The 2019 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting was awarded on March 12, 2019, to J. David McSwane and Andrew Chavez of the Dallas Morning News, for their series “Pain and Profit.”
In reporting “Pain and Profit” the Dallas Morning News found that thousands of sick and disabled Texans were being denied life-sustaining drugs and treatments by the private health insurance companies hired by the state to manage their care. While these private contractors made billions of dollars from the corporate management of taxpayer-funded Medicaid, some of the most vulnerable Texans were denied critical services, equipment and treatments, often with profoundly life-altering results. As a result of the investigation the Texas legislature pledged millions of dollars to more closely regulate the system, monitor instances of denials of care, and reform the appeals process.
Learn more about how McSwane, Chavez, and the Dallas Morning News team found, investigated, and reported the story in a “how they did it” piece in Journalist’s Resource, and a podcast interview with the reporters.
In addition to the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the 2019 Goldsmith Awards ceremony included awards for the Goldsmith Book Prize:
The Internet Trap: How the Digital Economy Builds Monopolies and Undermines Democracy
Princeton University Press
Margaret E. Roberts
Censored: Distraction and Diversion Inside China’s Great Firewall
Princeton University Press
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt
How Democracies Die
And the Goldsmith Career Award was presented to Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron, who gave the keynote talk in conversation with Nancy Gibbs and Nicco Mele.
Watch a video of the 2019 award ceremony:
Congratulations to the winners, and to all the finalists for this year’s Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, which included:
Alabama Media Group
Alabama’s ‘Beach House Sheriff’
This investigation revealed extensive wrongdoing by an Alabama sheriff, including improper use of millions of dollars’ worth of public funds, and the mistreatment of inmates in the county jail he runs. Amid threats to his family’s personal safety, reporter Connor Sheets uncovered a history of misconduct that resulted in the ‘Beach House Sheriff’ losing his reelection bid, the launch of investigations into his conduct at the federal, state and local level, and proposed legislation to prevent Alabama sheriffs from pocketing public funds for personal enrichment.
The Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and FRONTLINE, PBS
Daffodil Altan, Andrés Cediel, Abbie VanSickle
Trafficked in America
This investigation explored labor trafficking happening today on U.S. soil. Reporters told the story of unaccompanied minors from Central America who were forced to work against their will at an Ohio egg farm, the criminal network that exploited them, the companies that profited, and how U.S. government policies and practices helped to deliver some of the children directly to their traffickers. The investigation uncovered widespread criminal abuse, and will be used as a Department of Justice Anti-Human Trafficking training tool for thousands of law enforcement officials and prosecutors.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Barbara Laker, Wendy Ruderman, Dylan Purcell, Jessica Griffin, Garland Potts
Toxic City: Sick Schools
The Philadelphia Inquirer revealed unsafe conditions in Philadelphia’s rundown public schools, with children forced to learn in buildings rife with mold, asbestos and flaking and peeling lead paint. By scouring maintenance logs and conducting scientific testing inside 19 elementary schools, and engaging teachers and parents in their reporting, the Inquirer built a comprehensive database of the shocking conditions putting children at risk on a daily basis. The investigation prompted the state and school district to direct millions of dollars to emergency cleanup of lead paint and asbestos fibers in schools, the total demolition and planned replacement of one school with particularly deplorable conditions, and a new law protecting children from lead paint and other serious health hazards in public schools.
Ginger Thompson, Michael Grabell, Topher Sanders, Melissa Sanchez, Duaa Eldeib, Jodi S. Cohen, Alex Mierjeski, Claire Perlman, Ken Schwencke, Adriana Gallardo, and ProPublica staff
ProPublica obtained and published a secret recording from inside a border patrol detention center that captured the sounds of children, recently separated from their families at the Mexican border, sobbing and begging for their parents. The audio clip was played on the floors of Congress, sparking widespread condemnation and having an almost immediate impact, with President Trump signing an executive order to end the family separation policy within 48 hours of its publication. ProPublica reporters then dug deeper into conditions at the detention centers, detailing abuse and assaults on immigrant children, directly countering the administration’s claims that the shelters were safe havens.
South Bend Tribune and ProPublica
Christian Sheckler, Ken Armstrong
Criminal Justice in Elkhart, Indiana
Reporting from the South Bend Tribune and ProPublica revealed deep flaws and abuses of power in the criminal justice system in Elkhart, Indiana – from new revelations in the wrongful convictions of two men, to the promotions of police supervisors with serious disciplinary records, to the mishandling of police misconduct cases. The investigation led to the resignation of the police chief, criminal charges against two officers and plans for an independent investigation of the department, demonstrating the strong, immediate impact that investigative journalism can have at the local level – and its ability to force critical changes in communities.
The Wall Street Journal
Michael Rothfeld, Joe Palazzolo, Nicole Hong, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Rebecca Ballhaus, Alexandra Berzon, Lukas I. Alpert, Michael Siconolfi, Carmel Lobello, Shelby Holliday, Jarrard Cole, Anthony Galloway, Joel Eastwood
Trump’s Hush Money
The Wall Street Journal uncovered evidence that Donald Trump personally orchestrated a criminal scheme to suppress damaging sexual allegations, despite denials by the president. The revelations implicated Trump in a felony, triggered criminal and congressional investigations and amplified calls for his impeachment. Journal reporters revealed secret payoffs made during the 2016 presidential campaign by Trump and his associates to two women who both alleged they had affairs with the then-candidate. The coverage sparked a federal criminal investigation into campaign-finance abuses that will soon land the president’s longtime lawyer in prison, and broke open Washington’s most consequential and far-reaching scandal of the year.
The Goldsmith Investigative Reporting Prize judges were Michael Duffy, deputy op-ed editor, The Washington Post and 1998 Goldsmith Prize winner; Nancy Gibbs, former editor of TIME Magazine and current Edward R. Murrow Professor of Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School; Erica Green, education and education policy correspondent for The New York Times; Mike Greenfield, Trustee of the Greenfield Foundation (financial supporters of the Goldsmith Awards Program); Esther Htusan, correspondent for the Associated Press and 2016 Goldsmith Prize winner; Nina Martin, reporter for ProPublica and 2018 Goldsmith Prize winner; Melissa Segura, investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and 2018 Goldsmith Prize finalist; Scott Siegler, managing partner of Mediasiegler, Inc. and former president of Sony Pictures Television; and Tim Bailey, director of programming at the Shorenstein Center. Nicco Mele, director of the Shorenstein Center, chaired the meeting. Judges recused themselves from voting on entries from their employers.
The Goldsmith Prizes are funded by an annual gift from the Goldsmith Fund of the Greenfield Foundation.