2023 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Small Newsroom finalist

Center for Public Integrity

About the Project

Exposing and explaining inequality requires an approach to investigative reporting that engages the people closest to it. Rather than the traditional investigative reporting notion of catching a bad guy breaking the rules, it demands an examination of the rules themselves: Systems of government and society that are working exactly as designed, but by design create or widen inequality.

The stories highlighted in this entry convey a Public Integrity approach that meets both the audience and local news partners where they’re at by taking advantage of digital engagement, partnership and publishing tools and social platforms that make the work more accessible. All feature some combination of narrative storytelling, data journalism, historical context and solutions.

Our Who Counts? investigation included a data analysis that used geolocation down to the individual voter level to show Republicans’ restrictions on drop boxes ahead of the 2022 election disproportionately targeted Black voters. The project found that 26 states — all controlled by Republicans — made access to voting and political representation less equal since the 2020 election. But in detailed and easy to access individual reports, it also showed that there are deep inequities in access to the political process in all 50 states.

To find workers affected by uranium mining radiation on Navajo land and women who suffered abuse in long-distance truck driving apprenticeships, we distributed surveys via digital channels such as email, subreddit and Facebook groups, but also by having copies printed and handed out at support groups and organizing meetings.

Our Unequal Burden investigation used long-form investigative reporting to show how state tax systems were placing a disproportionate burden of the cost of funding government on the poor. We used an animated video to show how this plays out for the average person at the gas pump or grocery store, and used a quiz about the key findings to both measure the effectiveness of our explanation and help them stick in readers’ memory.

For “Institution of One,” we produced a “plain language” version to be more accessible to the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities whose quality of life was the focus of the investigation and hired someone to produce a summary in American Sign Language, the primary way the main subject of the story communicates.

Each of these projects, as with every major Public Integrity investigation, was also accessible via “Integrity Out Loud,” a podcast feed of our long-form stories being read by professional voice artists.

These projects have won early recognition with a Gracie Award, SABEW honors, a National Headliner Award, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award and the Sigma Awards for Data Journalism short list.