Judges’ Comments From the 2017 Awards

Newspaper or Digital Beat Reporting

Winner: Kristen Gelineau, Muneeza Naqvi, Todd Pitman and Esther Htusan, The Associated Press, “Rohingya Exodus”

This heart-wrenching examination of the plight of Rohingya refugees fleeing their homes in Myanmar paints a haunting picture of unspeakable horrors and suffering. Working under difficult conditions, the AP team skillfully gives voice to the people the United Nations has called the world’s most persecuted minority in way that profoundly resonates with the reader.

Newspaper or Digital Feature Reporting

Winner: Sarah Smith, ProPublica, “What Are We Going to Do About Tyler?”

In a field of many outstanding news features that displayed the highest quality reporting and powerful, evocative writing on complex, important topics, Sarah Smith’s piece for ProPublica titled “What Are We Going to Do About Tyler?” stood out for its ambition, the depth of its research and the steady, brisk pace of its prose. Smith’s piece uncovers and explains an issue of grave social importance, and it does so with a level of discipline, narrative thrust and empathy to which all journalists can aspire.

Newspaper or Digital Spot News Reporting

Winner: Colleen Long, The Associated Press, “Doctor Accused of Sexual Harassment Kills 1 at NYC Hospital”

This is spot news reporting at its best. A detailed timeline of events and powerful quotes from victims and witnesses bring the reader right to the crime scene. AP police reporter Colleen Long tapped into a rich cache of sources to sort out facts and assemble a vivid and accurate account. The writing is clean and efficient. Ms. Long clearly understands that when it comes to spot news reporting, it’s critical to get it right, not just get it first.

Newspaper or Digital Enterprise Reporting

Winner: Michael M. Phillips, Wall Street Journal, “Brothers in Arms”

In his heartbreaking story, Brothers In Arms: The Tragedy in Small-Town America, Wall Street Journal reporter Michael M. Phillips tells the devastating story of twin brothers, Chris and Mike Goski, who enlisted after 9/11 and ultimately killed themselves after struggling with mental and physical health issues upon returning from their tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Not all combat wounds are physical,” Army sergeant first class Mike Goski said at the funeral of Chris, a staff sergeant in the Marines, in the poignant video accompanying the article. Through his exhaustive reporting and data analysis, Phillips conveys the pain and suffering of war in the 21st century.

Newspaper or Digital Local Reporting

Winner: Bryan Walsh and Lisa Collins, The Bridge, “Red Hook vs. The Rising Tide”

This was far and away the best entry in the category. It was interesting, comprehensive in scope, thoroughly researched, and well written. It gave the history as the setup, detailed damage and the actions taken since the storm, and predicted the future as worsening conditions that may never be effectively counteracted. It has broad interest because severe weather is a worsening condition throughout the country and the world.

Reporting by a Newspaper With Circulation Under 100,000

TWO WINNERS: Thomas C. Zambito, The Journal News/Lohud.com, “Metro-North Loses Its Way”

Shannon Mullen, Payton Guion, and Paul D’Ambrosio, Asbury Park Press, “Renter Hell”

These entries both did such a good of tackling very different and critical stories that it would be a shame if one of them lost out. We don’t know how you could cover those topics better than they did. The reporting was thorough, deep and illuminating on two important issues plaguing massive communities of New York-area residents.

Reporting by Independent Digital Media

Winner: Brian Freskos, Daniel Nass, and Max Siegelbaum, The Trace, “Missing Pieces”

The news team at The Trace, in collaboration with a dozen local NBC TV stations, identified and spotlighted an urgent concern: the astonishing frequency of stolen guns being used in violent crime. Following an exhaustive effort to obtain more than 800,000 records from 1,054 law enforcement agencies, The Trace’s topnotch technique paired sophisticated data analysis with dogged shoe-leather reporting to circumvent governmental opacity and link the alarming statistics to real-life stories. The result: An exceptional package that covers a largely unknown, under-reported and real danger that demands our attention.

Magazine Personal Service

Winner: Emma Barker, Laura Brounstein, Meredith Bryan, Lori Fradkin, Jessica Goodman, Emily C. Johnson, Tess Koman, Rachel Mosley, Amy Odell, Rebecca Nelson, and Helen Zook, Cosmopolitan Magazine, “How To Run For Office”

This piece is a call to action that is supported by practical advice and engaging insights into how women can increase their representation in government. The feature provides a valuable service by tapping into the hard-won, down-to-earth wisdom of women who have waded into the political arena, while also illustrating the scope of women’s lack of political representation across the US.

Magazine Profile

Winner: Ben Reiter, Sports Illustrated, “The Seeker: The Complicated Life and Death of Hideki Irabu”

A heart-rending first scene, thorough reporting, solid narrative structure, and delightful details—Ben Reiter’s profile of the late New York Yankees ballplayer Hedeki Irabu took readers inside the life of a complicated, tragic figure whose public profile obscured his private pain. Reiter’s extensive use of personal details brought Irabu’s story to life and his writing seamlessly knit together source material from documents and interviews, carrying forward the tale of a man who couldn’t tell his own story. This profile is a grand slam.

Magazine Investigative Reporting

Winner: Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal, New York Times Magazine, “The Uncounted”

Our category included several strong investigative pieces, but “The Uncounted” was a standout effort that earned a unanimous vote as best in class. This impressive piece of journalism was essentially an intelligence gathering effort, with the authors fusing data from a variety of sources to account for many unacknowledged civilian deaths caused by the US bombing campaign against Islamic State in northern Iraq. Door-to-door reporting in war-ravaged Mosul provided intelligence even the US military seemed to lack, as it conducted what it called “the most precise air campaign in history.” Khan and Gopal proved otherwise in prose both gripping and revelatory. By building the broader story around the narrative of one particular victim, the authors drew readers in and kept them rapt. We also appreciated videos and other graphical elements, in the electronic version of the story, that could have come from a Pentagon briefing and enhanced the reader’s understanding of the story. Taut and vivid, this is the best piece of journalism the judges have encountered in a considerable while.

Magazine Feature Reporting

Winner: Andy Greenberg, WIRED Magazine, “Lights Out: How An Entire Nation Became Russia’s Test Lab for Cyberwar”

Andy Greenberg’s spectacularly written piece for Wired, Lights Out: How an Entire Nation Became Russia’s Test Lab for Cyber War, is a testament to what magazine feature writing should be. Too often provocative essays are reserved for the middle of the magazine rather than strong and in-depth reporting. It’s gripping from the beginning through the end, leaving the reader dealing with the gravitas of major international hacking. Greenberg seamlessly transitions between the Ukraine and the US, like scenes from a movie. This is one of the very few instances where a piece can be adapted for film or television. And that’s worth applauding.

Headline Writing

Winner: Deb Pines, New York Post, “Flake News”

Simple, short and to the point, the headline perfectly summarized the local news of a blizzard that never was. The forecast was knowingly exaggerated by the National Weather Service, and the city did all it could to keep everyone safe, losing money in the process. The Post did a great job in a limited space of playing on one of the most popular catch phrases in recent times about deliberate misinformation, hence unreliable — and flaky news!

Arts Reporting

Winner: Michael Paulson, The New York Times, “‘Brilliant,’ 41 and Lost to AIDS: The Theater World Asks Why”

This profile of Michael Friedman and his tragic death was graceful, nuanced, and respectfully done but also fascinating. The reporting and interviews lent brightness to this extremely sad and moving story.

Sports Reporting

Winner: Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated, “He’s The One Durant”

This story stands out by providing the context and details of a basketball superstar’s journey from runner-up to champion. The Kevin Durant – Golden State Warriors story is well known but Lee Jenkins provides new insight into the people, the process and the repercussions of how one of the NBA’s great players connected with one of the NBA’s great franchises. The narrative, the characters and the dialogue all play out in an engaging story that brings readers a greater understanding of what happened and why.

Business Feature

Winner: Dan Alexander, Forbes, “Everybody Gets Billed”

This stunning piece, carefully reported, artfully written, exposes greed, venality and corruption on the part of the President of the United States in connection with his foundation and that of his son Eric. The article details machinations by which money ostensibly intended for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital instead further enriched the Trump Organization in defiance of state and federal rules regarding self-dealing and misleading donors. Its strong writing, and its in-depth and persistent reporting prompted the attorney general of the State of New York to open an investigation. The judges would like to note that a second submission of Mr. Alexander’s work, an investigation of the claimed wealth of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, was also a strong contender.

Business Investigative Reporting

Winner: Staff, ICIJ, “Paradise Papers: Secrets of the Global Elite”

This work really exemplifies what investigative reporting is all about. It explains a difficult and dense topic in a way that people can understand, while helping the reader understand why it’s important to them.

Science, Technology, Medical or Environmental Reporting

Winner: Brian Grow, John Shiffman, Blake Morrison, Elizabeth Culliford, Reade Levinson, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, and Zach Goelman, Reuters, “The Body Trade”

This harrowing story reveals the million-dollar underground market in body parts built on deceiving and exploiting the poor, the altruistic, and the bereaved. People believed they were donating their bodies to medical science, but instead their remains were dismembered and sold in the most unethical manner imaginable. The story spurred lawmakers to explore new legislation to control the currently unregulated sale of body parts. We especially salute the reporters of Reuters for pursuing this likely traumatizing investigation.

Opinion Writing

Winner: David Andelman, CNN

David Andelman delivers concise and original arguments on an exceptionally broad range of critical issues with articles that are well researched and documented. Andelman paints a vivid picture of how dangerously close President Trump’s temperament may place the nation to nuclear conflict.

Spot News Photo

Winner: Anthony DelMundo, New York Daily News, “Gory Chaos in Times Square”

Anthony DelMundo’s Daily News photo shows the crashed car that a drug-fueled driver slammed into Midtown pedestrians last year, killing one and injuring several. The powerful image captures the drama surrounding both the incident and the city’s immediate response.

Sports Photo

Winner: Tom Ferrara, Newsday, “Altuve the MVP”

These photos capture the emotion and intensity of the 2017 MLB postseason by focusing on one of its greatest competitors. The photos bring viewers back to the drama of baseball’s playoffs and photographer Tom Ferrara shows his skills in being in the right place at the right time to reveal different sides of this winning player: his drive to win, the cockiness of his success and his enthusiasm for the game he plays.

Feature Photo

Winner: James Nachtwey, TIME, “Death Reigns on the Streets of Duterte’s Philippines”

James Nachtwey’s Time magazine photo series is a visually striking and emotionally stirring portrayal of the strongman president’s brutal war on drugs. The images effectively illustrate the devastating impact of the summary executions of thousands of alleged drug pushers and users on life in Manila.

Multimedia, Interactive Graphics, and Animation

Winner: Neil Barsky and Jenny Carchman, The Marshall Project, “We Are Witnesses”

We are Witnesses is a unique look at the intersection of human lives with the American criminal justice system. This multimedia feature goes beyond the statistics and common narratives to produce a tapestry that is incredibly candid and riveting. By offering a glimpse into the human cost of crime and punishment in America, this piece –in its entirety — challenges us to rethink our own definitions of good and evil, of justice and forgiveness, of victim and perpetrator. We applaud the Marshall Project team for its compelling, important work.

Digital Innovation

Winner: Aryn Baker, Lynsey Addario and Francesca Trianni, David Kofahl, Tim Klimowicz,

TIME, “Finding Home”

This piece took a common and transformative experience, the first year of a baby’s life, and used it to connect readers with a Syrian refugee family as they seek asylum. It is an exceptional piece of storytelling that chronicles a young mother’s journey, beginning with giving birth to her daughter Heln in a hospital near a refugee camp 1,000 miles from home. This is not a typical longform story. It’s told through text messages between the reporter and the mother, often overlaid on top of powerful images and short videos. The incorporated text messages add a level of intimacy, as if the reader is communicating directly with the family. It’s a project so creative and powerful that it should be shared in journalism schools.

Radio or Audio Reporting

Winner: Amanda Robb, Laura Starecheski, Michael Schiller, and Aaron Sankin, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, with Rolling Stone and The Investigative Fund, “Pizzagate: A Slice of Fake News”

This was the favorite of all Radio/Audio Judges. We liked the piece because it was a story that started small and began to snowball as more and more information was uncovered. The follow-through and narrative was clear and concise. The anchors told the story in plain English. The piece was also very carefully produced. We all liked the way the story was told and presented.

Digital Video Reporting

Winner: Linda So, Jason Szep, Peter Eisler, and Charles Levinson, Reuters, “Shock Tactics”

In addition to excellent shooting editing with no noticeable technical issues, we felt that this story deserved to be named the winner because of the incredibly far-ranging quality of its reporting; the depth of its investigative journalism; the incorporation of “UGC” footage from police body cameras and the power of that evidence; and the general strength of the story. It privileged journalism over production value, and the judges were impressed at the scope of the investigation undertaken as well as its importance to the national conversation.

National TV Feature

Winner: Diane Sawyer and Team, ABC News, “My Reality: A Hidden America”

In My Reality, A Hidden America, Diane Sawyer and her team of producers present a powerful, in-depth portrait of middle class Americans who are dedicated, hard working, and determined, yet still struggling to get by. Thoughtfully reported and beautifully produced, the 20/20 team dedicated more than 16 months to create a revealing feature story that inspired generosity from viewers who gained a deep understanding of the new economic reality that’s threatening the American dream.

National TV Series or Investigative Reporting

Winner: Staff, ABC News, “The Unwanted”

Great job digging into a humanitarian issue that could easily fall out of the headlines. This report holds leaders accountable by asking the tough questions. The reporter worked extremely hard to avoid leaving any stone unturned. We had great faith in the correspondent because of his thoroughness in gathering the facts and eyewitness accounts.

National TV Spot News Reporting

Winner: Staff, ABC News, “A City Underwater”

In a year with more than its share of natural disasters, the sheer scale of Hurricane Harvey, striking a huge swath of territory with unprecedented force, meant producers had to throw away the standard storm playbook and improvise.   An outstanding example of how to roll with the flow when events take unexpected turns.

Local TV Feature

Winner: Michael Scotto, Brianne Barry and Dan Komarinetz, Joel Siegel,Spectrum News NY1, “Mozart on Mercer”

Street performers come in many varieties, from dancers on cardboard boxes, to jugglers in costume, to musicians of all kinds.  Sometimes we barely notice them, but other times, they take our breath away. This story about two young men from Philadelphia – who take the bus to New York twice a week to play – is a celebration of both their talent and their entrepreneurial discipline.  It views a common phenomenon through an uncommon lens.

Local TV Series or Investigative Reporting

Winner: Chris Glorioso, Evan Stulberger, Dave Hiller, Dave Manney, and Susan Sullivan, WNBC-TV, “No-Show Senators”

This piece was very well planned and executed. The public needs to know what their representatives are up to, and the reporter did a great job holding them accountable as any good journalist should do! We appreciated the thorough look into absences at committee meetings and the financial costs associated with those absences. Solid use of resources. Reporter didn’t shy away from asking tough questions.

Local TV Spot News Reporting

Winner: Rachael Czerwinski, Matt Prusinowski, Jason Wirchin, Amanda Bossard, John Henry Smith, Aime Rodriguez, Kathryn Thomson, Jony Hurtado, Jose Sanchez, and Manoj Shamdasani, News 12 The Bronx, “Bronx Lebanon Hospital Shooting”

All of the finalists in this category did great work, but News 12 The Bronx’s entry stood out as an example of what local spot news should be: rapid response to the scene; careful live reporting that stuck with facts and avoided speculation even in the first few confusing minutes; and top rate interviews with those closest to the action.

Daniel Pearl Prize for Investigative Reporting

Winner: Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, Emily Steel, Michael S. Schmidt, Susan Chira, Catrin Einhorn, Susan Dominus, Jim Rutenberg, and Steve Eder, The New York Times, “Harassed”

Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl exhibited great courage and determination in the pursuit of the truth, often working against great odds on stories that few dared to explore. In the spirit of Daniel Pearl, The New York Times reporters who produced the ‘Harrassed” series on corporate sexual harassment demonstrated great persistence and skill against daunting odds to break through and document the abuses of very powerful men. In the process, they unleashed a worldwide movement to uncover and bring to justice men in high places who abuse their authority for sexual gain. They gave voice to often defenseless women who for decades stayed silent for fear of losing their jobs or damaging their careers. Their stories cut across corporate lines – from the highest echelons of old and new media companies to the blue-collar factory floor – to document long buried abuses. Their dogged reportage has sparked a cultural shift and an awakening that deserves recognition worthy of the journalistic traditions honored by Daniel Pearl’s legacy.

Minority Focus

Winner: Topher Sanders, Benjamin Conarck, Kate Rabinowitz, Hilary Fung, Ranjani Chakraborty, Lucas Waldron, ProPublica and the Florida Times-Union, “Walking While Black”

Walking While Black tells the story of a pervasive issue in a thorough and engaging way. This is a timely, alternative look at how stereotypes and police harassment affect the Black diaspora. Judges appreciate that this immersive journalism series started with a young man’s viral video.

Public Service Award

Winner: Nina Martin, Renee Montagne, Adriana Gallardo, Katherine Ellison, Kate Womersley, and Annie Waldman, ProPublica and NPR, “Lost Mothers”

Weaving stunning statistics through heart wrenching depictions of human tragedy, this series exposes failures and racial disparity in healthcare for mothers. ProPublica reporters told a complicated story through the eyes of the people impacted by alarming and overlooked medical issues. The reporting was cited by healthcare officials as increasing public awareness, and it sparked proposals for reform in one state while helping pass legislation in another. One woman cited the series as saving her life, which is an admirable public service.

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