The American Society of Magazine Editors nominated ProPublica for four of its 2019 National Magazine Awards (also known as the Ellies), which honor excellence in print and digital media. ProPublica was recognized as a finalist for public interest, reporting, digital innovation and social media.
Our series on the gang MS-13 was nominated in the public interest category. The powerful narratives by ProPublica reporter Hannah Dreier, who spent a year and a half reporting on Long Island, showed how the government’s bungled crackdown on MS-13 has torn apart the lives of Latino immigrants — deporting innocent teenagers, burning law enforcement sources and failing to prevent further violence. Dreier spent months gaining the trust of a teenage informant who helped the FBI catch fellow MS-13 members, believing authorities would offer him a new life. Instead, they betrayed him, leaking his name and handing him to ICE. Dreier’s next story depicted a mother searching for her missing son, whom police had dismissed as a runaway until his macheted body was found in the gang’s “killing fields.”
The series’ final article featured an asylum-seeker accused of gang membership and deported for drawing a devil, his school mascot but also an MS-13 symbol. A school-based police officer reported the doodle, circumventing privacy protections. In response to the series, Long Island police began investigating the mishandling of MS-13 murders and the officers who belittled the distraught mother. Homeland Security opened a civil rights investigation, and ICE changed a practice that jeopardizes informants.
Unprotected, co-published with Time magazine, was nominated in the reporting category. Led by reporter Finlay Young and photojournalist Kathleen Flynn, the story looked into an acclaimed charity called More Than Me. Founded by American Katie Meyler, the Liberian school promised to rescue some of the world’s most vulnerable girls from life on the streets; but from the very beginning, children placed under its care were being raped by one of the nonprofit’s leaders. Following publication, More Than Me apologized to the victims, and for the first time, it conceded it had failed them. The charity announced schoolwide HIV testing. The board chair resigned, along with two other board members, while Meyler took a leave of absence pending two internal inquiries. The Liberian government also announced a multi-agency inquiry.
The Waiting Game, an immersive news game created by ProPublica and WNYC, was nominated in the digital innovation category. Based on the real case files of asylum-seekers from five countries and interviews with the medical and legal professionals who evaluate and represent them, the Waiting Game lets players walk in the shoes of an asylum-seeker, from the moment they choose to come to the United States to their final hearings before an immigration judge. Users experience their life, day by day, click by click. Created by ProPublica assistant managing editor Sisi Wei, along with Playmatics’ Nick Fortugno, the Waiting Game strives for the same level of research as a traditional news story and seeks to help players understand a complex issue by giving them a more personal and emotional experience. ProPublica senior reporting fellow Kavitha Surana and WNYC reporter Matt Katz also contributed to the project.
Work based on our series Documenting Hate was nominated in the social media category. As part of the initiative to address hate crimes (what they are, who perpetrates them and who is victimized by them), ProPublica told many of these stories on social media. Based on an investigation by reporter A.C. Thompson, ProPublica’s social visuals and graphics producer Lucas Waldron compiled video and images from social media, as well as messages from a secret neo-Nazi chatroom, to identify members of white supremacist groups who committed violence throughout the country. We shared our investigation natively on social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. The work has been seen by millions and had significant impact. Five of the men identified have since been arrested, with prosecutors widely citing ProPublica’s work.