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2018 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Medium Newsroom winner

ProPublica

About the Project

ProPublica exemplifies the digital-first ideal, and much more. We’re also collaborative-first and engagement-first. We take advantage of everything the web can do:

COLLABORATION: “Documenting Hate,” conceived and spearheaded by ProPublica, addresses one of the most urgent and least understood corners of America’s criminal justice experience: hate crimes. What they are; who perpetrates them and who is victimized by them; why they are so misunderstood and poorly investigated and prosecuted. Faced with a paucity of real data, we created a tip submission form and asked victims or witnesses of hate crimes or bias incidents to tell us their story. To date, we have received more than 5,000 tips and have grown our reporting network to include more than 140 local and national media partners across the country.

ENGAGEMENT: Our “Lost Mothers” project highlights how ProPublica thinks about audience engagement – not simply as a mechanism to increase clicks to our reporting but to fuel it from the get-go. We started our investigation with a question and a request: “Do you know someone who died or nearly died in childbirth? Help us investigate maternal health.” We’ve collected nearly 5,000 stories from mothers and families affected by maternal complications or deaths. The thousands of personal stories played a crucial role in our coverage. It helped put a name and face to many of the estimated 700 to 900 women who die each year from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth; it helped show how severe complications for mothers are skyrocketing; and it helped us create an advice guide for mothers by mothers who nearly died.

STORYTELLING: “The Waiting Game” is a newsgame that tells the real stories of five asylum seekers in the U.S. They left everything they knew for safety in the U.S., only to find that a process meant to protect vulnerable people in crisis is full of uncertainty, and can often take years to complete. The player takes the role of the asylum seeker and lives through sometimes years of waiting – gaining a deeper understanding of what asylum seekers have to go through than would be possible with a traditional story.

DESIGN: In our 10 years of publishing, we’ve relied on the same system to produce thousands of entries on our website – inheriting countless retrofits, modifications, and willful workarounds along the way. This year we migrated our site to a new CMS, improving navigation and giving the site a cleaner, more modern design; made everything fully responsive and “mobile first”; and even took a moment to freshen up our logo. These changes – both above and below the waterline – have allowed ProPublica to produce our hard-hitting stories faster and have set the stage for further improvements.

ProPublica was honored with over 65 journalism awards this past year, including two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Our “Lost Mothers” series also won the Goldsmith Prize and was a finalist for the National Magazine Award. Our redesign received an award of excellence from the Society for News Design.