Judges Comments From the 2016 Awards


The Daniel Pearl Award for Investigative Reporting

Winner: Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htsuan, The Associated Press, “Seafood From Slaves”

The year-long investigation by the Associated Press into slavery at sea in Southeast Asia truly inspiring journalism. The AP combined high-tech and old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, using satellite technology to track slave vessels and then approaching them in a small wooden boat, getting close enough to hear the pleas for help from captive fishermen. Because of this investigation, a dozen perpetrators have been jailed, ships worth millions of dollars have been seized, businesses have been shut down, and more than 2,000 slaves have been freed. The AP didn’t stop there. As the number of rescued slaves grew into the thousands, the reporters interviewed some 400 men and built a database documenting their stories. One of the reporters then followed a man who had been enslaved for 22 years as he traveled home to collapse in the arms of his wailing mother. This project evoked the true spirit of the Daniel Pearl Award for Investigative Reporting, based on the difficulty, danger and successful outcomes.

Newspaper or Digital Beat Reporting

Winner: Ned Parker and team, Reuters, “Iraq beat reporting”

The reporters of Reuters courageously provided riveting coverage of the disintegration of Iraq that includes detailed on-the-scene observations of a sectarian execution, difficult interviews with Iraqi leaders about the rising power of militia that coordinate with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard through a secretive Iraqi government committee, and the role of members of Saddam Hussain’s Baath Party in the development and operations of the Islamic State’s intelligence and security agencies.

Newspaper or Digital Feature Reporting

Winner: T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, The Marshall Project with ProPublica, for “An Unbelievable Story of Rape”

In an outstanding category full of important stories, this tale of two different rape investigations managed to shine the most. The story does what all great feature writing should do: combine thorough reporting with vivid storytelling to convey a narrative that matters. The feature was not only beautifully written, but also visually compelling, making it a strong representative of digital journalism.

Newspaper or Digital Spot News Reporting

Winner: by Staff of the New York Daily News “2ND & HELL: Blast levels E. Village buildings”

Excellent straightforward, in-depth and engaging reporting, accompanied by outstanding photojournalism, that brings the reader to the scene of story and the people affected by it and involved with it.

Newspaper or Digital Enterprise Reporting

Winner: Duff Wilson and John Shiffman, Reuters, “Helpless and Hooked”

This timely essay chronicles the fatal flaws of a system that is failing babies born to drug-addicted mothers in the midst of the growing opioid epidemic. The in-depth reporting uncovers a dangerous gap in our public health system. The compelling narrative and effective writing style make a strong contribution to the public debate. “Helpless and Hooked”, which has prompted bipartisan action in Congress, is an essential piece of journalism.

Newspaper or Digital Local News Reporting

Winner: Rebecca D. O’Brien, Tyson Trish, Thomas E. Franklin and Michael V. Pettigano, The Record (Bergen County, NJ), “In Heroin’s Grip”

The Record’s examination of Paterson’s heroin plague was an example of how old and new media can merge to produce important and compelling work. The street reporting and writing, combined with the still photography and videos, gave Record readers a frighteningly close-up but necessary view of the drug scourge in their own backyard.

We were also deeply moved by our first finalist, “Profiting from Addiction,” by Kim Barker of The New York Times. Barker’s reporting and writing were stellar, and her work underscored the need for news outlets to devote energy to reporting on issues affecting those on the fringes of society.

Reporting for a Newspaper with a Circulation Under 100,000

Winner: Paul D’Ambrosio, Susanne Cervenka and and Shannon Mullen, Asbury Park Press, for “Tax Crisis” “

The piece was thoroughly researched and demonstrated palpable harm, especially to lower income people. It defined the discriminatory nature of property tax as the main revenue source for governments. The anecdotal interviews were evocative and illustrated the story in a very human way. The commitment the Asbury Park Press gave this series is highly commendable.

Reporting by Independent Digital Media

Winner: Azmat Khan, BuzzFeed News, “Ghost Students, Ghost Teachers, Ghost Schools”

The United States trumpets education – particularly of girls – as one of its key victories during the war in Afghanistan. But Azmat Khan’s exhaustive reporting reveals otherwise. Many of the schools Khan visited during her investigation for BuzzFeed News have never seen a single student or teacher. In a category dominated by big-team reporting, the judges were especially impressed by Khan’s initiative as a solo practitioner. In fact, she was the first member of the Western media to follow the trail of a billion-plus dollars spent by the U.S. on education-related funding in Afghanistan, piecing together a well-written narrative from contractors, aid workers and warlords. Khan also conducted more than 150 interviews for her piece, many of them on-the-ground in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. The payoff? Khan’s work had a clear impact, prompting detailed monitoring of USAID as well as a commission to investigate corruption in the Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education.


Magazine Personal Service

Winner: Kate Fagan, ESPN The Magazine, “Split Image”

This is the story of a star athlete, a perfectionist, who also battled depression and committed suicide. The judges wrote: It was “well told, human, and doesn’t pretend to know the answers, but it asks the important questions. The story makes readers aware of the fact that unless we partner with mental health professionals and start diagnosing illnesses beyond “depression” and “bi-polar,” there won’t be significant progress and more people will die.

Magazine Profile

Winner: Paul Tullis, The New York Times, “Jane Goodall Is Still Wild at Heart”

In this lively look back at naturalist Jane Goodall’s career, Paul Tullis deftly juxtaposes her public contribution to our understanding of the animal world with her personal aversion to the spotlight. The reader can sense the dense forest of Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park and its chimpanzee community through Tullis’ careful eye for detail.

Magazine Investigative Reporting

Winner: Adam Matthews, Newsweek, “Toxic Fashion”

This is a strong, original story about the impact of globalization and the head-in-the-sand attitude of American firms and consumers toward an environmental problem with serious consequences. The story is distinguished by the resourceful use of shipping records documenting the extent to which major retailers bought clothing from suppliers that contaminated the water supply in southern India.

Magazine Feature Reporting

Winner: Don Von Drehle, Jay Newton-Small and Maya Rhodan, TIME Magazine, “What It Takes to Forgive a Killer”

The authors piece together stories of the nine people who were murdered in a Charleston, S.C., church along with those of five survivors who were also at the church that Wednesday evening in June, when 21-year-old Dylann Roof carried out his hate-fueled shooting spree. The accounts, obtained through extensive interviews over a five-month period, make for a powerful, nuanced meditation on such complicated themes as evil-doing and hatred, mercy and grace, collective anger and forgiveness. The authors include careful considerations of Judeo-Christian biblical teachings, the cumulative cultural impact of mass shootings, and the legacy and persistence of racism in America. The piece raises difficult questions, and makes clear that there are no universal answers. The images are powerful and moving, chilling and jarring, but the writer avoids sensationalizing the story’s tragic details. The structure is seamless and the craftsmanship, masterful, making for a provocative and memorable essay.


Headline Writing

Winner: Brian Hershberg, The Wall Street Journal, “A Swan Song for the Fed Dove Who Once Was a Hawk”

The Journal’s entry hit all the basics: It was concise, unambiguous and showed a firm grasp of the subject matter. But its writer went a step further and came up with something extremely clever, especially given the serious subject matter of federal monetary policy. Well-written, playful headlines are not only a delight to read themselves, but end up drawing more readers to a story.

Arts Reporting

Winner: Peter Waldman and Golnar Montevalli, Bloomberg Businessweek, “The Greatest Museum Never Known”

This story demonstrates how skilled, dogged reporting can enlighten readers. In Iran, one of the most isolated countries in the world, sits an art museum with a relatively unknown collection that rivals the best in the West. After the museum’s publicist offered no help to these reporters, risky sleuthing—in a country where journalists are regularly thrown in jail for doing their jobs—brought out the incredible story of this museum and its vault keeper, who held off the marauders of a revolution to preserve the collection. The writing transcends typical arts reporting, bridging cultural and political boundaries that can broaden dialogue about our shared artistic antiquity. This story not only informs and inspires, but shows a human side to a part of our world most Americans have never known. Well done!

Business Feature

Winner: Dave Jamieson, The Huffington Post, “The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp”

A moving story from beginning to end, “The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp” takes readers onto Amazon’s warehouse floor to paint a very vivid picture of the fatal consequences and cost of increased productivity demands made by the retailing giant on its employees. It is a timely piece considering the ever-growing popularity of Amazon and recent coverage of its intense corporate culture. It’s also an example of extremely thorough reporting, with Jamieson commended for the efforts made to obtain records not available to the public.

Business Investigative Reporting

Winner: Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan, The Associated Press, “Seafood From Slaves”

This was an impressive and ambitious piece of reporting that ably utilized the AP’s worldwide resources to uncover brutal and often criminal conditions in the far-flung seafood trade that helps put food on the tables of American, Asian and European families every day at great human cost. The AP reporters and photographers involved were undeterred by the breadth of the story or by the many obstacles they faced. They used an impressive array of innovative reporting techniques and technologies including satellite imagery and GPS tracking to follow seafood harvested by powerless workers who routinely endured horrific treatment at the hands of their ’employers,’ including being enslaved, beaten, shortchanged, imprisoned and, in some instances, slain.

Opinion Writing

Winner: Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

Glenn Greenwald’s submitted commentary brings a litigator’s toolkit to the art of persuasion, may it please the court of public opinion or not. He refuses to blindly accept conventional wisdom — that America is always in the right, that philanderers get what they deserve. Even when writing a deeply personal essay — about the legal march towards LGBT people’s rights — Greenwald displays a rigorous command of the facts, history and rhetoric. Nothing’s sacred but truth to Greenwald, whose writing is also tight and gorgeous and delights with every word. For these reasons and more, the winner of the opinion writing category is The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald.

Science, Technology, Medical or Environmental Reporting

Winner: Marshall Allen, Olga Pierce, Sisi Wei and Amanda Zamora of ProPublica, “Surgeon Scorecard”

How much do you trust your surgeon? In Surgical Scorecard, ProPublica reporters created the tools to find out. Their multipart-package combines investigative reporting, personal narrative, and a massive analysis of Medicare data on 16,000 surgeons to evaluate the outcome of eight common surgeries, including knee, hip and gallbladder. The ProPublica team enlisted academic experts to create standards to analyze the data, ultimately identifying doctors with the best and worst results, forcing the medical community to face uncomfortable truths. For anyone searching for a surgeon, the interactive database is an active resource with life and death implications for millions of people going under the knife.

Sports Reporting

Winner: Jim Baumbach, Newsday, “Hard Knocks”

This is in-depth, data driven investigative report that explores the devastating impact of the hard knocks on athletes and how players, coaches, schools, and athletic gear suppliers are dealing with it


Spot News Photo

Winner: Darko Vojinovic, The Associated Press, “Fear at the Border”

Associated Press photographer, Darko Vojinovic, truly captures a decisive moment of terror in the faces of a father and child. The menacing baton and barbed wire add an element of stark drama during the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe.

Feature Photo

Winner: Thomas A. Ferrara, Newsday, “Dunia’s Smile”

This photo captures a wonderful moment of love. It demands a closer look because after the initial shock of Dunia’s smile, it warms your heart.

Sports Photo

Winner: Andrew Nelles, The Associated Press, “Double Hit Drop”

Associated Press photographer, Andrew Nelles, captures a peak action baseball game photo with elements that were split seconds in the making. The accuracy and sharpness further add to the striking quality of the out.


Multimedia, Interactive Graphics and Animation

Winner: Roque Ruiz, Alba Mora Roca, Dario Lopez Mills and Ricardo Lopez, The Associated Press, “Mexico: The Other Disappeared”

This ambitious project gave voice to the families of 158 people who disappeared in Mexico. They were among the more than 25,000 people who have vanished throughout the country since 2007. The Associated Press made these numbers more than statistics. They told the individual stories through an arresting combination of photos, videos, text and graphics. Readers were able to sort through the victims’ narratives by gender, age, occupation and more. The finished product displayed beautifully on both mobile and desktop. The stories of the families emerged as a powerful narrative of the plague that continues to afflict Mexico.

Digital Innovation

Winner: Jon Swaine, Oliver Laughland, Jamiles Lartey, Ciara McCarthy, Tom McCarthy, Kenan Davis, Rich Harris, Nadja Popovich, Kenton Powell, Mae Ryan, Valerie lapinski, Laurence Mathieu-Leger, Sarah Gilbert, Mary Hamilton and Mike Barry, The Guardian (U.S.), “The Counted”

The Guardian utilized digital innovation in the highest degree — through photos, interactive graphs, videos, text and more — to showcase stories of people killed by police officers in the United States, and the effect it’s had on local communities around the country. The reporting was extremely comprehensive, and offered a depth of viewpoints that diverged from the common reporting rhetoric around this topic. “The Counted” was also presented in a beautiful and easily digestible way, giving it the ability to reach a wide audience. All of these factors made it a stand-out feature in this category.


Radio or Audio Reporting

Winner: Robert Lewis, Noah Veltman, Xander Landen and David Lewis, WNYC, “Incredible Cops”

Robert Lewis and the WNYC Team produced an impressive series of reports with real value for the citizens of New York City. With strong editing and writing, the series was a fantastic collaboration within the newsroom that went above and beyond to expose toxic cops.


Digital Video Reporting

Winner: Poh Si Teng, Ben Laffin and Rukmini Callimachi, The New York Times, “Flirting With the Islamic State”

This portrait of online conversations between a young woman in Washington State and a British man takes viewers inside the mechanisms, techniques, and dangers of radical Islamic recruiting online. This chilling, informative piece involved highly sensitive, anonymous interviews with the young woman and her family. We chose this piece because of its elegant, dramatic and concise storytelling, and how it spelled out a huge issue worldwide in a single story. It rose to the top of a very competitive category this year.


Television Spot News Reporting

Winner: Katie Lusso and Andre Lewis, News 12 Brooklyn, “Scooter Hit by SUV”

What TV spot news should be. The story opened with great pictures and natural sound, drawing viewers into the drama of the moment, then quickly placed the event into context with a compelling eyewitness interview. The reporter kept viewers on the edge of their seats, as they waited to learn the outcome. Also exceptional was News 12’s speed in arriving at the scene while the story was still unfolding.

Television Feature

Winner: Juju Chang, Jackie Pou, Jake Lefferman, Shilpi Gupta, Neill Sass, Geoff Martz and Roxanna Sherwood, ABC News, Nightline – “Face to Face: One Day With Dad”

All three finalists stood out from the pack for the time, effort, and obstacles overcome that were on display. We chose the winner not only because it was a completely fresh angle on an uncommon story – but because of the spontaneous, thorough, and totally unscripted way in which it all was captured.

Television Series or Investigative Reporting

Winner: “Brian Ross Investigates: Dirty Brigades: No Clean Hands in Iraq’s ISIS Fight”

“Dirty Brigades” is an outstanding example of investigative journalism by Brian Ross and the ABC News team that uncovers human rights violations by US-trained Iraqi security forces. Their in-depth exposé and analysis combines masterful storytelling with a skilled journalistic eye. This is investigative reporting at its best.


Minority Focus

Winner: Paul Kiel, Annie Waldman and Al Shaw, ProPublica, “The Color of Debt: How Collection Suits Squeeze Black Neighborhoods”

ProPublica’s “The Color of Debt” combined classic shoe-leather reporting with sophisticated data analysis to drive the reader to a surprising conclusion. This is an especially timely piece given the recent attention to racial disparities and discrimination in the U.S. The package used interactives, photos, and audio, in addition to text, to tell the story of how deeply a community is affected by garnishment. This piece shows how racial disparities throughout American history have an effect today.

Public Service Award

Winner: Michael Grabell, Howard Berkes and Lena Groeger, for the ProPublica investigation: “Insult to Injury: America’s Vanishing Worker Protections”

Michael Grabell and Lena Groeger of ProPublica and Howard Berkes of NPR collaborated to produce a comprehensive, nuanced analysis of the deliberate dismemberment of America’s workers’ compensation system in ways that benefit employers to the detriment of ill and injured workers, with the costs transferred to those workers and their families and the taxpayers. A critically important work and public service.

The judges felt compelled to also give special acknowledgement to runners up CBS and the Staten Island Advance for their separate but complementary entries on the drug epidemic – CBS from the national standpoint and the Advance on the local level. Together, they deliver a powerful message.

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