January 25, 2023
A partnership between The Associated Press and PBS FRONTLINE that dug deeply into evidence of war crimes in Ukraine earned the first place prize in the 2022 Philip Meyer Journalism Award.
Other top honors go to The Los Angeles Times for its project “Extreme Heat's Deadly Toll,” and a collaboration between The Marshall Project, WOVU 95.9 FM Our Voices United and Cleveland Documenters that gives a comprehensive assessment of multiple systems that have bolstered inequities in a marginalized community.
The judges have also given a special citation to independent journalist Emily Corwin for exposing how tax credits meant to help marginalized workers get permanent jobs are instead used to subsidize temp work.
"This year's entries proved yet again that social science methods raise the ante on what it takes to be a journalist,” said Sarah Cohen, a contest judge and the Knight Chair in Data Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. “The judges paid special attention to the projects and partnerships that highlighted the groundbreaking work Meyer pioneered 50 years ago.”
The Meyer Award recognizes the best uses of empirical methods in journalism. The winners will be honored during the 2023 NICAR Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 2-5. 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.
The 2022 winners are:
First place: “War Crimes Watch Ukraine,” The Associated Press and PBS FRONTLINE
The Associated Press: Erika Kinetz, Lori Hinnant, Cara Anna, Mstyslav Chernov, Evgenyi Maloletka, Vasilisa Stepanenko, Oleksandr Stashevskyi, Michael Biesecker, Beatrice DuPuy, Serginho Roosblad, Marshall Ritzel, Sharon Lynch, Larry Fenn, Sarah El-Deeb, Richard Lardner, Juliet Linderman, Jason Dearen
FRONTLINE: Tom Jennings, Annie Wong, Carla Borrás, Miles Alvord, Anthony DeLorenzo, Priyanka Boghani, Dan Nolan, Aasma Mojiz Chantelle Lee
Judges’ comments: AP and Frontline partnered with organizations to collect evidence of war crimes in Ukraine and store the information in an updated public database to tell stories about attacks on venues such as hospitals, schools and a theater. For the story "AP evidence points to 600 dead in Mariupol theatre strike", the AP used two sets of floor plans, photos and video taken before and after the Russian strike on the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater to create an animated model. Witnesses and survivors walked the journalists through the building virtually, pointing out where people were sheltering room by room and how densely crowded each space was. The analysis determined 600 died. The attack remains the greatest known single loss of human life in the war. This was a riveting piece of journalism detailing unspeakable atrocities that continue to this day. Outstanding work!
Second place: “Extreme Heat's Deadly Toll,” The Los Angeles Times
Anna M. Phillips, Tony Barboza, Ruben Vives, Sean Greene and Logan A. Arnold
Judges’ comments: The Los Angeles Times found that waves of extreme heat buffeting California over the past decade have likely caused far more than the 599 deaths cited in official records. The 10-month investigation, which overcame resistance from local health officials, used sophisticated analytical techniques to examine an important topic and achieve impact. The reporters scoured hundreds of pages of paper death records and federal and state death databases to build a statistical model to estimate the true total number of deaths from heat. They worked with experts to develop and vet their findings and ultimately made the project's code publicly available in a GitHub repository. Shortly after it was published, local and state officials cited the project when proposing new measures to help protect people from extreme heat.
Third place: “Testify,” The Marshall Project, WOVU 95.9 FM Our Voices United and Cleveland Documenters
Rachel Dissell, Ilica Mahajan, Anna Flagg, Wesley Lowery, Elan Kiderman Ullendorff, Celina Fang, Ashley Dye, Raghuram Vadarevu, John G., Kellie Morris, Michelle Pitcher, Nicole Lewis, Ryan Murphy, Ariel Goodman, Aaron Colby Williams, Katie Park
Judges’ comments: The Marshall Project’s Testify is a comprehensive assessment of not just one, but multiple systems that have bolstered inequities in a marginalized community — from criminal cases to judicial elections, to voting patterns. Reporters spent 18 months gathering court records using a complex — and painfully slow — scraping system, then ran a statistical analysis that allowed the team to identify patterns among people who have cycled through the court system and assess judges' records. They stepped back to vet such findings by reviewing documents, consulting experts, and researching academic approaches.
Special citation: “A Tax Credit Was Meant to Help Marginalized Workers Get Permanent Jobs. Instead, It’s Subsidizing Temp Work.” Emily Corwin
Judges’ comments: An honorable mention goes to Emily Corwin, for her ProPublica story, “A Tax Credit was Meant to Help Marginalized Workers get Permanent Jobs. Instead, it’s Subsidizing Temp Work”. It’s only fitting that the social science methods used to develop this story — ethnography and content analysis — were informed by a Neiman fellowship when more than 50 years ago, a Nieman fellowship also inspired Philip Meyer to attempt survey research and to write the groundbreaking Precision Journalism. Corwin spent time watching temp workers in parking lots to help determine the questions she would ask, and developed semi-structured interviews to hone her research. She went further and produced a richly reported story that used traditional reporting methods once her research had pointed her in the right direction.
The Meyer Award honors Philip Meyer, professor emeritus and former Knight Chair of Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Meyer is the author of “Precision Journalism,” the seminal 1973 book that encouraged journalists to incorporate social science methods in the pursuit of better journalism. As a reporter, he also pioneered the use of survey research for Knight-Ridder newspapers while exploring the causes of race riots in the 1960s.
The judges for the Philip Meyer Award for Precision Journalism were:
The Philip Meyer Journalism Award follows the rules of the IRE Awards in its efforts to avoid conflicts of interest. Work that included any significant role by a Meyer Award contest judge may not be entered in the contest. This often represents a significant sacrifice on the part of the individual — and sometimes an entire newsroom. The IRE membership appreciates this devotion to the values of the organization.
IRE works to foster excellence in investigative journalism, which is essential to a free society. Founded in 1975, IRE has more than 5,000 members worldwide. Headquartered at the Missouri School of Journalism, IRE provides training, resources and a community of support to investigative journalists; promotes high professional standards; and protects the rights of investigative journalists. The National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting was founded by the Missouri School of Journalism in 1989 and became a collaboration between the school and IRE in 1994.
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