2019 Best in Business Honorees – Judging Comments


Winner – A collaboration of The Wall Street Journal and Gimlet Media; WeWork trilogy
The Wall Street Journal’s WeWork trilogy dissected one on the biggest business stories of the year: the rise and fall of WeWork. The podcast employed smart questions to reporters covering the story and even smarter answers that not only explained WeWork’s spectacular collapse, but also revealed new information. Each program was driven by a compelling narrative that pulled listeners through the story and its complications, leaving them to want to hear more.

Honorable Mention – NPR; Profiles of America in full employment
NPR’s Profiles Of America In Full Employment is a smart look at what full employment means in the early 21st century, covering the landscape in tight, well-produced and insightful reports that range from workers in the Midwest regaining bargaining power to a California agricultural community bypassed by the record economic expansion.

Honorable Mention – American Banker; Bankshot
American Banker’s Bankshot podcast took boring but important issues and made them interesting without diminishing their importance. Holding a listener’s attention while explaining LIBOR and why everyone should care about it – and even having fun doing it – is no small accomplishment.

Banking/Finance, Large division

Winner – The Wall Street Journal; Covert operation
Covert Operation is a strong, original work that highlighted great reporting with the potential for industry change. The story revealed how an opaque industry is structured but, in the end, it’s the character-driven narrative that was both riveting and infuriating.

Honorable Mention – A collaboration of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 16 media partners; Mauritius Leaks
Mauritius Leaks is another great ICIJ investigation that involved the heavy-lift work of going through leaked documents. The strong visual treatment let the data tell the story and the historical analysis set the context for understanding the players and their motivations.

Banking/Finance, Medium division

Winner – ProPublica; Trump’s taxes
This was a tour de force of investigative journalism that broke new ground in a series of well-structured stories about President Donald Trump and his family business. The articles gave some of the clearest and most detailed account of the finances of the Trump Organization and the Trump family. They provided two clear insights. First, that the Trump organization and its advisors are expert at creating and exploiting ambiguities in financial reporting to add and subtract value to their various holdings when it suits their financial needs. Second, that one reason why the Trump family and business entities are fighting tooth and nail to hide their tax returns from the public is that the tax returns might reveal even more about exploitation of various aspects of the IRS code.

Honorable Mention – A collaboration of American Banker and ProPublica; How Trump’s political appointees thwarted tougher settlements with two big banks
This entry represents a groundbreaking collaboration between an established financial publication and a non-profit. With unusual insight and rich detail, it explains how the Trump Administration’s political appointees intervened to reduce sanctions against two large banking organizations involved in trading risky securities leading to the 2008 financial crisis. The reporting provides unusual insights into how the Trump administration has reversed the Obama administration’s policies and provided substantial relief for banks whose actions led to the Great Recession. The project benefited from strong writing and editing, and it resulted in demands for review of the settlements.

Banking/Finance, Small division

Winner – Financial Planning; JPMorgan’s Chase private client group used false evidence to get rid of an advisor. This is how the firm tried to make sure no one knew.
Every paragraph left one judge saying, “you gotta be kidding.” I thought this was a spectacular piece, written for an industry newsletter that I imagine depends on wealth management groups to pay their salaries. This was aggressive and bold, and it worked hard to tell the truth, and the truth was outrageous. This is a terrific piece of reporting that shone a much-needed light on some pretty murky practices. It was also nicely written and well organized, with the action moving along at a nice clip. The scene-setting at the top, in somewhat tawdry surroundings, really helped pull the judges into the story.

Honorable Mention – The Real Deal; Trouble in the land of OZK
The judges especially liked that this was an exclusive interview with an interesting person. It was an outside-the-box look at a different kind of bank.

Breaking News, Large division

Winner – Reuters; U.S.-China trade war
The trade relationship between the U.S. and China was perhaps the biggest economic story of 2019. Our panel of judges concluded that Reuters’ deadline reporting on China backtracking on almost all aspects of its U.S. trade deal was especially compelling, given the deep use of industry and government sources. Readers were brought inside the diplomatic cables that were “riddled with reversals” and the Reuters team did an excellent job explaining the complicated process of negotiating an agreement only to have much of it fall apart.

Honorable Mention – The Financial Times; WeWork
The Financial Times team brilliantly laid out how it all went wrong at WeWork, a onetime tech darling with an iconoclastic chief executive, Adam Neumann. 

Honorable Mention – Bloomberg News; PG&E files for bankruptcy
The superb reporting team clearly explained what led once mighty PG&E to become the biggest utility bankruptcy in U.S. history, and why the company chose to take the bankruptcy route.

Breaking News, Medium division

Winner – Dallas Morning News; U.S. pilots faulted 737 Max jets
The judges had a number of strong entries but the Dallas Morning News took an ongoing story of major national and international importance, two crashes involving the 737 Max, and significantly moved it forward. DMN’s work showed the crashes were less about pilot error and more about design problems and lax regulatory vigilance. This story is a fine example of advancing news on a developing story by digging hard and deep.

Breaking News, Small division

Winner – Baltimore Business Journal; Nonprofit with ties to Mayor Pugh, top aides received city funding
In “Nonprofit with ties to Mayor Pugh, top aides received city funding,” Baltimore Business News’ Melody Simmons demonstrates how sound reporting can hold powerful people accountable and make an impact on a community. Simmons’ efforts to review tax filings and other documents is a testament to the upfront work required to break this type of news. Additionally, the article was high-impact: It led to the FBI raiding the nonprofit, City Hall firing three staffers associated with the training center, and added to the pressure on Pugh, already under fire over her “Healthy Holly” book deals. The mayor ultimately resigned and was sentenced on Feb. 27, 2020, to three years in prison. Congratulations to Melody and her editors!

Commentary/Opinion, Large division

Winner – The New York Times; China-Think
Li Yuan, a native of China, won for her NYT columns that gave an insightful insider’s view of why most of China’s people oppose the Hong Kong protests. She documented how China’s government uses technology and social media to indoctrinate its 1.4 billion people with group think, which she describes as “a deeply rooted belief in what many call the China Model: economic growth at the cost of individual rights.” The judges were impressed by her courage in staying with this story despite the risk to her safety. Her editors wrote in their cover letter that Ms. Yuan, who lacks the shield of a Western passport, “is regularly called a traitor on Chinese social media, and state news outlets have attacked her in print and online. She moved to Hong Kong after seeing friends imprisoned in Beijing.”

Honorable Mention – Los Angeles Times (CA); Michael Hiltzik opinion/commentary
Michael Hiltzik received the honorable mention distinction for his Los Angeles Times columns that presented “strong, well-argued commentaries on a range of topics,” as one judge noted. In one column, Mr. Hiltzik strongly opposed the University of California at San Francisco’s pending affiliation with Dignity, a Catholic hospital chain, pointing out the drastic impact that would have on the healthcare that would be available to women and LGBT people. In another column, he wrote that President Trump’s plan to “save” Medicare would actually ruin it. In a third column, he took this stand, reflected in the headline:  The truth about U.S. taxes is that they aren’t high enough. Here’s what one judge had to say: “A convincing mix of fact and opinion with just enough rhetorical flourish to make it a really good read. The tax piece is a good example of using data to tell readers something they should know but may not want to hear.” Another judge pointed out that Mr. Hiltzik’s piece on the Catholic hospitals focused on “an issue relevant to a local audience” while it was of national interest as well. This judge noted that Mr. Hiltzik’s columns show that commentary and opinion writing is alive and well at major regional newspapers.

Commentary/Opinion, Medium division

Winner – Kaiser Health News; America’s broken health care system
Elisabeth Rosenthal deftly uses the medical bills she received to guide readers through the maze of medical bureaucracy and deliver a clear exposition of how and why the nation’s health care system has become so beleaguered, unfair and inefficient. Her analysis of “Medicare for All” combines clever writing and detailed research to illuminate what dramatic healthcare overhaul would mean for jobs and the industry. Overall, her work is informative, timely and a joy to read. 

Honorable Mention – Houston Chronicle; Accountability
Chris Tomlinson of the Houston Chronicle takes issues of great regional concern — like port dredging — and weaves them into conversations about pressing national concern, such as trade protectionism. His writing is lucid, his takes are carefully reasoned and the topics he chooses are of obvious public interest. 

Commentary/Opinion, Small division

Winner – Crain’s Chicago Business; Holding Chicago companies accountable
Cahill provides readers with sharp, no-nonsense commentary that makes its point clearly and concisely. Details are woven skillfully into the narrative and the use of a corporate regulatory filing as the basis for one column was especially impressive.

Honorable Mention – STAT; Commentary on drug pricing and development
An authoritative analysis of relatively complex topics: biotech companies’ credibility, fake cancer cures, drug pricing. The use of footnotes to point readers to supporting material is especially helpful.

Economics, Large division

Winner – Bloomberg News; Addicted to debt
The winner, Bloomberg’s “Addicted to Debt” entry, told each of the judges something new about a fresh type of subprime debt: online installment loans. This felt to us like the kind of revelation we may learn much more about when the next downturn hits. The Bloomberg entry also included a thorough analysis of debt forgiveness plans politicians of both parties are pitching to voters, and a sobering look at the generational shackles student debt places on some families who can’t free themselves, no matter how hard they work. All entries included sharp graphics. Overall, this package illuminated dark corners of an otherwise vibrant economy with crisp storytelling everybody can relate to.

Honorable Mention – Bloomberg Businessweek; How Trump’s trade war went from method to madness
What sold the judges on this entry was its skillful blend of breaking newswriting and expository journalism, giving each new development ample context for the reader to understand its significance. Judges were particularly impressed with the story about how the White House was considering imposing limits on U.S. investors’ portfolio investments in Chinese markets and companies. At first, presidential advisers labeled it “fake news,” before being forced to admit it was true.

Honorable Mention – Bloomberg News; TOPLive
These three live blogs of major interest-rate announcements are unparalleled in thoroughness, speed and readability. Readers are walked up to the news with strong analysis and graphics that explain what to watch for. A team of reporters then blogs the announcement itself with a succession of short headlines and clearly written single paragraphs of news and analysis—alternated with market reaction and short commentaries from reporters and outsiders. 

Economics – Medium division and Small division

Winner – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Dairyland in distress
Judges praised this deeply reported and engagingly written series for its ambition, comprehensiveness and clarity. In addition to the compelling, on-the-farm reporting, this team made strong use of data, photos and multimedia to give readers a deep and nuanced understanding of the economics of milk from the perspective of Wisconsin’s struggling dairy farms.

Honorable Mention – Kaiser Health News; No mercy
No Mercy was an exemplary series of stories about how the loss of a local hospital affects a rural community.

Energy/Natural Resources – Large division

Winner – The Wall Street Journal; Brazil’s deadly dam collapse
The judges were all struck by the strength of the reporting, which revealed major concerns around safety protocols that could have mitigated the disaster. The coverage of the collapse was widespread, but Journal reporters did the kind of work that had real impacts – contributing to evidence in a case; holding executives accountable for a lack of oversight; and providing fodder for proposed changes to industry practices. The losses suffered by these families demanded a response. This is excellent work.

Honorable Mention – Bloomberg Businessweek; Is one of the world’s biggest lawsuits built on a sham?
This story was a masterful example of feature writing, a compelling yarn. But it’s not just a page-turner: there are real implications here for the energy industry. The story speaks to a culture of corruption that deeply affects how business is done in such a crucial resources market — with incentives to latch on to projects doomed to fail in order to drain government coffers through litigation. The reporters explained how this practice is impacting the Nigerian economy in a major way, enough to cripple funding for schools and healthcare, or even to accomplish what the country set out to do in the first place: eliminate harmful flaring.

Honorable Mention – The New York Times; PG&E’s disconnect
This is an important story. To show that the company was lobbying for a shield against liability for wildfires, even as those fires burned, is extremely troubling. Times reporters provided a deep look at the safety lapses that imperiled people’s homes and threatened lives.

Energy/Natural Resources – Medium division

Winner – The Arizona Republic; Arizona’s next water crisis
This superb series does a great job of telling the story and serves as a strong example of accountability journalism, raising questions about the sustainability of Arizona’s present and future in an age of climate change and water scarcity. The subject affects every reader in a vital way — at the faucet and the wallet. The fear, uncertainty and what it’s like not to have water was palpable through the voices of the residents. The tale brings truth to light, educating citizens as it connects all the dots on power, profits, influence, winners and losers. The graphics and pictures are top notch, using online to breathe more impact to the text. The reader comes away knowing what to look for, who to blame, questions to ask and what to demand. So, it is not just a powerfully reported expose but one with real-world impacts as lawmakers were moved to respond. While nearby water war sagas like the Oglala aquifer and Colorado River diversions have often been told, this series shed new light on one of the most pressing issues for the Sun Belt’s economy and habitability. The judges all rated it No. 1. 

Honorable Mention – A collaboration of The Center for Public Integrity and “The World”; Pushing plastic
Where does our garbage end up? In modern, throwaway society it is an ethical question we should all address: like water use, a huge problem right under our nose. So, this series has great moral impact. But it also zeroes in on the culprits — corporations, regulators and consumers — ie. us. It lays out the impacts. Perhaps nothing since DDT would make Rachel Carson weep more than micro-plastics now permeating our oceans, food chains and drinking water. It paints a powerful connect-the-dots picture of the Third World as a dumping ground for First World. And it names names for corporate interests and lets them speak. The different angles help to tell the story and there are some really great quotes. The story comes full circle with the part written about Malaysia. Overall, this is a very valuable and educational series. ***

Energy/Natural Resources – Small division

Winner – Honolulu Civil Beat; Reeling it in
Through shoe-leather reporting and analysis of federal records, Honolulu Civil Beat crafted an exemplary package of stories that deftly shows how U.S. taxpayer dollars earmarked for conservation are instead being used to promote aggressive fishing practices across Hawaii and U.S territories. The series prompted a federal investigation, underscoring the journalism’s true impact, as well as the benefit to the local population and all taxpayers.

Honorable Mention – New Haven Independent; Dicey deals kept English Station dirty
Christopher Peak of the New Haven Independent unraveled a tangle of shady real estate deals surrounding a mothballed power plant in New Haven’s harbor, and revealed a fascinating story hiding in plain sight. Through deft writing and an eye for the absurd (and aided by some clever graphics), Peak brought color and humor to what could have been a hopelessly dry article. The story wasn’t just entertaining, though: His reporting led New Haven’s mayor to call for an investigation into why the plant remains undeveloped.

Explanatory – Large division

Winner – Reuters; Hidden injustice
Powerful reporting reveals the dangers caused by the finely honed practice of hiding the results of court proceedings from the public (and journalists). The Reuters team found that for at least 20 years, judges helped companies hide the truth about the harmful effects of products such as opioids, cars, medical services and more. People died or got hurt using some of these products, such as the 5,000-plus, seat belt-wearing passengers who didn’t survive GM rollover accidents in a 10-year period.

Honorable Mention – Bloomberg Businessweek; New red scare
Peter Waldman combines narrative writing and meticulous investigation in New Red Scare, a three-part series exposing examples of U.S. authorities harassing, demoting and expelling Chinese and Chinese American scientific researchers from universities and in one story, a prestigious U.S. Army intelligence unit.  Set against a backdrop of suspicion and acrimony over intellectual property theft by China, the series takes a shocking tack: uncovering false accusations against prominent scientists. Waldman delivers enough detail for the reader to reach an informed conclusion and enough character development to make us care.  New Red Scare has heroes, victims and villains but ultimately sheds light on a system made rotten by complex world forces.

Explanatory – Medium division

Winner – Fortune; Epidemic of fear
Fry detailed the disastrous rollout in the Philippines of French drug giant Sanofi’s vaccine Dengvaxia to combat dengue fever. Fry took a complex, human story and clearly and objectively explained the impact of the rollout, including a wave of anti-vaccination panic that could have worldwide consequences. Deeply reported and well written, the story is a dramatic and disturbing piece that raises serious policy questions.

Honorable Mention – E&E News; Dealing with disasters
This eye-opening story focuses on how FEMA is taking care of so many small disasters and deploying workers to them that the agency is caught short when large disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, hit. The deeply reported piece explains how and why FEMA comes up short when its resources are needed the most.

Honorable Mention – Chronicle of Higher Education; How America’s college-closure crisis leaves families devastated
This well-sourced, well-written story explains the cascading effect of for-profit college closures and how individuals who can least afford it – older students, low-income students and racial minorities – are hit the hardest.

Explanatory – Small division

Winner – Marker; The cutthroat battle between S’well and its bougie water bottle copycats
This well-written piece, combined nitty-gritty reporting and powerful detail, provides a lucid explication of how and why the problem of counterfeit products persists to bedevil entrepreneurs. Judges were impressed by its lively language, strong sourcing and smart graphics. All in all, a terrific example of explanatory journalism.

Honorable Mention – Project on Government Oversight; Captured regulator imperils investors
Strong digging and analysis gave this entry its power. Judges also appreciated the clarity with which it demonstrated the importance of this relatively obscure agency.

Honorable Mention – Denver Business Journal; Why Molson Coors had to leave Denver
This piece gracefully pulled together and illustrated a number of trends and market forces that are driving U.S. businesses away from the notion of a traditional “headquarters.”

Feature – Large division

Winner – Reuters; Africa’s gold
Reuters won the top prize in this category by combining great reporting and multimedia storytelling to shed light on wildcat mining and gold smuggling out of Africa. The team not only sought to quantify the extent of smuggling but pointed to two dangers of this practice. The first danger explored the high health risks to those wildcat miners, and the second exposed the opportunity that jihadis have spotted in the under-regulated gold trade to help finance their operations. 

Honorable Mention – The New York Times; Planet Fox
The judges found The New York Times’ “Planet Fox” to be a compelling examination of how three generations of the Murdoch family turned a news organization into an international, right wing political force, using their platform to help promote and elect preferred candidates and attack those on the other side. The fascinating struggles between the Murdoch sons and their father are woven into the broader roles played by the company’s media outlets. 

Honorable Mention – The Wall Street Journal; This is not the way everybody behaves
This is a deeply reported, often wild, tale of the trials and tribulations of WeWork co-founder and CEO Adam Neumann. Details of his reckless ambition, arrogance and outlandish personal behavior were jarring and alarming, especially for a company that was on the brink of going public. 

Feature – Medium division

Winner – E&E News; The most dangerous malware
The Most Dangerous Malware is a tense and frightening tale of how Russian-launched malware nearly caused catastrophe at a Saudi petrochemical plant.  Dogged reporting across three continents exposed the risk of the rapid adoption of digital technology, a story with potentially huge implications.  What pushed this entry to the top was its superb storytelling on an extremely complex topic.

Honorable Mention – Kaiser Health News; In India’s burgeoning pain market, U.S. drugmakers stand to gain
This two-part series uncovered how pharmaceutical companies are moving into India to push the same pain drugs that caused the opioid crisis in the U.S.  The reporter spent time in India’s slums to see how pain clinics are popping up, creating thousands of new addicts.  This is great, on-the-ground reporting that raises alarms about a potential catastrophe brewing in the world’s second-largest country.

Honorable Mention – Report on Business Magazine; A long road
Extensive reporting went into this effort, including on-the-ground reporting in Guatemala and Northern Ontario, as well as extensive document research. At its heart, this is a very human story about Canadian mining companies who have winked at social responsibility, running roughshod over indigenous communities – all in the pursuit of mining silver.

Feature – Small division

Winner – The Counter; The man who’s going to save your neighborhood grocery store
In “The man who’s going to save your neighborhood grocery store,” reporter Joe Fassler comes to grips with the desperation of longtime regional grocers who, while reluctant to change, must face up to the reality of customers abandoning their brick-and-mortar stores to buy food online. Fassler writes not only of the dilemmas they face, but also of the solutions provided by architect Kevin Kelley, the “supermarket ghostwriter,” who offers them a lifeline. A compelling story beginning to end, it lays out in fascinating detail the concept of grocery shopping for pleasure. It even manages to tug at the heartstrings with the story of a jaded, third-generation grocer, Rich Niemann, who is driven to tears of joy when during the reinvention process Kelley captures the emotional core of his business.

Honorable Mention – STAT; The medicine hunters
“The Medicine Hunters” is a devastating dispatch from an extreme edge of America’s health care system. Reporter Eric Boodman documents a startling consequence of the business world’s control over U.S. drug development: that a potentially transformative, lifesaving treatment might only be affordable while it’s still experimental and be priced out of patients’ reach once it’s been approved for sale. Boodman’s moving look at one woman’s impossible choice offers a warning to us all.

Honorable Mention – Fast Company; Atlanta rising
In “Atlanta Rising,” reporter J.J. McCorvey delivered a deeply reported, engagingly written examination of how the “reverse Great Migration” of black Americans to the South has played out in the world of entrepreneurship. The piece combines rich character portraits with extensive use of data to capture the transformational effect that shift is having on both Atlanta and the tech industry.

General Excellence – Industry/Topic-Specific Publications

Winner – Financial Planning
There’s a lot to admire here but the judges especially appreciated the nice, smooth writing and solid reporting. The presentation is sharp, and the video and audio are integrated into the storytelling. The piece on financial advisors considering striking out as independents is a thoughtful feature with pace and a kind of pragmatic set of conclusions for the professional audience it targets. The judges agreed that the accompanying charts and graphics really made the stories sing.

General Excellence – Large division

Winner – The Wall Street Journal
In 2019, the Wall Street Journal gave readers high-profile scoops, dazzling infographics, and in-depth reports on tech’s biggest players. In September, the paper published the year’s definitive account of WeWork founder Adam Neumann’s high-flying lifestyle, replete with details about drug use on private jets, trays of tequila shots and enabling bankers. The paper flexed its investigative chops with stories about Amazon’s questionable third-party sales practices and yet another worrisome Facebook data-grab. An arresting infographic about the Max 737 showed how the plane’s faulty design led to repeated catastrophes and an ongoing crisis for Boeing. The Journal topped off the entry with a first-rate scoop about the $135 billion merger of United Technologies and Raytheon, the year’s big M&A deal. The scope and authority of the work made it an exceptional entry.

General Excellence – Medium division

Winner – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The judges commend the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a powerful entry that demonstrated strong work across the board. Their reporters held Foxconn and Wisconsin government officials accountable for failing to live up to their job promises. They unearthed a faulty drug approved by the FDA. They got people to go on the record about the exploitation of a visa loophole to bring Mexican veterinarians to the U.S. to work menial jobs on farms. And their amazing visual storytelling of the mass closures of dairy farms in the state was some of the best work in the country on the devastation of the industry. 

Honorable Mention – Detroit Free Press
The judges commend the Detroit Free Press for taking on the powerful auto industry in their hometown. Their investigative work unveiled not just that Ford Focus and Fiesta cars had faulty transmissions but that the company knew about it. Their reporters were also on the front lines of covering the GM strike with thorough reporting and gripping photos that helped the nation understand how unique and well supported the strike was.

General Excellence – Small division

Winner – Portland Business Journal
Outstanding work, the kind of journalism that can make important people sit up and take notice. The writers were not afraid to take on one of the iconic companies of its area, Nike, over not only its taxes but also its toxic culture, with new reporting. It also featured illuminating and sensitive coverage of social issues (diversity, suicide) and a probing look at a questionable do-over in awarding a city contract.

Honorable Mention – American Banker
The depth of reporting, the obvious expertise with the subject matter and the overall quality of presentation is excellent.

Government – Large division

Winner – A collaboration of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the Miami Herald, La Posta and 16 other media partners; The bribery division  
The Bribery Division delivered international results from an impressive collaboration across 17 media entities and 50 journalists on different continents and in 10 countries. The company in question and governments it bribed were already under scrutiny, and this reporting deepened the investigation and showed how the corruption extended to public works projects. The package delivered clear writing about a complicated web of topics, and the stories were accompanied by an interactive graphic. The package shows the power of investigative journalism through thorough and unbiased reporting and writing.

Honorable Mention – A collaboration of the Center for Public Integrity, The Arizona Republic and USA TODAY; Copy. Paste. Legislate.
Copy. Paste. Legislate. brought together two years of reporting and well-researched data collection to deliver groundbreaking stories about how state-level legislation is made — by businesses and industries advancing their own interests. The accountability reporting tells readers things they don’t already know and explains clearly why they should care about how legislation is made. The package includes visual elements to show readers how the reporting was done, and assembled reams of data readers can search for themselves.

Government – Medium division

Winner – Kaiser Health News; Hidden harm
Hidden Harm is an outstanding investigation that exposed a hidden trove of reports about problems with medical devices. The reporting had an equally extraordinary impact and may well have saved lives. The Kaiser Health News stories prompted the FDA to release the reports and shutter the hidden program altogether. Seldom does the work of one journalist have such impact on the wellbeing of so many people. Judges liked the use of multimedia, especially the video explaining how the reporter got the story; an excellent example of how transparency can help the media build trust in our work.

Honorable Mention – ProPublica; The TurboTax trap
ProPublica demonstrated with dogged reporting and pursuit of emails from the IRS – even resorting to suing the agency – that the tax preparation industry, particularly Intuit’s TurboTax, misled the public with bogus offers of free online tax preparation. The series spurred the IRS to reform its rules. Judges particularly liked the story showing readers step-by-step screenshots of how Intuit duped taxpayers searching for free tax preparation to pay for it.

Honorable Mention – POLITICO; How Elaine Chao used her cabinet post to help Mitch McConnell
Politico deftly used a Freedom of Information Act request and in-depth street reporting to document a cozy pipeline between local governments in Kentucky and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao – whose husband is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – that led to $78 million in grants for transportation projects in that state. Politico used documents, emails and interviews to show the connections between McConnell’s staff and a local political operative, Todd Inman, who worked for Chao and was giving preference to the Kentucky projects. Politico documented well this highly unusual conflict of interest case between an influential cabinet member and a powerful legislator.

Government – Small division

Winner – Crain’s New York Business; Will Bredderman’s coverage of New York City government        
Will Bredderman’s reporting package stood out from the competition in this category. The standout piece in his entry, the Black Car Fund’s irresponsible spending is a fine example of the sort of ongoing corruption that would continue undetected were not journalists like Bredderman around to detect it.  Judges were impressed by the details in his reporting, and how solidly the stories were constructed.

Honorable Mention – Albany Business Review; How Cuomo’s strategy stalled Albany’s nanotech dream
An ambitious topic and a hard case to make, but this reporting well detailed the ongoing stumbles and dimming ambitions of Albany’s nanotech sector.

Honorable Mention – Project on Government Oversight; Captured regulator imperils investors
It’s not easy to write something compelling about accounting regulation but Project on Government Oversight managed to do it. Judges also noted the simple-yet-effective use of charts that showed the gap in fines and ambition of the regulator in ways that words never could.

Health/Science – Large division

Winner – Los Angeles Times (CA); Bodies of evidence
Extremely well-done investigation that brought to light a major problem and a great example of what journalism is all about.

Honorable Mention – The Wall Street Journal; Martin Shkreli: Business behind bars
It is a very good story that broke and sparked investigations, something that should make any crusading journalist proud or jealous. It’s obvious the reporting was thorough and the story was not overwritten. It’s a great feature with a lead that painted a vivid picture.

Health/Science – Medium division

Winner – Kaiser Health News; UVA lawsuits
Kaiser Health News showed how devastating unchecked hospital policies can be and the importance of bringing them to light. With their relentless digging, the reporters exposed how the center’s overly aggressive billing and collection policies were ruining people’s lives. Shining a public light on that forced changes to fix the unfair practices, including the CEO’s exit. This piece underscores the best of journalism, uncovering truths to make a difference.

Honorable Mention – ProPublica; Newark Beth Israel Hospital
 ProPublica’s deep reporting at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center provided a significant public service by uncovering unscrupulous practices that some on that hospital’s staff thought they could pursue in secret.

Honorable Mention – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Turned away
Turned Away brought light to a critically important practice that seemed to have expanded without curbs until the paper’s reporting brought it to the attention of authorities who were quick to act once they knew.

Health/Science – Small division

Winner – STAT; The medicine hunters
This series takes the reader on an insightful and truly unique journey into the world of rare diseases and the medicines being developed to fight them. Along the way, it becomes clear the patients suffering from such ailments face challenges known and unknown as they navigate the world of specialized medicines and drug trials to develop them — including, most notably, whether they will even be able to afford the drugs they played a part in bringing to market. Using comprehensive reporting and research, combined with the human touch that reaches out through the portraits of those involved in the efforts on all sides, The Medicine Hunters was an unexpected story that was not only a great read, but a thought-provoking piece of journalism that stayed with the judges long after reading it.

Honorable Mention – The Counter; The bowls at Chipotle and Sweetgreen are supposed to be compostable. They contain cancer-linked “forever chemicals”
In a reminder that some of the best stories may be hiding in plain sight, just waiting for an intrepid journalist to begin asking the right questions, this remarkable story by the nonprofit newsroom The Counter discovered the so-called “compostable” bowls that have become ubiquitous at fast-casual places like Sweetgreen actually contain toxic chemicals. Marketed to customers as helping to save the environment, the bowls actually were treated with PFAS chemicals, the investigation found. The judges felt this story deserved special recognition for the impact it had on the fast-food marketplace, prompting many affected companies to publicly state they would stop using bowls and other packaging containing PFAS. It even led to potential Congressional legislation. 

Innovation – Large division

Winner – The New York Times; Data visualizations
The New York Times’ data visualizations won the category for their boundary-pushing use of visual storytelling. What unites the pieces, and sets the bar for other news organizations, is how each piece used tangible illustrations to tell otherwise complex stories in a clear and elegant way. “The Dangerous Flaws in Boeing’s Automated System” was a particular standout. Its stellar use of reporting, publicly available information, and animation showed, with precision and clarity, how rushed engineering decisions could cause the worst-case scenario for any flier: an airplane suddenly falling out of the sky. “How Trump Reshaped the Presidency in Over 11,000 Tweets” gave due weight to the impact of the President’s use of social media throughout his term. And “Cities Start to Question an American Idea: A House With a Yard on Every Lot” was a smart look at land use and density in the country’s largest cities. 

Innovation – Medium division

Winner – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Dairyland in distress
There was no debate among the judges. “Dairyland in Distress,” from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, was the top choice of all of us. We were impressed by the variety of ways that the paper told its readers about a signature business in Wisconsin — the dairy farming industry. In fact, it told its story without any story. Instead, it offered two sets of graphics — one showing the accelerating decline in the number of farms from 2014 to 2019 and the other looking at the reasons behind the steep fall. It gave more than three dozen dairy farmers their own voices on their reasons for getting out of the business. And it offered a clever “game” in which readers could look at the forces working against the farmers.

Innovation – Small division

Winner – Crain’s Chicago Business; Crain’s special project
The Crain’s team exemplified the power of service journalism at a local level. The objective was to “raise the conversation” around important issues, and reporters and editors on the project delivered.

International Reporting – Large division

Winner – Los Angeles Times (CA); The war against Huawei
This is a compelling take on a technology story that continues to make headlines around the world. The U.S. continues to fuel fears about Huawei, its opaque origins, appropriation of technology, and alleged connections with the Chinese state, and the danger of providing Beijing with backdoor access to critical national infrastructure. This article makes a valiant attempt to address those worries head-on in interviews with the founder as well as company insiders and outsiders. It lays out nicely the arguments of Huawei’s supporters and its critics without rushing to judgment. Plenty of governments are yet to make decisions about the supplier of their 5G network gear, so there still is plenty riding on the outcome of this story.

Honorable Mention – Reuters; Africa’s gold
This is a very engaging series that clearly has involved planning and critical thinking. The detail is rich and the use of data is impressive in demonstrating that the United Arab Emirates imports more African gold than is officially exported by African nations.

International Reporting – Medium and small divisions

Winner – Kaiser Health News; In India’s burgeoning pain market, U.S. drugmakers stand to gain
Sarah Varney uncovered a trend in India of sweeping importance: the relatively new cultural acceptance of pain medication and the pharmaceutical companies, largely chased away from places like the United States, that are looking to capitalize on the trend. Varney takes the reader to the busy streets and medical offices of New Delhi to provide elegant coverage that’s consequential for American and international audiences. The judges felt it could be a streaming documentary series — hopefully, Netflix takes note. 

Honorable Mention – POLITICO; How big tech beat Europe’s tough new privacy rules
Nick Vinocur insightfully reframed tiny Ireland as a powerhouse of global influence over some of the most important devices and media resources of our times. Vinocur’s piece showed how the world’s tech giants gained sway over Ireland and have used that power to undermine privacy protections in Europe, and by extension, the world. No wonder the piece was the talk of the EU tech community.

Investigative – Large division

Winner – Los Angeles Times; Bodies of evidence
As readers, the LA Times entry stood out for its visceral and financial detail, depth and accessibility. As judges, it was the entry we were telling our families about. It is the clear winner in a category of incredibly important work and well deserving of first place.

Honorable Mention – Reuters; Ambushed at home
The Reuters series presents in gripping detail systemic corruption so callous and bald faced that Congress was compelled to take sweeping action. It is everything investigative journalism should be. 

Investigative – Medium division

Co-Winner – Kaiser Health News; Hidden harm
Christina Jewett’s stories unearthed a Dr. Evil-scale cover-up of hidden FDA data on millions of medical device malfunctions, injuries and deaths. Her coverage forced the administration to open this vital data to both doctors who perform procedures as well as public scrutiny, and in the process, no doubt saved countless lives.

Co-Winner – The Seattle Times; 737 MAX – Flawed design, failed oversight at Boeing and FAA
The Times investigation was stunning in its thorough, deeply reported and damning coverage of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, the flaws the company had been warned about, and the utter failure of the FAA to do its job. For the flying public, the story was breathtaking in displaying how pilots were placed in planes without proper training or even understanding how changes in controls, meant to be helpful, could doom their aircraft.

Honorable Mention – Newsday; Long Island divided
A magnificent and impressive package, including a 40-minute documentary, that showed how Long Island real estate agents discriminate against people of color. Careful, methodical and indisputable – this is a story that shouldn’t be missed. Much credit as well for devising methods to capture irrefutable and extraordinarily damning anecdotes.

Honorable Mention – Detroit Free Press; Out of gear
Reporter Phoebe Wall Howard held Ford Motor Company’s feet to the fire in a series of stories that began with a sentence at the end of an SEC filing, and led to revelations about what the company knew (quite a lot) before it decided to sell Ford Focus and Fiesta cars that slipped gears while in operation. 

Investigative – Small division

Winner – A collaboration of Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and Associated Press; Caregivers and takers
Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting wrote a gripping account of overworked and underpaid employees in the multibillion-dollar industry that operates residential care facilities for the elderly. The report details 1,400 cases in which U.S. facility operators broke labor laws, with workers making as little as $2 an hour to work around the clock. Reveal makes masterful use of graphics, video, audio and maps to help bring the story to life. Journalist Jennifer Gollan negotiated more than 50 FOIA requests and interviewed reluctant workers who feared the consequences of telling their stories. The overall package is powerful.

Honorable Mention – Financial Planning; JPMorgan’s Chase private client group used false evidence to get rid of an advisor. This is how the firm tried to make sure no one knew.
The story was a powerfully written account of how JPMorgan manufactured false evidence in a private arbitration proceeding against a financial advisor who blew the whistle on investment practices. Judges were impressed with the writer’s ability to weave a strong, personal narrative alongside legal details. The story makes clear that the JPM’s shocking behavior brought no consequences to the bank. The sidebar article offers a strong analysis of the shortcomings of arbitration and whistleblower protections.

Honorable Mention – ReligionUnplugged.com; Whistleblower alleges $100 billion secret stockpile by Mormon church
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is among the most secretive and closed religious organizations. Paul Glader of religionunplugged.com got access to an IRS whistleblower complaint that shed new light on an important aspect of the Church’s finances and its links to Ensign Peak Advisors. The story suggests that the Church has funneled some part of the money received from its members into the fund, which has grown from $10 billion to $100 billion over the past 22 years. The complaint made clear that part of the money from the fund went to pay for a mall in Salt Lake City, despite claims to the contrary by the Church. The story was picked up widely by major news outlets across the country.

Markets – Large division

Winner – CNN Business; A crack in overnight lending markets
CNN Business tackled breaking news about the overnight lending markets quickly and impressively, earning the top prize for its clear, engaging and consumer-friendly account of what happened in the repo markets, why it matters and what the turmoil indicates about potential future problems with liquidity and investor confidence.

Honorable Mention – The Wall Street Journal; Muni-bond mess
The Wall Street Journal brought thorough data analysis and exhaustive reporting to bear on the longstanding dysfunction in the municipal bond markets. The coverage detailed problems with bond pricing, interest rates and ratings, along with an eye-popping look at an obscure Wisconsin agency that has issued billions of dollars in tax-exempt financing for projects across the country, some of which could expose investors to unanticipated levels of risk. The stories have prompted calls for increased oversight of the municipal bond market.

Markets – Medium and Small divisions

Winner – Fortune; Wall Street’s contact high
This profile of Brendan Kennedy, the co-founder of marijuana maker Tilray, expertly explores the complicated path to the company’s 2018 IPO and the challenges Kennedy faces running a company whose product is still federally illegal. The story benefits from the hours the author spent with her subject, offering compelling anecdotes crisply written.

Media/Entertainment – Large division

Winner – Los Angeles Times (CA); CBS MeToo
After the firing of the CBS chief executive over claims of sexual misconduct, Meg James spent months checking to see whether the harassment and retaliation were pervasive within the company.  CBS said they were not. James’ reporting found problems in Miami, Dallas and other cities where CBS has bureaus. James used documents, interviews and extraordinary reporting skills to provide great details. James’ first story on Jill Arrington showed an ability to build trust with victims who were reluctant to talk. Excellent work.

Honorable Mention – Associated Press; Local news deserts
These are engaging and important stories on what happens to a community when its newspaper dies. With nearly 1,400 cities and towns losing news coverage in America, the Associated Press team examines what has been lost in these growing local news deserts. The stories also chronicle different efforts to resurrect news coverage – many unsuccessful and some successful – and the efforts of private philanthropy to be of assistance. One of the many strengths of these stories is excellent and insightful, on-the-ground coverage.

Media/Entertainment – Medium and Small divisions

Winner – A collaboration of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and the Guardian; America’s rural radio stations are vanishing – and taking the country’s soul with them
The Guardian article wins best story in the category of Media/entertainment for small- and medium-sized staff.  In clear, accessible language, the story elegantly links the Telecommunication Act of 1996 to the financial collapse of a local radio station in Arizona. Debbie Weingarten goes beyond just explaining how the law led to consolidation of the radio industry; she dives into the cost to communities, which are losing a key source of information and cultural identity as stations are turned into homogenized satellites of corporations. Beautiful pictures also enhance the article’s bold, empathetic storytelling.

Honorable Mention – The Information; Media and entertainment industry transformation
The Information’s package of stories deserves honorable mention as demonstrating deep and persistent reporting on the waves made by digital media. Jessica Toonkel and Tom Dotan found sources inside guarded bastions, like Disney and Netflix, to show readers how important decisions are made. The articles delivered good value to The Information’s subscribers, telling them things that the subject companies don’t want told– as when Disney whines: “This story is pure fiction…”

Newsletter – Large division

Winner – The Financial Times; Moral Money
Launched in June, the FT’s Moral Money newsletter showed what creativity and flexibility could produce for readers with an interest in corporate governance and social responsibility, topics that animate investor decisions more and more but are overlooked in the day-to-day tumble of market coverage. The newsletter is packaged well with commentary, extended blurbs, photos, graphics and then roundups of headlines that provide a sweep of ESG developments over a week. Notably, Moral Money is not just a vehicle to promote FT content but to put the publication at the center of the ESG conversation. The newsletter routinely had links to articles that are produced by other publications, including direct competitors like the Wall Street Journal. It’s interactive too; the newsletter’s readers are invited to comment, and writers respond. The FT used the newsletter in September to round up coverage of the U.N.’s General Assembly meeting and focus on climate change. And in another demonstration of the flexible approach to the newsletter, writers took one issue to feature a Q&A with Leo Strine, the Delaware judge with enormous influence on U.S. corporate law. Great imagination, few wasted words and incredibly useful to readers; what a terrific debut.

Newsletter – Medium division

Winner – Barron’s; Review & preview
Barron’s Review & Preview is the clear winner in a category where the entries demonstrated that a newsletter has many meanings. The best ones, though, are those with a good format, design and tone, lively writing, and which offer a good read on multiple subjects both for insiders and novices. Barron’s checks all these boxes.

Newsletter – Small division

Winner – Al-Monitor; Middle East lobbying
This newsletter, covering almost everything imaginable in the golden niche of Middle East political influence, is unique accountability journalism, done by a staff of two, on an issue of great importance that no one else covers at this level of intensity. It breaks a ton of news and it’s all extremely well documented, with good use of the newsletter format. We can’t imagine their typical workday given the amount of time, effort and detail this takes.

Personal Finance – Large division

Winner – The New York Post; Earnin series
The NY Post’s Kevin Dugan took on one of Silicon Valley’s darlings — Earnin — a rapidly growing, privately held company that quickly attained near-unicorn status (meaning a recent startup with a valuation of more than $1 billion). One of Silicon Valley’s largest venture firms, Andressen Horwitz, has a major stake in Earnin. Dugan found that Earnin’s popular cash-advance app resembles payday lending schemes with annual percentage rate loans that have been banned in 15 states. His reporting sparked investigations by regulators in 11 states. This was personal finance reporting with a demonstrable impact.

Personal Finance – Medium division

Winner – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; All she wanted was to pay her health insurance
Solid reporting and a good story well told.

Personal Finance – Small division

Winner – Kiplinger’s Personal Finance; Watch out for the elder fraud web
Elder fraud isn’t a new topic, but this was well-reported, conveyed expertise and was full of actionable, practical tips for adult children who don’t know what they need to watch for or do.

Real Estate – Large division

Winner – The Wall Street Journal; The WeWork delusion
This exhaustively reported investigative series exposed WeWork founder and CEO Adam Neumann’s increasingly eccentric and unethical behavior. The report helped to derail WeWork’s initial public offering, sparring investors from billions of dollars in losses had they bought into the company’s planned stock-market debut.

Honorable Mention – CNN Business; The internet didn’t shrink 6% real estate commissions. But this lawsuit might
This story was comprehensive in explaining how technology is giving more knowledge and autonomy to home-buying consumers, which is threatening to disrupt the financial power structure of the real estate industry. It is a thorough, interesting and clearly explained report of the reasons for the shifts in the industry.

Real Estate – Medium division

Winner – The Miami Herald; Priced out of paradise
In the aftermath of the Great Recession a decade ago, few cities have seen housing rents soar as dramatically as Miami. With painstaking diligence, the Miami Herald explores the economic and social factors that made Miami-Dade America’s most expensive market for renters in a four-part series titled, “Priced Out of Paradise.” Consisting of more than a dozen stories and videos as well as an interactive tool, the series “tackles a big-picture real estate topic in a big-picture way” and also explores “the local context of related trends that have much broader implications across the country, including income inequality and class issues,” as one of the judges wrote. The Miami Herald team effectively used the “human-interest elements of storytelling to draw in average readers who might not otherwise be inclined to read a deep study on a business topic.” The Miami Herald journalists deserve special praise for reaching out to experts in high-rent markets in different parts of the world to explain how other metro areas are dealing with rising rental costs. To help readers further, the newspaper developed an “interactive tool that allows users to input their budget to determine where they can afford to rent or buy, and how schools and crime rank from neighborhood to neighborhood. The tool is easy to use, informative in the context of someone’s individual circumstances and broadly applicable for many readers. This gives the package a news-you-can-use advantage when weighed against some other entries,” the judges noted. The Miami Herald team deserves congratulations for an extraordinary achievement.

Honorable Mention – Newsday; Long Island divided
This is extraordinary and impactful work. It reflects a deep commitment to being a community watchdog in every measurable way – time, effort and resources. The project involved 25 undercover testers in a three-year investigation. The resulting coverage is rolled out in 16 parts that detail the results, look at the underlying issues from many angles and hold individuals accountable. There is even a 45-minute documentary about the investigation. Among those spurred to action by this deeply reported and well-written series were: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Letitia James, three State Senate committees, the New York Association of Realtors, the National Association of Realtors and the county executives of Nassau and Suffolk.

Real Estate – Small division

Winner – McClatchy, Washington bureau; Epstein’s mystery island
Incredible digging, well-organized and framed, and doesn’t hurt that it’s on one of the biggest stories of 2019.

Honorable Mention – Nashville Business Journal; Collection of real estate stories
The first story by Sichko about the young developer who allegedly stole millions from investors is compelling, deeply researched, and a qualifying entry on its own.

Honorable Mention – Puget Sound Business Journal; The standoff at Pope Resources: Deconstructing Dargey; HQ, too
The Stiles piece, “Deconstructing Dargey,” was especially impressive. The piece offers insights into how a disgraced developer ripped off immigrant investors to enrich himself and put the investors into immigration limbo.

Retail – Large division

Winner – NPR; Lives Upended: Workers thrown into turmoil by faraway corporate bosses
NPR’s Phyllis Fletcher and Will Chase contributed to one of the reports. This is excellent investigative reporting. Alina Selyukh found the issue, investigated the policy, explored how it hurt employees by telling their personal stories, then prompted change by Walmart to a policy fairer to employees.

Honorable Mention – The New York Times; Fast fashion
Remarkably comprehensive spade-work and dogged determinism characterizes the storytelling and revelations in this trio of Fast Fashion investigations. Each piece surprises with the reporters’ success at getting elusive sources, such as the garment workers in Los Angeles, on the record to reveal the truth behind all-but-unknown brand names in the transitory world of low-cost, but celebrity driven fashion. The portrait of the family behind the H&M brand surprises with its depiction of seemingly heedless stewardship of a brand that was everywhere for some time and is now evaporated. The deep dive into partially successful and otherwise inadequate efforts to bring accountability into the global garment making industry offers an unforgettable, helpful window in the difficulties in introducing reforms and transparency into this rapidly changing market. A bravura scope of work.

Retail – Medium division

Winner – A collaboration of ProPublica and BuzzFeed News; The final mile
ProPublica and BuzzFeed deliver deep, meaningful, fearless reporting on the biggest name in retail. Their work uncovers the human costs of a secretive culture hellbent on delivery speed and efficiency.

Honorable Mention – Newsday; Changing landscape
Newsday’s coverage of the evolving retail landscape, from movie theaters to gyms to bridal shops, is a model for marrying on-the-ground color with national context and data.

Honorable Mention – Fortune; Seven decades of self-destruction
Fortune delivers new insights on Sears’ troubled past, with short, punchy sidebars.

Retail – Small division

Winner – Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting; Behind the smiles
The scope of the project, combined with the accounts from employees, was impressive. This is important journalism, especially as Amazon pops up all over the country with warehouses and last-mile delivery centers. The judges found it particularly clever how the reporter circumvented the lack of transparency by having employees request injury data.

Honorable Mention – Fast Company; Collection of retail stories
The pieces were well written, engaging and informative.

Small Business/Management/Career – Large division

Winner – The Wall Street Journal; Labor squeeze
This series was compellingly written; it did an excellent job looking at overall market trends impacting small business, manufacturing and employment, grounding it all in very immediate and human stories. The human elements of all three stories pull the complex issues into focus without oversimplifying them. These stories are local, they are global, they are small business, they are representational, and they are as much about manufacturing and trade as about workers and people. We also appreciated the tone of all three features in the package: Ruth Simon did an excellent job avoiding treating the focal points for her stories as quaint, sweet, inspirational, or pitiable—traps a less masterful writer could easily have fallen into. We were pulled into each story, and the whole series stood together as a cohesive whole.

Honorable Mention – NBC News Investigations; In the hot seat: UPS delivery drivers at risk of heat-related illnesses
This is an impressive investigation on an important topic, but one that would likely never have come to light if not for these reporters’ efforts. It’s clear that the reporting team took a lot of care in reporting these stories, especially in the face of resistance from UPS, using tactics like records requests and heat trackers—way beyond interviewing drivers—and the added perspectives of government regulations and other data round it out. The team did a great job of articulating the human cost of e-commerce and the strain in the logistics industry, and showing the perspectives of parties involved—workers, UPS, government, health experts and others. The result was very well reported, well written and very impactful.

Small Business/Management/Career – Medium division

Winner – The Weather Channel Digital; Harvest: Recovery and risk after Hurricane Michael
Excellent reporting. The reporting team did a great job telling the first-person stories about what the real business impact of Hurricane Michael was and a great job connecting the judge, the reader, to these people and their plights.

Small Business/Management/Career – Small division

Winner – Portland Business Journal; Diversity in the workplace
Solid reporting and writing on a worthwhile topic.

Student Journalism – Stories for Professional Media Outlets

Winner – ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication published in The Arizona Republic; 123 have unexpectedly died in nursing homes, but Arizona still gives them top grades
These four ASU students did a good job of identifying an important problem. The judges appreciated the human lede and the interviews with affected individuals in Arizona. This is a well-organized and clearly written piece.

Honorable Mention – ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication published in The Arizona Republic; Arizona charges less than almost anyone else to graze cattle. Public schools miss out on the money.
These five ASU students identified an egregious situation in which state business interests are harming residents and provided a nice comparison with other states. The story was well done overall.

Student Journalism – Stories for Student Media Outlets

Winner – Cronkite News by ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication; With Venezuela in turmoil, migrants and refugees turn to Peru
It’s not easy to parachute into an international crisis and come back with a cogent story, but Ethan Millman did just that with his reporting from Peru. The crisis in Venzuela has been well publicized, but this story shines a light onto what has been described as the largest mass migration in the history of the Western Hemisphere. The reporting offers nice sketches of the mostly well-educated refugees seeking to rebuild their lives and gives an overview of the many challenges facing the host country.

Technology – Large division

Winner – The Wall Street Journal; Big tech’s hidden costs
The Journal did an extraordinary job of establishing how rickety the quality standards have become on some of the world’s biggest digital marketplaces. Reporters not only documented problems, they invited companies to fix them and then took a fresh look at the companies’ conduct afterward. Even with the chance for a do-over, problems persisted, to a shocking degree. It takes courage and a big-picture view to spend months digging that deep. But the payoff is landmark coverage of an issue that won’t fade from sight. This is the type of vital watchdog journalism that makes an immediate impact, prompting people who work at big consumer internet companies to address obvious problems they had not bothered to fix or consider before.

Honorable Mention – The Wall Street Journal; Google’s power and peril
This is an important document exposing the dissonance between public statements and private realities, and it goes deeper on this topic than any prior effort. It is a lucid, comprehensive example of explanatory journalism at its best. The Wall Street Journal’s reporters pull back the curtain on the profoundly important role that Google’s search engine plays in our society — and the ways that the digital sausage gets made. In doing so, they perform a great public service, balancing the ledger between the huge amount that Google knows about us vs. the very little that we know about Google.

Honorable Mention – Bloomberg News; YouTube managers ignored warnings
For years, YouTube has been one of the noisiest, most visible parts of the Internet — and also one of the most secretive, hard-to-understand businesses. Bloomberg’s reporters dig deep to explore YouTube’s inconsistent, often troubling, approach to the responsibilities of being the world’s largest platform for video content. Undoubtedly, this work of journalism spurred conversations at the company and put more pressure on leadership to take action. By getting such issues out in the open, YouTube and its corporate owner, Google, at last are thinking twice about how to handle deceitful or hateful content. Once again, we see that sunlight can be the best disinfectant.

Technology – Medium division

Winner – ProPublica; The extortion economy
ProPublica’s “The extortion economy” exemplifies the best of watchdog business reporting. Compellingly written, these stories not only trace ransomware attacks to their international sources, they also shed important light on the failure of officials at publicly traded companies to adequately disclose their companies’ victimization by these internet pirates. While it’s been reported that these cases often require exorbitant sums of money to resolve, the ProPublica series illuminates the way insurance companies tend to push clients to pay out, rather than use costly data recovery systems. These stories have already led to executive and legislative action to address lack of corporate transparency and weak regulations.

Honorable Mention – Forbes Magazine; Bumble’s Sexism Problem
Forbes’ Angel Au-Yeung snagged an interview with a reclusive and powerful Russian magnate. She then used her interviewing skills and powers of observation to paint us a picture of a booze-fueled, misogynistic work culture accompanied by the snazzy lifestyle and the lack of self-awareness that is prevalent among many tech millionaires/billionaires behind buzzy tech startups. A fantastic story that also produced results. 

Technology – Small division

Winner – The Counter; Grubhub’s shadow sites
Terrific enterprise to expose practices that Grubhub’s own partners didn’t fully understand. The coverage unleashed real-world consequences, with politicians pressuring the company and — most significantly — Grubhub itself, amending its policies.

Honorable Mention – Puget Sound Business Journal; HQ, Too; One company, two Americas; The education of Brad Smith
The Puget Sound Business Journal scooped everyone in predicting where Amazon’s footprint would expand most after the collapse of the New York HQ2 project. Two Americas and Brad Smith were well-researched, ambitious stories in their own right, and especially so for a weekly publication.

Travel/Transportation – Large division

Winner – The Wall Street Journal; Boeing’s deadly failure
There were dozens of stories written about the failures within Boeing that contributed to the tragic crashes of two 737 Max jets. The WSJ’s reporting was among the best. Not only did the reporters successfully explain the almost criminal lack of information provided to pilots on the MCAS system and how to disconnect it, they also used powerful graphics and illustrations to help readers understand how the system failures affected the trajectory of the planes. Photos and stories about the pilots also drove home the human loss associated with the crashes and the devastation left in their wake.

Honorable Mention – The New York Times; Taken for a ride
The reporting on this story was fantastic: 450 interviews plus building the database, yeoman’s work for a single reporter. The storytelling kept the judges hooked and included powerful personal stories of vulnerable individuals whose lives were devastated. This is classic journalism in sticking up for those with no voice.  The story structure was also spot on – opening with anecdotes that drew the reader in and that were threaded throughout the stories. People were at the center of this series and illuminated the dark history of the taxi business and the failings of those in government in a memorable way. 

Travel/Transportation – Medium division

Winner – The Seattle Times; 737 MAX Crisis – How failures at Boeing and FAA caused 346 deaths
This series is well reported and sourced. The writing is clear which is no easy task when you are trying to describe something as technically challenging as software systems and how they help pilot (or crash) airplanes. The Seattle Times’ series lays bare how the erosion of procedures designed to analyze and approve safety assessments contributed to the crashes of two 737 MAX airplanes. The series shows how the FAA has, over time, relinquished much of its certification responsibility to Boeing itself. Boeing has been able to exert control over the individuals it has charged with making compliance findings, meaning they are strongly incentivized to make approvals and move projects forward. Although it doesn’t seem anything will change under the current administration, this type of reporting will eventually force the FAA to reconsider the way it’s running its oversight.

Honorable Mention – Globe and Mail; Blind spots: How Canada’s reliance on U.S. aviation policy kept regulators from seeing the fatal flaws in Boeing’s 737 Max
Wow. This was a feat of reporting. The story is horrifying and so well done. The Globe and Mail was able to show the systemic issues that caused a delay in response from Canada’s transport authorities and went deeper into Boeing’s role in it. It’s clear who’s responsible backed by deep, thorough reporting and tells the story in a compelling way. What an indictment of Boeing and the regulatory bodies that are supposed to be helping the public but instead appear to be run by the organizations they are supposed to regulate. This thoroughly researched and reported article shines a light into how these bodies acted in the aftermath of the second deadly crash and offers lessons into the need for better oversight and information.

Travel/Transportation – Small division

Winner – The Information; Autonomous driving’s ambitious promises
Amir Efrati and Matt Drange cover an issue that feels relatively new to the transportation space and do so in a way that holds big automakers (even new ones like Tesla) to account. This is excellent shoe-leather reporting where a small paper scoops major media – impressive. This story is on-target for a wider business audience.

Honorable Mention – Baltimore Business Journal; Navigating Baltimore: A two-part series
The series told stories of real people and shed light on the challenges of commuting. Navigating Baltimore is really strong – it told the story so thoroughly and from so many different vantage points with compelling visuals and fresh interviews.

Video – Large division

Winner – NBC News Investigations; ‘Zone Rouge’: An army of children toils in African mine
What more networks should be doing: high-quality reporting, that is immersive and character driven. This is truly professional journalism at its finest.

Honorable Mention – The Wall Street Journal; How Huawei employees helped governments spy on people
This content is top notch reporting. Excellent writing but the content is king here. The judges would love to see more reporting like this in the United States because there is so much out there that is unknown, from cameras to recordings to listening devices. This was an inspiring story.

Video – Medium division and Small division

Winner – Quartz; Because China
All the judges agreed that this entry is fantastic. They loved the detailed examination of censorship and how conformity is knit into contracts and social media, which is enforceable outside of China. Excellent production. This series was some of the best, most thoughtful video reporting the judges have seen this year and they particularly loved the deep dive into the impacts of Chinese demand for soybeans on Brazil’s indigenous people and environment.

Honorable Mention – The Weather Channel Digital; Harvest: Recovery and risk after Hurricane Michael
Considering the topic — insurance — it was interesting. It explained the nuances of what gets covered and why being insured against some portion of your crop over several years can wipe you out. Who knew crop insurance could be so interesting? As someone who had family and friends impacted by Hurricane Michael, one judge found this video particularly special. The hurricane and its effects had very little coverage, and the judges thought this was a powerful and interesting piece that tackled a complex and heartbreaking subject.

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