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November 29, 2021

Behind the projects: Lightning chats with finalists for the 2021 Gather Award in Engaged Journalism


Since 2019, the Gather Award in Engaged Journalism has honored inspiring people and journalism projects that center communities’ information needs and voices in the reporting process. This first-of-its-kind award was established as part of the annual Online Journalism Awards showcase thanks to a partnership between the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication’s Agora Journalism Center and the Online News Association.

Engagement projects from El Tímpano and Anchorage Daily News/ProPublica were announced as 2021 winners at the Oct. 15 awards ceremony in Philadelphia. Other finalists include projects from The Marshall ProjectThe New York Times and Arizona Daily Star/ProPublica.

The Gather community hosted lightning chats with the journalists behind the finalist projects. Watch the presentations to find inspiration for your own community-centered work. You will get insight into each project’s approach and process, key lessons and the impact of the journalism so far.

Overall Excellence Category

Unheard, Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica

This project shares the stories of survivors of sexual assault and abuse in Alaska and involved the survivors in discussions around every step of the publication process. Judges said, “The team … took a potentially traumatic set of stories and told it with thought and care and really delivered a project that respected and centered victims and made an impact in their communities.”

Hear from Kyle Hopkins, Special Projects Editor at Anchorage Daily News, and Adriana Gallardo, Engagement Reporter at ProPublica.


Poverty Reporting Beyond the Statistics, The New York Times

This project used innovative outreach and partnerships to shape an important story line in The New York Times’ pandemic coverage — how Americans living poverty are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and how the expansion of federal relief programs was meeting their needs.

Hear from Sona Patel, Director of User Generated Content and Community at The New York Times.


State of Denial, Arizona Daily Star and ProPublica

This engagement project contributed to research on services in Arizona for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The project has been praised for its accessibility efforts, plus the published stories helped some of the people featured to finally receive the services they need.

Hear from Amy Silverman, Freelance Reporter with the Arizona Daily Star, and Maya Miller, Engagement Reporter at ProPublica.

Micro/Small Newsrooms Category

El Tímpano’s Community-Powered Coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic

El Tímpano’s COVID-19 pandemic coverage has centered the voices and stories from ongoing conversations with the 2,000 Latino and indigenous Mayan immigrants in the small newsroom’s SMS community. Their approach incorporates strategies community organizing, a participatory design process and partnerships with local grassroots organizations and other media outlets.

Hear from Madeleine Bair, Founder of El Tímpano and part of the 2021 cohort of ONA’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator.


Reaching and Engaging Incarcerated Audiences, The Marshall Project

News Inside focuses on audiences behind bars — the millions of people living in hundreds of prisons and jails across the United States who have very limited access to news media about the issues that might affect them. The project is inspired and guided by people with personal experience of the criminal justice system and has connected people to critical information on topics such as the COVID-19 vaccines.

Hear from Lawrence Bartley, Director of The Marshall Project’s News Inside.


Launched in 2000, the Online Journalism Awards are the only comprehensive set of journalism prizes honoring excellence in digital journalism, focusing on independent, community, nonprofit, major media and international news sites. Explore all winners and finalists in the 2021 Online Journalism Awards.

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