulation is impacted.


Innovation Large Winner

BuzzFeed News and BBC

Heidi Blake, John Templon and Simon Cox

The Tennis Racket

“This story shocked the tennis world with tales of massive match-fixing in this multibillion-dollar sport. What made the entry remarkably innovative was that reporters from Buzzfeed News and BBC developed an algorithm that allowed them to perform in-depth data analysis of betting patterns in tens of thousands of tennis matches. The U.K. prime minister called for an independent inquiry into the scam, which demonstrated the story’s impact. This story used complex statistical analysis and good old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting that calls into question the integrity of professional tennis’s highest echelons. The results were presented in an entertaining package (especially for a data-driven project) — the analysis was accessible to the general reader, and the story itself had real impact.” Another judge adds: “Buzzfeed and BBC’s ability to combine traditional journalism, data and an algorithm was by far one of the more unique approaches I have seen. I believe their approach is one every reporter and every news organization should consider; it’s the future of journalism.” We congratulate Buzzfeed News and BBC for their outstanding achievement.


Innovation Small and Medium Winner

ProPublica and The Texas Tribune

Neena Satija, Kiah Collier, Al Shaw, Jeff Larson and Ryan Murphy

Hell and High Water

This package on Houston’s vulnerability to coastal storms was very innovative, especially the way the maps interacted with the story. Overall, a strong example of public service.


International Large Winner


Selam Gebrekidan, Stephen Grey and Amina Ismail

The Migration Machine

Truly remarkable multimedia reporting on a complex problem with global implications, affecting individuals and nations. By introducing the audience to the individuals affected by the historic migration crisis, we feel the emotions of those who have found new homes, those scarred emotionally and physically, while also sharing a sense of loss for those who have died in transit while hoping to find a better life.


International Large Honorable Mention

Associated Press

Hannah Dreier and Joshua Goodman

Venezuela Undone

While Venezuela’s economic and human crises are many miles away from the United States, we get a very palpable sense how inflation, the lack of an adequate food supply, and mismanagement by government and the military are taking a very human toll. Excellent reporting from the ground up, including by showing us a few of the personalities involved. One gets a sense that this breakdown in civil society could happen anywhere.


International Medium Winner


Erika Fry

Hot Mess

Hot Mess is a deeply researched, highly compelling account of how a mishandled crisis brought down a brand that Nestle started from scratch 30 years ago, and cost the company half a billion dollars. Fry went to great lengths to untangle the complicated saga by traveling to India to interview government officials and others involved in the matter, as well as to Nestle’s headquarters in Switzerland to interview the company’s CEO. She produced a beautifully written and fascinating business story that provides valuable lessons on crisis management and recovery to other multinationals, especially those operating in developing markets.


International Small Winner

The Center for Public Integrity

Erin Quinn, Gordon Witkin, John Dunbar and Patrick Madden

Rape, Murder, Famine – and $2.1 Million for K Street PR

The worse a government is, the more it needs K Street, and South Sudan’s government is one of the worst. A United Nations report has identified it as a serial human-rights violator. Quinn dug in and discovered that the impoverished nation spent $2.1 million in 2014 and 2015 on Washington lobbyists and public-relations experts to stave off sanctions. Some went to the firm of Democratic Party fundraiser Tony Podesta, whose brother, John, chaired Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Quinn enlivened her story by featuring a former Sudanese “Lost Boy” who called the fees received by K Street firms “blood money.” Her story shamed at least one lobbyist to register, as required by federal law. Patrick Madden of WAMU produced a companion radio piece.


Investigative Large Winner

BuzzFeed News

Rosalind Adams

Intake: Locked on the Psych Ward

In a yearlong investigation, Adams found that Universal Health Services, the nation’s largest chain of psychiatric hospitals, routinely admitted patients and held them against their will until their insurance ran out. Adams interviewed hundreds of people, including several executives, and she dug through numerous internal documents. Ultimately, she brought to light what appears to be a dark money-making practice. In the aftermath, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley asked the Department of Health to investigate UHS. Raymond James then lowered its rating on the company, citing Adams’ article and the federal investigation. The company’s stock dropped sharply in the aftermath. Business-impact aside, Adams put the patients affected at the forefront of her investigation, sharing personal accounts with care and attention to detail. An incredibly compelling read.


Investigative Large Honorable Mention

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, McClatchy D.C. Bureau and the Miami Herald

Panama Papers

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists produced an impressive collaborative effort to expose a network of law firms and partners actively working to hide billions of dollars in wealth from tax authorities. Their work spawned dozens of investigations and reflected an amazing amount of spadework to uncover hidden connections between professional firms and their wealthy clients. The Panama Papers provided significant fuel to the populist revolt against moneyed elites worldwide.


Investigative Large Honorable Mention

The Wall Street Journal

John Carreyrou, Christopher Weaver and Michael Siconolfi

The Downfall of Theranos

This team’s dogged coverage of Theranos is a case study in the power of investigative reporting. The Journal’s work exposed as a fraud a Silicon Valley startup that was worth billions, leading directly to actions by regulators to revoke the company’s license and protect consumers. Though its first story casting doubt on the rosy Theranos narrative ran in 2015, the Journal owned the story in 2016, revealing detail after detail, including the awkward fact that Rupert Murdoch lost $100 million of his own money on Theranos.


Investigative Medium Winner

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Cary Spivak and Kevin Crowe

Landlord Games

Strong, voluminous and detailed reporting that exposed landlords with a series of code violations – a story with real, consequential impact on the lives of the most vulnerable. Judges appreciated the story’s granular focus and how it exposed both wrongdoing by individuals and government inaction. A memorable accomplishment by dogged, skilled reporters.


Investigative Medium Honorable Mention

Houston Chronicle

Mark Collette, Matt Dempsey and Susan Carroll

Chemical Breakdown

This ambitious and deeply sourced project by the Houston Chronicle reveals in stunning detail the common occurrence in and around Houston of chemical hazards next to businesses, homes and schools. The reporters had to overcome government intransigence in releasing records — hiding behind fear of terrorism — but eventually were able to document a failure of government to protect the public from potential accidents. It is important work, told in an eight-part series.


Investigative Medium Honorable Mention

San Jose Mercury News

Louis Hansen, Michelle Quinn, Karen Casto and Mike Frankel

The Hidden Workforce Expanding Tesla’s Factory

This exhaustive six-month investigation and digitally interactive report uncovered apparent violations of visa and labor laws at one of the world’s most sophisticated companies. Judges highlighted Hansen’s dogged reporting and research of Tesla employees’ labor conditions and the companies that help many foreign workers’ visa processes. The story — which involved conducting interviews through translators and obtaining records through state and federal Freedom of Information Act requests — gave voice to the countless foreign workers looking for a better life in America, only to be dashed by apparent injustice.


Investigative Small Winner

The Investigative Fund and The Nation

Seth Wessler

Dying In Private Prisons

Wessler’s investigative series for The Nation and The Investigative Fund features extensive, solid quantitative reporting in defense of an extremely vulnerable population of people who don’t have anyone else protecting their interests, and resulted in substantial change. The package was beautifully and hauntingly displayed, and the visuals and reporting urged readers to pay attention to this important topic. The evidence of willful neglect at top levels makes it even worse.


Investigative Small Honorable Mention


Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu, Lauren Kirchner and Terry Parris Jr.

Machine Bias

A well-done and a convincing project on the role of algorithms in our lives. The extensive reporting and insightful data analysis uncovered the housing ad problems at Facebook, prompting changes that got a lot of attention.


Investigative Small Honorable Mention

Indianapolis Business Journal

John Russell and Greg Andrews

CEO Behind $500M Proposal Has Mixed Track Record

This entry included excellent work on a local business story, detailed the checkered past of an executive at an Indianapolis startup that sought to build a $500 million medical complex. Enterprising reporting that lead to real change.


Management/Leadership/Career Medium and Large Winner

The Atlantic

Elizabeth Samet, John Paul Rollert and Jerry Useem

Business Leaders and the Mixed Feelings They Inspire

The Atlantic did an excellent job of explaining broader management and corporate challenges in a way that was accessible both to newcomers to the topic and experienced managers. The managers among the judges found themselves gaining insights that helped them in their roles.


Management/Leadership/Career Small Winner

Money Magazine

Cybele Weisser, Kerri Anne Renzulli, Megan Leonhardt and Elaine Pofeldt


A great package for those making career decisions, it had substance and presentation, and a highlight was the before-and-after case studies. Plus, the original findings from a study could be helpful to people at most any stage of their career or considering switching fields or jobs. As one judge said, “The career makeover sidebar is hard to look away from once you’ve started. A reminder that first impressions can be professionally defining.”


Management/Leadership/Career Small Honorable Mention

BBC Capital

Jennifer Merritt and Ronald Alsop

Generation Work

A unique package of stories helpful to many readers. It offered an inclusive perspective on career moves and hiring decisions for LGBTQ individuals and others. “This package was both well-conceived and unusual,” wrote one judge. “Very relevant for our time.”


Markets Medium and Large Winner

Bloomberg Markets

Javier Blas and Andy Hoffman

Inside Vitol: How the World’s Largest Oil Trader Makes Billions

This reads like a John le CarrĂ© spy novel starting with the opening scene of a drone watching over the oil executives’ flight into Benghazi. Authors Blas and Hoffman spent months poring over documents about this largely secretive company and used their reporting to spin a fascinating tale.


Markets Small Winner

Crain’s Chicago Business

Joe Cahill on Business

Cahill’s column offers smart, counterintuitive takes on business and investing issues relevant to readers in the Chicago area and beyond. He offered a skeptical take on an IPO, questioned governance in regard to an executive’s compensation in connection with a deal, and spotted insider purchases worthy of further inspection — all without going over the top or dumbing down the issues.


Media/Entertainment Large Co-Winner

The Wall Street Journal

Keach Hagey, Joe Flint and Amol Sharma

The Power Struggle Inside Viacom

With classic, well-sourced beat reporting and luminous detail, Hagey, Flint and Sharma gave readers unique behind-the-scenes insight into the tumult atop one of America’s foremost media and entertainment companies. The saga — and it can only be called a saga — of media mogul Sumner Redstone and his personal and professional legacy is powerfully engrossing, instructive and, at times, troubling. The Wall Street Journal chronicled this drama of high-stakes shifting loyalties not with breathless voyeurism but with deep reporting and trenchant analysis.


Media/Entertainment Large Co-Winner

Bloomberg Businessweek

Max Chafkin and Sarah Frier


Bloomberg Businessweek’s prescient reporting took readers inside Snapchat long before its highly anticipated IPO. With lively quotes, elegant writing and sweeping analysis, the stories explain what writer Chafkin himself called the media property “everyone wants a piece of but no one quite understands.” More than that, though, the stories are a larger examination of the new influence economy, where personalities can catapult to fame and fortune by racking up “likes,” trailing the often-baffled legacy media behind them. These stories not only take a hard look at the industry’s hottest challenger to Facebook but also explains to the “olds” — in charming, readable language — why Snapchat is so appealing to its young users.


Media/Entertainment Small and Medium Winner


Peter Elkind with Marty Jones

Disturbing Decline of Sumner Redstone

This gripping and clear-eyed account of a complicated corporate saga — and a generational family drama — combines sweeping big-picture perspective with detailed reporting. A very enjoyable and informative read, and one that manages to stand out on a topic that has received extensive coverage.


Personal Finance Large Winner

The New York Times

Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber

Public Sacrifice

Bernard and Lieber did a masterful job of weaving together evidence, personal stories and advice — while translating mountains of jargon into plain English — to uncover a personal finance disgrace: the often-awful investments that teachers and employees of religious and other non-profit entities who advance the public good are forced to make through their 403(b) plans. They showed how federal disclosure rules for these accounts are much worse than for 401(k) plans, that fees are often outrageously high, and that employees can get socked with ridiculously high charges if they take their money out of some of these accounts early because they are in annuities from insurers. Their work highlights the “P” in personal finance by providing us with a case study of accountability journalism.


Personal Finance Medium Winner


Helaine Olen

Ask the Bills

Ask the Bills column offers practical advice in a sympathetic tone, answering real questions for real people. It stood out from the crowded field for a mix of style, wit and value that cut through the confusion and made life’s most stressful topic, money, more accessible.


Personal Finance Small Winner

Money Magazine

Elizabeth O’Brien, Taylor Tepper and Celeste Sloman

The High Cost of Coping

A well-reported and well-written look at how mental and emotional problems can not only affect one’s well-being, but also one’s finances. The reporters present practical methods for dealing with such problems within the U.S.’ confusing and often unfair health-care system.


Personal Finance Small Honorable Mention

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Janet Bodnar, Jane Bennett Clark, Sandra Block and Kathy Kristof

Women and Money

A strong report on the specific financial problems facing women, relying on strong data and interviews with experts and individuals. Well-written, reported and presented.


Real Estate Large Winner

The New York Times

Alexandra Stevenson and Matthew Goldstein

The Housing Trap

The New York Times work stands out because it shines a light on new kinds of questionable practices that had previously drawn little attention. It’s the kind of aggressive, in-depth reporting — with personal stories and deep digging into documents — that not only informs and warns the public but often brings new information to the regulators and legislators who can do something about it once they’re made aware.   


Real Estate Medium Winner

ProPublica and The Real Deal

Cezary Podkul, Marcelo Rochabrun, Derek Kravitz and Will Parker

The Rent Racket

A very strong series about New York City’s rent stabilization system that took readers through unlawful evictions and overcharging by landlords, lax enforcement of tax-break laws by the city, and political deal-making in Albany fueled by real-estate industry campaign contributions. A database of tax-subsidized buildings in New York and other graphical and video elements made the story stand out as an exceptional public service.


Real Estate Medium Honorable Mention

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Cary Spivak and Kevin Crowe

Landlord Games

A deeply reported series that revealed in startling detail how a number of landlords in Milwaukee argued they lacked the money to pay fines and tax penalties, while collecting rents, neglecting building repairs, and paying cash for more properties at foreclosure auctions.


Real Estate Small Winner

The Desert Sun

Rosalie Murphy, Robert Hopwood and Christopher Weddle

Land leasing in Palm Springs

This entry was a standout, taking a deep dive into a complex topic about leased land, with engaging writing, clear subsections, and quotes from a wide variety of relevant sources. We were particularly taken with the visual aids, photos, and interactive map. We found the points of view of the many stakeholders (members of the tribe, homeowners, land owners, business owners) were presented objectively.


Real Estate Small Honorable Mention

Puget Sound Business Journal

Marc Stiles on real estate

One of our judges said this entry does exactly what you want a small publication to do — take something local and tie it to a larger national or global trend. We felt we got to know Seattle through these pieces; we weren’t alienated even though we’re all outsiders, while we felt the pieces were also eye-opening for local residents. We noted the engaging writing style, and good visuals and reporting. One judge noted the Yesler Terrace piece tackled an important topic, the tension that arises when developers move in on low-income housing, by putting human faces on the issue.


Retail Large Winner

Bloomberg Businessweek

David Ingold and Spencer Soper

Three stories about Amazon Prime

An impressive series of stories that exposed Amazon.com’s failure to offer its popular same-day delivery service to predominately black ZIP codes in major cities around the country. The use of complex data to tell an important story is impressive, and the presentation, with detailed but easy-to-understand graphics, is impeccable. The end result was a compelling report that had almost instantaneous impact. Senators immediately called for change, and Amazon quickly expanded its same-day delivery services.


Retail Medium Winner


Phil Wahba on retail

Sharp and elegantly written portraits of J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison, as he fights an uphill battle shrewdly and gracefully, and Ulta chief Mary Dillon, the head of a beauty retailer with a $16 billion market cap who grew up blue collar and now needs to raise her brand’s prestige. And, through David Simon, we get a proper education in the state of the American mall in a couple thousand words. The stories’ angles are subtle and judicious, more than they are surprising. It’s also nice to get so close to one of only five African-American CEOs in the Fortune 500 and to a woman at the helm of a singular company like Ulta.


Retail Small Winner

Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal

Bill King and David Bourne

Designing a Future

This feature on the University of Oregon’s program that teaches students how to take sports products from concept to the consumer featured clean writing, a depth indicative of good knowledge of subject matter, and good art and layout. It was a good piece, from the standpoint of both craft and presentation.


Small Business Winner

Indianapolis Business Journal

Hayleigh Colombo

E-cigarette Players Fume Over Favored Security Firm

Demonstrating painstaking commitment to a troubling story, the Indianapolis Business Journal highlighted the connection between new rules for the fast-growing vaping industry in Indiana and one particular security company that benefited from them. Judges were impressed by IBJ’s sustained effort, which connected the dots with diligence and fairness. Over time, this reporting provided readers with a comprehensive account of how government rule-making benefited one small business at the expense of several. It was a model for how steady, tough-minded coverage pays off.


Students – Professional Publications Winner

Dallas Morning News and University of North Texas

Dalton LaFerney

The Rise and Fall of the Frack Master

The reporter showed significant initiative in diving deeper into this story to find out how the “Frack Master” turned himself into a sought-after TV source. The story does a good job of showing how the subject portrayed himself as an expert while having little relevant industry experience. All in all, a nice job of getting the story behind the story.


Students – Professional Publications Honorable Mention

The Wall Street Journal and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Sarah E. Chaney

Bankruptcy Becomes an Option for Some Borrowers Burdened by Student Loans

A hard news story that breaks new ground, which is a nice achievement for an intern on the bankruptcy beat. Student loan debt is of huge interest right now, so this story is one that could have ramifications. Nicely done.



Students – Student Publications Winner

Washington and Lee University

Athena Cao, Zebrina Edgerton-Maloy and Logan Hendrix

Borrowing Trouble

This examination of payday loans was through, including in-depth financial details from a borrower (the audio was an added bonus) and the differing perspectives of financial regulators, advocates, and payday-loan executives. Excellent use of statistics. This high-impact project was well-organized and clearly written.


Students – Student Publications Honorable Mention

University of Maryland

Brittany Britto

Purple Line: A Divided Rail

This fascinating look at the potential impact of a new mass-transit line puts readers in the picture with powerful prose and photography. A wise decision to tell the story in chapters about the groups most affected by the line. Robust reporting and masterful writing.


Students – Student Publications Honorable Mention

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Joe Baglio, Elizabeth Fleischer, Elizabeth Harvell, Natalie Hoberman, Lauren Hong, Lauren Thomas, Evanne Timberlake, Justina Vasquez, Hailey Waller and Wei Zhou

North Carolina Business News Wire

Every state would benefit from having a business news wire like this one. UNC-Chapel Hill students are filling a real need, particularly in the areas of breaking news and coverage of public companies. This effort is to be commended, and the judges hope other journalism departments/schools will follow UNC-Chapel Hill’s lead.


Technology Large Winner

Bloomberg Businessweek

Monte Reel and Robert Kolker

Surveillance: The Private-Sector War on Privacy

A fascinating read, this entry was beautifully written and expertly reported from all angles. Very thorough reporting on a complex subject affecting all levels of society. This project did an excellent job highlighting the dilemma posed by new technology and the competing interests of privacy versus public safety.


Technology Medium Winner


Matt Drange

Selling Guns on Facebook a Problem Even Facebook Can’t Solve

Drange’s comprehensive series is a stellar example of watchdog journalism and beat reporting in the modern journalism world. Drange refused to take Facebook’s vow to stop private gun sales at face value, delving deeply into the social network’s online gun community to show how the company’s policy was playing out in practice. It also showed how Facebook is encountering complicated problems as it becomes a social-media behemoth. Drange’s reporting, including deft use of social media itself, showed how easy it was to sell guns on Facebook, and how difficult it was to stop the activity. When Facebook announced a ban, he checked, and revealed it wasn’t working. He interacted with secret groups of gun owners, shedding light on their tactics to constantly stay ahead of the game, and illuminated a key engineer at Facebook involved in the issue. Peers in the media lauded Drange’s persistent reporting, a senator opened a formal inquiry, and Facebook had to take further action.


Technology Medium Honorable Mention


Kashmir Hill

How an Internet Mapping Glitch Turned a Random Kansas Farm Into a Digital Hell

Hill gets a nod for a delightful tech mystery that she helped track down and fix. Residents of a remote farm in Kansas couldn’t figure out why they were accused of criminal activities and harassed by angry people and law enforcement officials for a decade, until Hill decided to investigate. New technology coupled with good old-fashioned reporting skills led her to the offender: an internet mapping glitch! The company, which hadn’t even realized it was responsible for the problem, agreed to take corrective measures that would finally bring respite to the people on the Kansas farm and other places affected by a similar problem.


Technology Small Winner

The Center for Public Integrity

Allan Holmes, Ben Wieder, Eleanor Bell Fox, Chris Zubak-Skees and Gordon Witkin

Broadband Inequality

An incredibly informative package that shed light on an issue many people may not be aware of. It was also a novel take on technology – the societal and economic impact of the internet, something that doesn’t get as much attention as it should. It was well-researched, the real-person accounts were compelling, and the data was enlightening and, at times, shocking. An outstanding piece overall.


Technology Small Honorable Mention


Michael Nunez

Facebook’s Identity Crisis

Gizmodo’s series of stories on alleged bias appearing on Facebook’s news feed and on how Facebook treats its contract news editors stood out for its exceptional original reporting and scope. While we may never know the real impact that the social-media platform had on voters’ perceptions, no one can deny that it played an important role in the 2016 election and will continue to have an impact going forward. Gizmodo surfaced deep concerns and details about bias on the Facebook news feed that resulted in the company’s leadership having to address them publicly and make internal changes to its processes. Since 1 billion people use Facebook and pay attention to its feed, Gizmodo’s reporting impacted much more than the company, and deserves to be rewarded for its journalism.


Video Large Winner

The Financial Times

Kathrin Hille, Vanessa Kortekaas, Steve Ager and Russell Birkett

Frozen Dreams: Russia’s Arctic Obsession

The Financial Times takes viewers to Russia’s northern arctic coast where residents hope a new shipping lane, opened by global warming, will bring prosperity to this frozen, remote region. Weaving in remarkable imagery, poignant characters, and compelling graphics, the video represents the best of digital video. It is more than informative. It’s illuminating.


Video Large Honorable Mention

Bloomberg Businessweek

Ashlee Vance

Hello World

The series takes viewers deep into unique tech scenes in places other than Silicon Valley: Japan to meet robot inventors, Los Angeles to visit the designer of a flying car, and Russia to meet the “techno oligarchs” building its internet. Host Ashlee Vance has a light touch as he casts the skeptical eye of a journalist on the tech wonders he finds along the way. The entertaining series is big budget, high quality and showcases how vibrant, entertaining and informative web video can be.


Video Small and Medium Winner

Weather.com and Telemundo Network

Gregory Gilderman, Neil Katz, Shawn Efran and Marisa Venegas

The Source and Cosecha de Miseria (Harvest of Misery)

This story did what great investigations do best – it exposed a supposedly “benevolent” effort as a sham. We felt that it was a brilliantly reported and brilliantly shot piece. We greatly appreciated the combination of extensive research, old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting (including deep in the jungle), and smart interviewing that not only uncovered child labor in Mexico’s coffee industry but revealed that it was also tolerated. The reporters and producers then went the extra step to go back to the original source to present their findings and offer them a chance to respond to the allegations. We also appreciated the tone of the piece. It didn’t make assumptions or shout “Gotcha!” It simply presented the facts in a measured way for maximum impact. This is quality journalism at its best.

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