Investigative Reporters & Editors on Thursday announced winners of the annual IRE awards. The top prize went to an amazing project called “Seafood from Slaves” by the Associated Press.
The judges wrote:
This piece excelled in nearly every way an investigative story can. AP reporters discovered an island home to thousands of enslaved laborers at work in Thailand’s multi-billion-dollar seafood export industry. Not content to merely document the plight of these workers, the AP traced the fruits of this slave labor all the way to the seafood counters in U.S. cities. This innovative approach to bringing the faraway story home to U.S. readers and its powerful use of multimedia storytelling made this piece the most innovative of the year, worthy of the Gannett Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism. Judges awarded it an IRE Medal for its moving execution and life-changing results. For years, industry had insisted conditions had improved, and AP’s story proved conclusively that thousands of laborers remained trapped in modern slavery. This project helped lead to freedom for approximately 2,000 slaves.
Such projects are so inspiring, reminders of the life-changing impact that journalism can have even in an age when many media companies are cutting funds for investigations.
ProPublica, NPR, 60 Minutes, VICE News, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Tampa Bay Times and others are also among the winners and finalists.
The Khadija Project – aimed at investigating the unjust jailing of journalist Khadija Ismayilova in Azerbaijan – won the IRE’s Tom Renner award.
“Plundering America” was a finalist for that award. I joined the South Florida Sun Sentinel team that produced the project. Other team members included Sally Kestin, Megan O’Matz, John Maines and Taimy Alvarez. The chief editor was Dana Banker. It was a privilege to work with such a great bunch of journalists.