IRE announces winners of 2017 Philip Meyer Journalism Award


In pursuit of better journalism, Philip Meyer pioneered the use of social science methods in reporting. These days, Meyer's methods are commonplace in data driven journalism - data sweeps, modeling, and experiments are all regularly employed by journalists on various beats.

To recognise Meyer's contribution, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) offer an annual award in his name that celebrates the best uses of empirical methods in journalism. And the winners of the 2017 Award are in. We round up the four projects that took out the top spots.

1. Dangerous Doses by the Chicago Tribune

Dangerous Doses was a groundbreaking work that made a remarkable discovery: more than half of the 255 pharmacies that the Chicago Tribune tested failed to warn patients about potentially deadly interactions. To identify the holes in patient safety, the paper consulted leading pharmacology researchers at universities to design the drug pairs for the pharmacy-testing project. The team then worked with a physician to obtain prescriptions, which 15 staff reporters took to pharmacies and documented whether they were told of potential adverse reactions. The results resonated in Illinois, with the governor launching new safety regulations, and nationwide with the country’s largest pharmacy chains, including CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, taking steps to improve patient safety for millions of consumers -- and potentially saving lives.

Image: Chicago Tribune.

2. Too Broke for Bankruptcy by ProPublica

In an innovative analysis of bankruptcy data, ProPublica found that black Americans are far less likely to gain relief from creditors than their white peers. What's more, when reporters Paul Kiel and Hannah Fresques began examining certain cities, they found that the disparity was driven by questionable legal advice. In Memphis, for example, black debtors were far more likely to be steered into bankruptcy plans that were doomed to fail. The reporters then crafted a compelling story to make this arcane but important topic come to life.

Image: ProPublica.

3. No Place for Foreigners. Why Hanna is invited to view the apartment and Ismail is not by Bayerischer Rundfunk and Der Spiegel

Reporters at Bayerischer Rundfunk and Der Spiegel set out to find if structural discrimination against foreigners in the German housing market existed. In a large-scale survey of landlords in Germany, reporters used an innovative and automated process to request data from 8,000 landlords and found that potential renters with Arab and Turkish names were frequently ignored while those with German names were answered promptly.

Image: Bayerischer Rundfunk and Der Spiegel.

4. The Tax Divide by the Chicago Tribune (honorable mention)

The extensive use of sales ratio analysis on more than 100 million property tax assessment records warrants a special mention for The Tax Divide. The Chicago Tribune’s aggressive pursuit of records and accountability was notable, and the series’ use of strong examples helped illustrate the troubling patterns in Cook County’s complex tax system. 

Image: Chicago Tribune.

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