Investigations by the Center for Public Integrity into student homelessness and community-based care of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities were recognized with 2023 Dateline Awards by the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists Wednesday.
With “Institution of One,” which was named best online non-breaking news story, reporter Amy Silverman painted a nuanced picture of what life is like decades after courts ruled that state institutions should be replaced by community-based services. The project was praised for its humanizing depiction of people with disabilities and accessibility considerations, including a “plain language” translation.
“This story explored the challenge of finding safe homes for people with complex needs with the care and nuance the topic deserves,” said Public Integrity Senior Editor Jennifer LaFleur. “As one reader pointed out, too often society does not see individuals with IDD as people: ‘The way you wrote your article turns this on its head.’”
Translating the story into plain language, a writing style that makes difficult concepts easier to read for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, uses shorter sentences and simpler words, but it doesn’t leave out information. Public Integrity also commissioned a story summary in American Sign Language.
“Unhoused and Undercounted,” an investigation Public Integrity data journalist Amy DiPierro and senior reporter Corey Mitchell pursued in collaboration with The Seattle Times, Street Sense Media and WAMU/DCist, was named the 2023 Dateline Awards’ best online series.
An innovative national data analysis showed that more than 300,000 unhoused students are not being identified by local school districts across the country, keeping them from receiving assistance as required by federal law. Members of Congress called for accountability after the project was published and voted to increase funding to help local school districts address the issue.
Public Integrity collaborated with local newsrooms across the country on the project, building a reporting toolkit and sharing data that makes it possible to pursue a similar investigation in most communities. The team also created versions of those resources for student journalists to pursue the story.
Previously, Unhoused and Undercounted was recognized as part of the short list for the Sigma Awards, recognizing the world’s best data journalism.
“The Unhoused and Undercounted project holds school districts and the federal government accountable for how they’re treating some of the country’s most vulnerable students,” said Public Integrity’s Jamie Smith Hopkins, one of the editors on the series. “This was a powerful collaboration that illustrates how much better investigations can be when journalists from different newsrooms work together.”
Four other Public Integrity projects were named finalists in the 2023 Dateline Awards, including Harm’s Way, an investigation into the federal government’s failure to help communities requiring relocation due to climate change, also nominated for best online series; Unequal Burden, an investigation into state and federal tax inequality, for best online beat reporting; The Wealth Vortex, about one woman’s fight against the racial wealth gap, for best online business reporting; and our feature on a Navajo man’s battle in the sickening aftermath of the federal government’s quest for uranium on tribal land.
Public Integrity’s journalists have been recognized with numerous honors in recent months, including the Paul Tobenkin Award, a Peabody Award nomination, a National Headliner Award, the Sigma Award recognizing the world’s best data journalism, two finalist honors for the Shaufler Prize for reporting about underserved people, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing’s “Best in Business” awards, the Gracie Awards honoring media produced by and for women, and the Signal Awards recognizing the country’s best podcasts.
Founded in 1989, the Center for Public Integrity is one of the oldest nonprofit news organizations in the country and is dedicated to investigating systems and circumstances that contribute to inequality in the United States.
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