2018 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Medium Newsroom finalist


from The Center for Investigative Reporting

About the Project

It took analyzing a mountain of data – 31 million records, to be exact – to uncover the fact that modern-day redlining exists widely across America.

However, it took many strokes of creativity to make sure that fact got into the hands of those who needed it: policymakers, advocates and, most importantly, everyday Americans.

We knew we couldn’t tell the story of deep home lending disparities in 61 metropolitan areas by ourselves.

First, we opened up our data before the Kept Out series even published to newsrooms across the country, collaborating with The Associated Press to hold a series of webinars training journalists how to use this data in their communities.

Next, we built a web app allowing users to search their neighborhoods for lending disparities. Then, we made our podcast interactive. Based on our user research, we’ve learned that podcast listeners struggle to take away specific data points from shows. We’ve developed an SMS tool called Amplify to fill that need.

Throughout the Kept Out podcast, we built in prompts from Reveal host Al Letson so users could text us their address to receive personalized data. At the end, we asked them to text us questions, too. We were flooded with more than 1,500, many of which we later answered in another radio show and a story.

Even as local and federal officials responded with investigations and proposals, we needed to take the information one step further: to the street. In Philadelphia, we approached the city’s transit authority to buy ad space on buses for a graphic explainer. We were denied, and have filed a First Amendment lawsuit.

This year, we did this kind of investigative reporting at the highest levels, across platforms, from Twitter and Netflix to podcasts and text messages. We were Pulitzer finalists for an online story, an Oscar finalist for an online documentary and duPont winners for our podcast.

Underlying all this work is an ongoing conversation with users, and an enduring curiosity about how we can best serve, engage and involve our readers, listeners and viewers.

For our All Work. No Pay. project we faced a challenge. We had a great story: Drug rehabs had become little more than work camps for private industry. But to quantify the problem nationally would take our two young reporters the rest of their lives. Each rehab required months of rigorous reporting to uncover wrongdoing. They had to do the story in installments, rehab by rehab, from Oklahoma to Arkansas to North Carolina.

We’re now nearing 100 specific tips about work-based rehabs. And we’ve created a reporting network with newsrooms across the country who will soon get tips and a guidebook on how to investigate their rehabs.

For our investigation into Tesla’s worker injury problems, the distribution strategy has been simpler: Don’t let Elon Musk bully us, or journalism as a whole. That’s meant pushing back forcefully on Twitter to correct the record when his PR team has smeared us or he has pushed incorrect information.