2018 Philip Meyer Award winners

The awards will be presented on March 8 in Newport Beach, California, during the 2019 Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference. The first-place winner will receive $500; second- and third-place winners will receive $300 and $200, respectively. The award is administered by the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, a joint program of Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Missouri School of Journalism.

 

First place

Hurricane Maria’s Dead” | Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Quartz and The Associated Press

Centro de Periodismo Investigativo: Omaya Sosa Pascual, Carla Minet, Laura Candelas, Jeniffer Wiscovitch, Laura Moscoso, Víctor Rodríguez, David Cordero, Luis Trelles, Cindy Burgos, Mari Mari Narvaez, Edmy Ayala and Emmanuel Estrada.
Quartz: Ana Campoy, Youyou Zhou, Caitlin Hu, David Yanofsky, Daniel Wolfe, Nikhil Sonnad, Feli Sanchez, Max de Haldevang and Amanda Shendruk.
The Associated Press: Michael Weissenstein, Ezequiel Abiu Lopez, Luis Alonso, Claudia Torrens, Ben Fox, Danica Coto, Maricarmen Rivera, Gisela Salomón, Larry Fenn, Troy Thibodeaux, Mark Thiessen, Rachel D’oro and Dan Joling.
Judges’ comments: “Hurricane Maria’s Dead” followed a sample of deaths from Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017. The investigation found that neglect from the government accounted for hundreds of deaths that had not been counted by officials. In a project that hearkened to Philip Meyer’s groundbreaking work, the team used a survey combined with official records and hundreds of interviews to uncover the massive undercount of fatalities. The results, which were later confirmed by a study but are still not accepted as official tolls according to the government, helped serve as a public memorial for the dead as well as a road map for preventing such deaths in the future.

 

Second place

Toxic City: Sick Schools” | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Wendy Ruderman, Barbara Laker and Dylan Purcell

Judges’ comments: “Toxic City: Sick Schools” demonstrates how scientific testing, when designed properly, can lead to unique and powerful investigations. Through innovative crowdsourcing, public school teachers and staff were deployed as environmental testers using a scientific testing protocol. The testing provided the much broader and comprehensive scope needed to assess patterns throughout the system. The team combined test results with more than 250,000 room-by-room environmental records, which further bolstered their findings.

 

Third place

Uncharitable Giving” | The Wall Street Journal 

Andrea Fuller

Judges’ comments: Fuller took established research to new and impressive heights to demonstrate that some philanthropists were getting tax breaks for donated stocks to their private foundations. The philanthropists wrote off the value of the stocks on the day of the donations, before they plunged in value. The tax write-offs were generous. After digging into thousands of foundation tax returns, Fuller identified more than 14,000 gifts made since 2011 worth more than $25,000. The story directed a spotlight on wealthy individuals such as junk bond king Michael Milken, who was involved decades ago in one of Wall Street’s largest insider trading scandals.

 

Honorable mention

In The Dark: Jury Selection Analysis” | APM Reports

APM Reports: Madeleine Baran, Samara Freemark, Rehman Tungekar, Natalie Jablonski, Will Craft, Parker Yesko, Curtis Gilbert, Catherine Winter, Dave Mann and Andy Kruse.

Judges’ comments: As part of a six-part exploration of an African-American man tried for the same crime six times, APM Reports investigated the local prosecutor’s disproportionate exclusion of blacks on juries. The judges noted the unusual and artful presentation of powerful narrative underscored the sophisticated analysis.


The 2018 judges for the Philip Meyer Award for Precision Journalism were:

  • Sarah Cohen, Knight Chair in Data Journalism at Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Dana Chinn, lecturer at University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
  • Brant Houston, Knight Chair in Investigative Reporting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Jennifer LaFleur, data editor at The Investigative Reporting Workshop
  • David McKie, Investigative Producer in CBC News’ Parliamentary Bureau
  • Giannina Segnini, Knight Chair in Data Journalism and Director of the M.S. in Data Journalism Program at Columbia University
  • Jodi Upton, Knight Chair in Data and Explanatory Journalism at Syracuse University