The Kansas City Star, ProbPublica, Bloomberg News, NBC News win New America Award
Lou Harry, SPJ Manager of Publications and Awards, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Tsuyuki, SPJ Communications Coordinator, email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists is honored to announce the 2023 recipients of its New America Awards. This award honors public service journalism that explores and exposes issues of importance to immigrant or ethnic communities in the United States.
This year’s New America division winners are:
• Audio winner – Bloomberg News for “In Trust”
• Television winner – Lisa Cavazuti, Cynthia McFadden, Maite Amorebieta and Yasmine Salam of NBC News for “The Reckoning: An American Genocide”
• Print/online winner – Matti Gellman of The Kansas City Star and Kartikay Mehrotra of ProPublica for “Isolated in America. What happened to Rezwan Kohistani?”
“In Trust” by Bloomberg News is a ten-episode podcast that investigates a transfer of Native American wealth facilitated by the United States government. The series documents how the Osage Nation bought a stretch of prairie, in what is now Oklahoma, that was lost in the Reign of Terror and by policies created by the U.S. government. Now, the Osage Nation is fighting to reverse decades of land loss.
“The Reckoning: An American Genocide” by Lisa Cavazuti, Cynthia McFadden, Maite Amorebieta and Yasmine Salam of NBC News reports on the dark history of Native American boarding schools in the U.S. Native American children were forcibly removed from their homes to take on English names and give up their cultural practices to assimilate into white society. An effort is ongoing now to use underground radar to look for the unmarked graves of children who may be buried at Red Cloud Indian School in South Dakota.
The overall excellence award winner is Matti Gellman of The Kansas City Star and Kartikay Mehrotra of ProPublica for “Isolated in America. What happened to Rezwan Kohistani?”
This four-part series investigates the failures in the refugee resettlement system. The Kohistani family fled Afghanistan in August 2021 and was placed in Orongo, Missouri. A Missouri nonprofit was tasked with supporting the Kohistani family, but its staff had never resettled refugees. The Kansas City Star found that the surrounding community had a history with the Ku Klux Klan and lynchings, and that the high school Rezwan Kohistani was enrolled in had never enrolled a newly arrived refugee.
About four months after the family arrived, Rezwan was found dead near his high school’s baseball field. The preliminary autopsy report ruled Rezwan’s death as a suicide, but the final report stopped short of making a definitive cause. The reporting found that the nonprofits the family relied on for guidance weren’t equipped to notice the signs of isolation and depression that Rezwan felt in his new, foreign home.
“The effort put into the research really shines through in the paper trail, police records and digital findings. We value this level of work by a local publication, at a time when there are news deserts coming up across the country and local publications are struggling to stay afloat,” said the New America judges. “The Kansas City Star also sheds light on a critical issue, through the case study of Rezwan Kohistani and puts into focus an ethnic community that has been in turmoil since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021.”
The Kansas City Star’s series can be viewed here, but is behind a paywall:
• ‘Left alone’: How a U.S. resettlement failure led to an Afghan teen’s death in Missouri
•‘Who’s there for the kids?’: Joplin community seeks answers after Afghan teen found dead
•‘Very little guidance’: MO school lacked translators, support for Afghan student found dead
•Afghan family resettled in small Missouri town faced isolation. Now their son is dead
This year's recipients will be honored during the President's Banquet at the SPJ23 Journalism Convention in Las Vegas on Sept. 30. The winners will also be invited to participate in a panel discussion at the convention on the best practices for reporting on immigrant or ethnic communities. Read more about the New America Award, including past recipients.
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