2019 Media Awards Finalists
The Guardian’s series Black Power Behind Bars began in 2013, when our U.S. chief reporter, Ed Pilkington, reported on the Angola Three. These were former Black Panthers who were then America’s longest-serving solitary confinement prisoners, held in isolation cells in Louisiana for more than 40 years. Pilkington began identifying those black radicals still behind bars, working with academics, criminal justice groups and prisoner support campaigns to come up with a list of 19 people. Through prison emails, letters and inmate visits, Pilkington built up an intimate portrait of the 19 that was both rooted in history and highly newsworthy, in that all of them are subject to bitterly contested parole proceedings today. This piece powerfully demonstrates how the history of the black liberation struggle lives on today in the form of enduringly complex and profoundly divisive dilemmas of crime and punishment. Days before we published, a 20th former Black Panther was paroled after 45 years in prison – a news story that we exclusively broke. Shortly after we published, two more of the 19 were paroled – again as reported exclusively by the Guardian. Yet Jalil Muntaqim / Anthony Bottom, our prime subject, was rejected by a parole board in December. The Guardian’s reporting has both added on public knowledge and also added understanding and balance to how these events are covered. The piece pulled in over 320,000 page views.
After Hurricane Maria, reconstruction in Puerto Rico stalled in the wake of federal government failures, and officials moved to privatize a number of public services. Last year, Guardian reporter Oliver Laughland was granted extensive access to the island’s prison network to examine a little reported plan to partly privatize services. The Puerto Rican government had quietly announced its intent to transfer 3,200 prisoners – a third of the prison population – to private facilities on the U.S. mainland. Laughland’s reporting exposed the civil and human rights consequences of the plan, brought voices rarely heard in Puerto Rico into the public arena and featured accountability interviews with officials. The article was the result of months of research and negotiations with government officials to gain access to the prison network, and to visit facilities rarely seen by reporters. It examined issues of consent among prisoners and exposed conditions in private prisons. The Puerto Rican government to indefinitely postponed the plan, which had been due to go into effect days after the article appeared. The reporting was followed up by numerous national and international media outlets and was read by hundreds of thousands of readers. It was also cited by civil liberties campaigners in Puerto Rico during their campaign against the plan and was shared on social media extensively on the island.
WBEZ Chicago/Chicago Tribune
Chicago hardly noticed when a white cop fatally shot a black 17-year-old in the middle of the street in October 2014. Laquan McDonald, who was carrying a knife, was the 14th person the city’s police had shot dead that year, and the days that followed saw no newspaper obituaries, no press conferences, and no large protests. But, McDonald’s death rocked Chicago 13 months later when a judge ordered the city to release a police dashcam video of the shooting. The infamous recording shows Officer Jason Van Dyke exit a police SUV and —within seconds — fire 16 shots at McDonald. Police reported McDonald had been swinging a knife at officers, but the video shows the teen walking away. The fallout was swift: Officers were accused of a cover-up, the top cop was fired, and the U.S. Justice Department launched a probe into the city’s police department. WBEZ Chicago and the Chicago Tribune teamed up to make a podcast that examined the shooting, the fallout, and the trials of Jason Van Dyke and three other Chicago police officers accused of covering up for Van Dyke. Since its release 16 Shots has garnered nearly 2 million downloads. Early on, it became part of classroom lesson plans that explored the shooting and trial. (Standout episodes: 1, 2, 3, 25).
New York Times Magazine
Jeffrey E. Stern, From Arizona to Yemen: The Journey of an American Bomb
Stern traveled to Yemen to investigate a Saudi coalition bombing that caused the deaths of 31 people, including three children, and the injuries of 42 more. The victims were local villagers who were digging a water well for their community. What makes this story so unique is that Stern traced the U.S.-made bomb used in the attack back to the fabrication of its guidance system in Tucson, Arizona, and follows its route from the United States to Saudi Arabia to the fateful day of the air strike in Yemen. Shrapnel from metal forged in the United States is now permanently lodged in the head of one of its victims. Through his reporting, Stern effectively connects abstract foreign policy decisions made by the administration in Washington to the people who suffer the consequences of those decisions. Two days after publication, there was a vote in the Senate to ban the sale of more bombs to Saudi Arabia because of their airstrikes in Yemen. Senators on both sides disseminated the article before the vote. Although the resolution died in the GOP House, a similar one just passed in the new House. Just as the article was coming out, the Saudi coalition announced they were going to financially compensate the district targeted in the attack. Stern received an offer from a reader to pay for follow-up treatment for the person who still has shrapnel in his head from the attack. A publisher contacted Stern about a book version of the story.
“Through Our Eyes: Syria” is a first person documentary short that tells the story of Dr. Abu Bashir, a medical doctor on the frontlines of the crisis in Syria. Over the course of the piece, we see that in the Syrian suburb of Eastern Ghouta, a massacre is unfolding. Its residents have been under siege for almost 2,000 days and have been bombed relentlessly. Dr. Bashir has risked everything to show his life inside one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history. NowThis’ Murrow Award-winning producer, Melissa Fajardo, spoke to Bashir daily and was able to see the violence, the fear, and the injustice that the area and its civilians face regularly. The footage is unsettling and disturbing, but highlights the reality on the ground. When asked what his message to the world is, Bashir said simply, “I want people in Eastern Ghouta to live in peace. So, no siege, no shelling, no bombing. That’s what we need. We have rights like everybody in this world.” NowThis published its documentary natively to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We created a special magazine edition on Snapchat, which was published over the course of three days. The views, engagement and audience engagement were some of the highest NowThis has seen on a longer-form piece, and is a testament to the deep reporting and visual innovation of the piece. The video had almost 750,000 views on Facebook – and a similar number on Snapchat.
When Collard first spoke to Omar Abdel Jabar in the fall of 2017, she almost didn’t believe his story. By phone from Germany, he told her about the night in 2014 when future Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nadia Murad knocked on his door, his decision to take her in, the harrowing plan to smuggle her out of Mosul and the devastating consequences that followed. Collard traveled to Mosul to meet his family and later to Germany to meet Jabar in person in the northwestern German town of Torgau. Jabar had not received refugee status and only a form of temporary protection in Germany that was soon expiring. This is a story about unrecognized heroes and the heavy cost of heroism, but more so about the randomness of global refugee policy and the struggle of the millions that have fled their homes in Iraq and Syria in recent years. The story was well-read online reaching a large audience in the U.S. and abroad when it was published in July. When Murad won the Nobel Peace Prize in October, it brought new attention to Jabar’s case and started a debate online about why he did not receive more recognition and support. It raised the profile of his case in both European and Iraqi media. A member of the German parliament is now promoting Jabar’s case and he is hopeful he will be granted refugee status. and rights groups sought to help resolve his status in Germany and provide him with support. Others offered financial assistance.
Centro de Periodismo Investigativo
Claire Tighe and Lauren Kaori Gurley, Official Reports of Violence Against Women in Puerto Rico Unreliable After Hurricane Maria
Claire Tighe and Lauren Gurley investigated inconsistent official reporting of violence against women in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María. The piece uncovered a massive system of irregularities in reporting instances of domestic violence and sexual assault on the island, exacerbated by the hurricane. They conducted their research in Spanish and English, interviewing officials, domestic violence shelter workers, and advocates in rural and urban areas across the island. Research for the piece began in January 2018 and culminated with in-person interviews and reporting in April 2018. The final piece included Tighe’s original photography and data visualizations created in partnership with Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (data supplied by Tighe and Gurley’s original reporting). El Centro published the piece in English and Spanish. The story made front-page print news in Metro Puerto Rico, was republished by seven additional international outlets, including Noticel, LatinDispatch.com, Tu Noticia PR, Latino Rebels, Sin comillas, El Nuevo Herald, and Stylist.co UK, and picked up by Jezebel and Bustle.
This piece explores how the education infrastructure in South Africa’s rural communities has resulted in a national crisis. According to the 2017/18 National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) Report, 269 schools in South Africa lack electricity. There are 8,702 schools with pit toilets—nearly half have installed new toilets but have yet to decommission the old—dangerous—ones. Thirty-seven schools have no sanitation facilities whatsoever. 7,816 South African schools are without piped water. The poor infrastructure conditions have both hindered classroom learning and caused tragedy. Since 2014, two children have drowned in dilapidated pit toilets at their schools. This film, 29(1)(a) — named after the clause in the Constitution that states that everyone has the right to a basic education—looks at the historic causes for this crisis, the present-day impact it has on learners, and possible solutions for creating change.
Since July 2016, the death toll of drug-related killings in Philippine President Duterte’s drug war has reached at least 7,000, according to local media. Almost every week, bodies of suspected drug dealers and users, who are mostly from low-income communities, show up along highways and residential areas. In many cases, police raids or drive-by shootings by masked vigilantes wake the entire neighborhood as people are killed in their homes and in front of their families. This multimedia project explores the psychological toll of the drug war on witnesses and relatives of slain drug suspects. It also examines the numerous barriers to mental health services and what is being done to address this issue. Nabong’s film was screened at the Medill Social Justice Film Festival in August 2018, and will be screened at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health’s (CUGH) 10th annual conference.