Scripps Howard Awards announce 2019 winners, recognize exceptional American journalism

March 3, 2020 By Rebecca Cochran

CINCINNATI – Enterprising collaboration among news organizations, tenacious investigations that held the powerful accountable and a focus on climate change are themes among winners of the coveted 2019 Scripps Howard Awards.

The Scripps Howard Foundation is pleased to announce today winners of its 67th awards, which honor the best in American journalism from the previous year. The Foundation will present more than $170,000 in prize money to the winning 15 organizations and journalists at its annual awards show on April 16 in Cincinnati. The event will be streamed live on YouTube and Facebook, and rebroadcast April 26 on Newsy. The awards show also will air on Scripps television stations throughout the summer.

“Each year, the Scripps Howard Awards calls on American journalists to submit the work that captured the moments of the previous year, prompted action and spurred change on behalf of our democracy,” said Liz Carter, president and CEO of the Scripps Howard Foundation. “This year’s winners are certainly no exception. From national investigations with impact spanning continents, to community stories deeply reported and carefully told – the triumphs in truth-telling represented across the 2019 winners mark the strength of American journalism today. The Scripps Howard Foundation is humbled to honor these triumphs and the journalists who dedicated themselves to them.”

The 2019 Scripps Howard Awards winners:

 Breaking News: The Washington Post for “The El Paso – Dayton Shooting” – Coverage of mass shootings less than 24 hours apart in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in which 29 people died.

Judges’ comments: “The Post’s deep history of covering mass shootings allowed it to put the incidents into a broader context with a graphic history of these shootings back to 1966, exposing their increasing frequency. The special section, in particular, was an illuminating tour de force.”

Finalists: Los Angeles Times – “Death off the Santa Barbara Coast”; San Francisco Chronicle – “Wildfire and Blackouts in Northern California”

Broadcast – Local Coverage: David Schechter and Chance Horner of WFAA-TV (Dallas) for
“Verify Road Trip: Climate Truth” – A story about WFAA’s Verify team taking a viewer to Alaska to help report on its climate change coverage.

Judges’ comments: “The station dedicated extensive resources and time to the project. But just as importantly, the story is told in a highly creative way that does not talk down to disbelievers. The project is a big step forward in building credibility with the audience while also producing interesting journalism.”

Finalists: KARE-TV (Minneapolis) – “KARE 11 Investigates: Mission Critical”; KNXV-TV (Phoenix) – “Unlocked and Unsafe”

Broadcast – National/International Coverage: Abby Ellis, Kayla Ruble, Jacob Carah and Sarah Childress of FRONTLINE PBS for “Flint’s Deadly Water” – An investigative report on an outbreak of Legionnaires disease in Flint, Michigan, occurring at the same time as lead poisoning in the city’s water system.

Judges’ comments: “It would have been easy to pass up this story given how much news coverage has been focused on Flint’s lead crisis. Frontline showed the source of its evidence, how it verified the evidence, and it took a break from theatrical confrontations and hype to calmly and thoroughly explain how the system that we all rely on failed completely to protect the public.”

Finalists: Al Jazeera – “The War on Afghan Women”; VICE News Tonight – “They Come For Us At Night: China’s Vanishing Muslims”

Business/Financial Reporting: Dominic Gates, Mike Baker, Steve Miletich and Lewis Kamb of The Seattle Times for “Boeing’s 737 MAX Crisis” – A series of stories covering two deadly crashes of the 737 MAX jet, which also revealed how Boeing misinformed the FAA and airlines on the MAX’s automated flight control system. 

Judges’ comments: “This is an impressive display of reporting and writing that explains to the average reader what happened to these airplanes and why they should care. It also deftly explores the issue of who is to blame and why those who could have stopped this from happening did not act. The Times has always been a leader in Boeing reporting, but this year’s work is amazing.”

Finalists: ProPublica – “The TurboTax Trap”; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – “Turned Away”

Community Journalism: Kyle Hopkins, Loren Holmes, Bill Roth and Marc Lester of the
Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News and ProPublica for “Lawless” – An ongoing reporting project  focusing on sexual violence and breakdowns in law enforcement across Alaska.

Judges’ comments: “‘Lawless’ was so deeply reported and compellingly presented, state and federal officials have already pledged reforms for Alaska’s broken law enforcement system. Solid reporting and data analysis provided historical context, while human interest storytelling and reader involvement put a face on issues such as ethnic disparity, policing failures and lack of transparency, concluding with potential solutions.”

Finalists: Missoulian (Missoula, Montana) – “Troubled Kids, Troubled System”; MLK50: Justice Through Journalism (Memphis, Tennessee) and ProPublica – “Profiting From The Poor”

Environmental Reporting: Rob Davis of The Oregonian/OregonLive (Portland) for “Polluted By Money” – Coverage revealing alarming campaign finance connections between local politicians and major corporations that have resulted in serious environmental failures spanning decades.

Judges’ comments: “The Oregonian/Oregon Live presents jaw-dropping investigative reporting in the innovative multimedia project. The focus is on the State of Oregon, but the coverage offers unequivocal evidence in the context of a nationwide picture and is relevant amid widespread concern about corporate influence on politicians. The series crystallizes a staggering amount of data and gives a voice to people who had been ignored by a corrupt, yet legal, system.”

Finalists: The Associated Press – “What Can Be Saved?”; The Seattle Times – “Hostile Waters: Orcas in Peril”

Distinguished Service to the First Amendment: Jennifer Berry Hawes, Stephen Hobbs, Glenn Smith and Seanna Adcox of The Post and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina) for “‘IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO DIE’: How Flaws in the South Carolina Prison System Led to 7 Deaths in a Single Night” – Coverage of a deadly prison riot, officials who weren’t talking and cause of the violence. 

Judges’ comments: “In their old-fashioned, shoe-leather reporting, they got access to confidential audits of the riot and reports about problems within the prison system. Judges were impressed with the persistent reporting and leveraging of leaked documents to procure public records. A story well reported and well told that forced lawmakers to take action.”

Finalists: Orlando (Florida) Sentinel – “Florida’s Fading Sunshine Laws”; Bay Area News Group and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley with McClatchy, MediaNews Group, USA Today Network, Voice of San Diego and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting – “California’s Criminal Cops”

Human Interest Storytelling: Eli Saslow of The Washington Post for “The State of Health Care in Rural America” – Stories about the emerging health crisis in rural America.

Judges’ comments: “Extraordinary example of public service journalism through immersion reporting. The reporter gained the trust of sources; from ordinary people who live in flyover country, rural areas where the mainstream media is held in low regard. The ability to get these intimate on-the-record accounts is what distinguishes this work.”

Finalists: The Wall Street Journal – “The Agony of DNA Testing”; The Washington Post – “Lives of Everyday Americans”

Innovation: Jake Godin, Jennifer Smart and Zach Toombs of Newsy for “Newsy+Bellingcat” – Multiplatform news network Newsy and investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat partner on a new video series driven by open-source reporting.

Judges’ comments: “This is meticulous journalism that is innovative in its newsgathering and in its storytelling. The team went to great lengths to make something very complex, very accessible without tripping over itself to show the innovation. In an era when our journalism is constantly being called ‘fake,’ these journalists showed their work.”

Finalists: WBEZ Chicago Public Media – “Chicago Mayoral Election Questionnaire”; The Washington Post – “The Mueller Report”

Investigative Reporting: Craig Whitlock of The Washington Post for “The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War” – Coverage that gives a detailed, behind-the-scenes assessment of the Afghanistan War.”

Judges’ comments: “An epic series that will change the way the history of the Afghanistan War and U.S. foreign policy in the early 21st century is written – forever. The final product is a well-written, comprehensive and elegant piece of journalism that is an extraordinary and definitive draft of our history. The impact was both immediate and permanent.”

Finalists: ProPublica – “Disaster in the Pacific”; Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News – “Abuse of Faith”

Multimedia Journalism: Vox for “These 3 Supertrees Can Protect Us From Climate Collapse” – Reporting that explains the importance of tropical forests in the battle against climate change, from the perspective of three super trees in Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Judges’ comments: “This project was in a class of its own. It married great reporting and storytelling with heart-stopping visuals, engaging graphics and the best user experience of anything we saw in this category. That something this beautiful and engaging could also be educational and impactful solidifies the No. 1 spot this project deserves.”

Finalists: The Marshall Project with The Guardian – “Detained”; The Washington Post – “Gone in a Generation”

Opinion: Kyle Whitmire of the Alabama Media Group for “Life, Politics and Corruption in Alabama”

Judges’ comments: “His columns – a mix of good storytelling and fearless opinion – prick the soft underbelly of the Jim Crow, Jr. South. Whitmire is the linear successor of Eugene Patterson and Ida B. Wells, a fact that bodes well for Alabama and the journalism profession.”

Finalists: Kaiser Health News – “America’s Broken Health Care System: Columns by Elisabeth Rosenthal”; The New York Times – “America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black Americans Made It One” by Nikole Hannah-Jones

Radio/Podcast: Lynn Arditi, Sally Eisele and James Baumgartner of The Public’s Radio (Rhode Island) for “A 911 Emergency” – Reporting from a yearlong investigation into Rhode Island’s inadequate and sometimes dangerous emergency call system.

Judges’ comments: “The reporting proved that those who ran the 9-1-1 system were incompetent and resisted life-saving changes. As a result of Arditi’s dogged reporting and her use of dramatic 9-1-1 calls, state lawmakers approved funding to train all 9-1-1 call takers, and the acting director of 9-1-1 was removed from his post. Emergency medicine physicians have cited this reporting, saying it will save lives.”

Finalists: American Public Media, APM Reports – “Uprooted”; Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting – “Amazon: Behind the Smiles”

Topic of the Year: The Impact of Climate Change on Communities 
NPR and The University of Maryland Howard Center for Investigative Journalism for “Heat and Health in American Cities” – Coverage identified an underreported impact of climate change: the link between income, rising heat and health in American cities.

Judges’ comments: “This winning entry was a unique collaboration between students and professional journalists. The data was supported by eloquently told stories about people most affected by heat patterns. Beyond the data, this project brought us into neighborhoods and homes to show how climate change and environmental justice are inextricably tied.”

Finalists: The Center for Public Integrity, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, High Country News, Ohio Valley ReSource and StateImpact Oklahoma – “One Disaster Away”; The Boston Globe – “At the Edge of a Warming World”

Visual Journalism: Rodrigo Abd of The Associated Press for his photojournalism portfolio.

Judges’ comments: “Rodrigo Abd displayed a high level of visual insight and intensity while shedding new light on major issues affecting Venezuela. Abd also turned his lens toward the Venezuelan famine with intimacy and dignity, demonstrating his extraordinary ability to connect in his stories.”

Finalists: The Washington Post – “2019 Portfolio: Jahi Chikwendiu – From My Own Backyard”;
The Texas (Austin) Tribune – “Under the Dome”


The Scripps Howard Foundation, in partnership with the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, also announced winners of its two journalism education awards:

Teacher of the Year: Jennifer Thomas – Howard University
Finalist: William H. Freivogel – Southern Illinois University

Administrator of the Year: Susan King – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finalist: David Boardman – Temple University


About The Scripps Howard Foundation
The Scripps Howard Foundation supports philanthropic causes important to The E.W. Scripps Company (NASDAQ: SSP) and the communities it serves, with a special emphasis on excellence in journalism. At the crossroads of the classroom and the newsroom, the Foundation is a leader in supporting journalism education, scholarships, internships, minority recruitment and development, literacy and First Amendment causes. The Scripps Howard Awards stand as one of the industry’s top honors for outstanding journalism. The Foundation improves lives and helps build thriving communities. It partners with Scripps brands to create awareness of local issues and supports impactful organizations to drive solutions.

About Scripps
The E.W. Scripps Company (NASDAQ: SSP) advances understanding of the world through journalism. As the nation’s fourth-largest independent TV station owner, Scripps operates 60 television stations in 42 markets. Scripps empowers the next generation of news consumers with its multiplatform news network Newsy and reaches growing audiences through broadcast networks including Bounce and Court TV. Shaping the future of storytelling through digital audio, Scripps owns top podcast company Stitcher and Triton, the global leader in technology and measurement services. Scripps runs an award-winning investigative reporting newsroom in Washington, D.C., and is the longtime steward of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Founded in 1878, Scripps has held for decades to the motto “Give light and the people will find their own way.”


Media contact:
Kari Wethington, The E.W. Scripps Company, 513-977-3763,