ProPublica won its fourth Pulitzer Prize yesterday! The public-service category’s prize was awarded for a story — done in partnership with the New York Daily News — about abuses of nuisance abatement laws in New York. The laws give police the power to evict people using their homes or business for illegal purposes, but they’ve been used against people who haven’t been convicted or even charged with a crime. This happens almost exclusively in minority neighborhoods.
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because its the same story that won an Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism last week.
ProPublica also had a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. The “Machine Bias” series explored how computer-driven algorithms often have built-in racial bias.
ProPublica is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, investigative news organization (not a “left-wing blog,” as Holocaust denier Sean Spicer claims). MrB was its founding editor-in-chief, and served as editor, chief executive officer, and president from 2008 to 2012. He’s now executive chairman. I remember how many naysayers there were in 2007, when ProPublica was first announced. It would never work, it would be the death of journalism, yada yada yada. People are such haters whenever it comes to trying something new! Then, a mere two years after its launch, ProPublica won its first Pulitzer Prize, which made it the first online news organization to win what the New York Times describes as “the most prestigious award in print journalism.” You can find the links to the first three Pulitzer winners in my previous blog posts.
Herbert and Marion Sandler were the business people and philanthropists who first thought of launching and funding a major new effort in nonprofit investigative journalism. They asked various journalists they were acquainted with for advice, including MrB, who was editing the Wall Street Journal at the time. As he likes to do, MrB wrote some notes to himself on the back of an envelope. To be precise, it was one of my envelopes with “Gigi Caron” — the name of my first jewelry company — printed on it. Later, when the Sandlers followed up with MrB, he pulled out my envelope and described his ideas. (Marion came up with the name “ProPublica.”) I keep everything, so I’m sure that envelope must be around here somewhere. If I find it, I will update this post with a scan of it, then enter all the “Most Important Envelope” contests that I can find. I’m sure there are many! For now, I’ll repost the photo I’ve used for other Pulitzer wins, which was taken in 2007 at MrB’s Wall Street Journal retirement party. That’s me — wearing a faux-ny tail and a bootleg WSJ sweater — hugging him.
A full list of ProPublica’s awards and honors is here.