The Howard Center for Investigative Journalism’s investigation, “little victims everywhere,” was honored as a finalist in this year’s prestigious IRE Awards for investigative reporting and also won third place in the 2022 Best of the West journalism awards for project reporting.
The IRE Awards, announced April 6, also included finalist honors for News21, another reporting initiative of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, for its “Unmasking America” series. The two Cronkite programs were the only finalists in IRE’s large student reporting category, which was won by the University of Maryland’s Howard Center.
“Our students showed commitment, excellence and resilience to reveal the lingering impact of the pandemic on people’s lives,” said Venita Hawthorne James, managing editor for the News21 series. “We appreciate that IRE is honoring journalists who told the stories of people who struggled, the systems that failed them and the people who reached out to help others.”
The two Howard Centers, national investigative reporting initiatives supported by the Scripps Howard Foundation, train the next generation of investigative reporters through hands-on journalism projects.
Of the 14 Best of the West honorees announced April 2 across multiple categories, Cronkite’s Howard Center was the only student newsroom to place in the contest, finishing behind the San Antonio Express-News and the Los Angeles Times.
The winning series, which ran in national publications August 2021, reveals flaws in federal investigations and prosecutions of child abuse across Indian Country.
Analyzing Justice Department data, student reporters found that the FBI had “closed administratively” more than 1,900 criminal investigations of child abuse in Indian Country since 2011. Justice Department case management data also revealed that U.S. attorneys pursued charges about one-third less often in child sexual abuse cases from Indian Country than they filed charges in other types of crimes.
“Horrifying but necessarily so, this story rings with power and outrage,” wrote Best of the West award judge Amy Wilson, storytelling coach at the Cincinnati Enquirer. “The headline sets the tone, and the story delivers on every level, showing how so many have failed on so many levels and left children to bear it all.”
Earlier this year, this same project won the 2020-2021 Shaufler Prize in Journalism, which recognizes the best journalism in the country that advances the understanding of stories and issues related to underserved people in society, such as communities of color, immigrants and LGBTQ+.
“Once again our students have shown that they can deliver professional-caliber investigations,” said Maud Beelman, the executive editor of Cronkite’s Howard Center. “We could not be more proud of them or more hopeful for the future of journalism.”