Lens, ProPublica win award for innovation and watchdog journalism for ‘Losing Ground’

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The Investigative Reporters and Editors organization has given our “Losing Ground” collaborative project with ProPublica its 2014 Gannett Award for Innovation and Watchdog Journalism.

“Not only did ‘Losing Ground’ apply innovative techniques coupled with extensive shoe leather reporting, it furthered The Lens’s ability to be a watchdog for its community,” the judges wrote.

The project also was a finalist in the journalism organization’s category of multiplatform work by large news outlets.

Earlier this year, “Losing Ground” won a gold medal from the Society for News Design. The Scripps Howard Foundation named The Lens and ProPublica finalists for the Edward J. Meeman Award for Environmental Reporting.

The first installment of “Losing Ground” showed how Louisiana’s coastline is disappearing due to oil and gas drilling and canals, levees on the Mississippi River and climate change. The second installment, “Louisiana’s Moon Shot,” examined the state’s expansive, high-risk plan to restore the coast.

The reporting was anchored by Lens reporter Bob Marshall, who won two Pulitzer Prizes in more than three decades with The Times-Picayune. Al Shaw and Brian Jacobs of ProPublica created the stunning, innovative presentation that allowed users to see the devastation of the coastline over time, up close and personal.

The judges had strong praise for The Lens, the city’s first nonprofit newsroom, now in its sixth year of publishing in-depth news in the public interest.

“This is a masterful piece of reporting and one of the best examples we’ve seen of how journalism and technology can work hand-in-hand to tell stories,” they wrote.

Other news outlets in New Orleans also won honors from the organization, which has recognized the best in investigative journalism since 1979.

The “Louisiana Purchased” series, a joint investigation by WVUE-TV and NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, won top honors in the small-market broadcast category. The extensive project examined the state’s weak campaign-contribution laws and exposed wrongdoing on several fronts. The same project was a finalist in the category for multiplatform work in small markets.

Further, WVUE’s work “Holding Public Officials Accountable” was a finalist in the small-market broadcast category. WVUE was one of 18 stations that participated in a broad look at high-school football helmet safety, which was a finalist in the Freedom of Information Award category.

The full comments from the judges about “Losing Ground”:

Losing Ground told a story we have seen before, but in a completely novel way with a custom, user-tested interface for browsing maps. The judges were impressed by the effort, care and innovative thinking the team put into image collection and matching for the maps. In addition to using high-resolution satellite imagery from typical commercial and government sources, the reporters worked with experts to create their own low-cost solution for adding spectral depth to their images — a crucial layer of data needed to fully tell the story. Not only did “Losing Ground” apply innovative techniques coupled with extensive shoe leather reporting, it furthered The Lens’s ability to be a watchdog for its community. This is a masterful piece of reporting and one of the best examples we’ve seen of how journalism and technology can work hand-in-hand to tell stories.


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