IRE is proud to announce the 2016 Philip Meyer Award winners
A sophisticated data investigation that revealed doctors who had sexually abused their patients is the first-place winner of the 2016 Philip Meyer Journalism Awards. Other top winners include an innovative project tracking the spread of wildfires in the West and a data-driven investigation that exposed match-fixing in professional tennis.
First place is awarded to "Doctors & Sex Abuse," by Jeff Ernsthausen, Shawn McIntosh, Danny Robbins, Carrie Teegardin, Ariel Hart, Richard Watkins, Ryon Horne, Lois Norder, Johnny Edwards, and Alan Judd of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The newspaper took data analysis for a story to new levels of sophistication. The goal was to root out instances in which doctors had abused patients and gone unpunished, but the task was more than daunting. The team built 50 scrapers to pull in more than 100,000 documents. They then used machine learning to analyze all of those documents, searching for keywords that alluded to cases of sexual misconduct. They backed up their findings with other sophisticated data analysis and shoe-leather reporting. The sheer scope of their project was impressive. What was even more impressive were the results. The investigation found that doctors in every state had abused patients, and even when caught, still went unpunished.
Second place is awarded to "How Fire Feeds," by Eric Sagara, Scott Pham, Sinduja Rangarajan and Julia Smith of Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.
The team used satellite imagery and eight other government data sets to examine three large wildfires in creative, groundbreaking ways. An interactive, visually appealing online presentation guided readers through the analysis, enabling them to explore how fire and topography intersect to create deadly blazes. More than 170,000 acres burned during the fires, leaving the areas vulnerable to flooding and erosion. The project provided a cautionary tale of potential wildfire outbreaks that may pose ongoing risk for years to come.
Third place is awarded to "The Tennis Racket," by Heidi Blake and John Templon of BuzzFeed News, and Simon Cox of the BBC
In a first-of-its-kind analysis by a media outlet, BuzzFeed News and the BBC used a million simulations of a series of tennis matches to discover suspicious patterns in shifting betting odds and players who lost matches they statistically shouldn't have. What emerged was a pattern of match fixing among a small group of professional tennis players. During the reporting, a whistleblower shared with BuzzFeed the results of a professional tennis internal investigation that found similar patterns, but the sport shelved the investigation and did nothing. As a result of the investigation, professional tennis stars have called for greater transparency in corruption investigations surrounding the sport, and several government entities have conducted hearings.