The Marshall Project has won a 2023 Online Journalism Award for General Excellence in Online Journalism in the medium-sized newsroom category.
The criminal justice journalism outlet won the award based on several entries: its “Inside Story” video series, “Violation” podcast, “The Mercy Workers” article, an investigation into New York prison guards, and its local reporting in Cleveland.
“Inside Story” is a first-of-its-kind video series — co-created by Lawrence Bartley and Donald Washington, Jr., in partnership with VICE Media — designed to bring information to one of America’s largest news deserts: prisons and jails.
“Violation,” hosted by Beth Schwartzapfel and produced in partnership with WBUR, examines an opaque aspect of the justice system — parole boards — through one tragic case. The podcast grapples with victims’ rights, race, privilege, mental health, senseless violence — and how mass incarceration has morphed into mass supervision, with similar pitfalls and politics.
An investigation into abuses by correctional officers against prisoners in New York state — reported over two years by Alysia Santo, Joseph Neff and Tom Meagher — definitively documented a culture of laxity on the part of corrections officials that allowed guards to brutalize with impunity.
The outlet’s investment in local reporting has continued with the establishment of The Marshall Project - Cleveland, and its ongoing “Testify” series on the Cuyahoga County Court system. Reporters found that a majority of criminal court cases in the county involved repeat defendants, who are largely miscast as violent criminals despite committing nonviolent crimes borne out of untreated addiction and mental illness.
The Marshall Project also won the Online Journalism Award for a Feature in the medium newsroom category for staff writer Maurice Chammah’s piece, “The Mercy Workers.” The product of three years of reporting, Chammah’s feature takes a rare look at the little-known profession of “mitigation specialists,” who attempt to save prisoners from the death penalty. They unearth childhood trauma, mental illness, broad policy failures, and other material that persuades juries, and sometimes even prosecutors, to choose less severe sentences.
”We are honored to be recognized with these prestigious awards and congratulate other winners and finalists,” said Susan Chira, editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project. “We’re so proud of our staff, who labor to expose abuses and find innovative ways to make sure people directly affected by the criminal justice system also see our work.”
The Marshall Project also earned five other finalist spots in this year’s Online Journalism Awards:
- Excellence in Innovative Visual Digital Storytelling, Large Newsroom: “Life Inside, Animated”
- Excellence in Newsletters, Single Newsletter: “Closing Argument”
- Gather Award in Community-Centered Journalism, Medium/Large Newsroom: “Inside Story”
- Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Large Newsroom: “They Lost Their Pregnancies. Then Prosecutors Sent Them to Prison.”
- University of Florida Award for Investigative Data Journalism, Large Newsroom: “In New York Prisons, Guards Who Brutalize Prisoners Rarely Get Fired”
The Marshall Project has previously earned several Online Journalism Awards for its reporting and investigations. In 2020, the organization received four Online Journalism Awards: General Excellence in Online Journalism in the Small Newsroom category for the second time, the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Explanatory Reporting and Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling. In 2021, The Marshall Project’s series on police dogs, “Mauled,” won the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Excellence in Collaboration and Partnerships. And in 2022, “‘No Light. No Nothing.’ Inside Louisiana’s Harshest Juvenile Lockup” won the award for Excellence in Collaboration and Partnerships.
The awards, granted by the Online News Association, honor excellence in digital journalism by news organizations around the world.