Awards

Hannah-Jones of ProPublica Receives the 2014 Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting
Highest Honor in Education Journalism

(Left to Right) Scott Elliott, EWA President; Nikole Hannah-Jones; Caroline Hendrie, EWA Executive Director

APRIL 20, 2015 (CHICAGO)—A ProPublica package of stories about the lingering effects of segregation in American schools by Nikole Hannah-Jones has been awarded the top prize in the Education Writers Association’s 2014 National Awards for Education Reporting.

Hannah-Jones received the $2,500 Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting during an awards ceremony honoring winners of the annual contest at EWA’s National Seminar, a three-day event hosted by the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute.

Hannah-Jones’ stories, which in March were awarded first-prize in the beat category for medium-sized media outlets, examine the mechanisms that keep many schools in the South and elsewhere economically and racially segregated despite the promises of integration decades ago. Hannah-Jones covered civil rights with an emphasis on segregation and discrimination in schools and housing for ProPublica.

In one story, “Segregation Now,” she recounts the experiences of a family at one school in Tuscaloosa over three generations. In another, Hannah-Jones chronicles the inability of government officials to track desegregation court orders, which were crucial to enforcing integration plans from the Civil Rights era. That story, “Lack of Order,” drew on academic work and reporting to show the slow creep of segregation a generation later. 

In “Ghosts of Greenwood,” Hannah-Jones confronts the devastating racism and prejudice her family endured in Mississippi, visiting the state her grandparents left shortly after World War II. Her article “School Segregation, the Continuing Tragedy of Ferguson,” written in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, marries impressive data reporting with narrative storytelling to show the significant disparities in the quality of schools that black and white students attend. As Hannah-Jones writes, “In St. Louis County, 44 percent of black children attend schools in districts the state says perform so poorly that it has stripped them of full accreditation. Just 4 percent of white students do.”

EWA’s Contest Review Board selected Hannah-Jones’ stories from a pool of 17 entries that won their respective categories in EWA’s National Awards for Education Reporting.

The review board was deeply impressed by the stories. “Nikole Hannah-Jones provides readers an exemplary look at how too many of America’s schools look very much as segregated as they did before 1954. Beautifully written and elegantly presented on the Web, “Segregation Now” soars as a piece of ambitious, thoughtful journalism. Hannah-Jones supplements her work with helpful data, legal research and shoe-leather reporting, reminding us of the lingering legacy of racial discrimination on schoolchildren,” the review board members wrote.

Congratulations to Nikole Hannah-Jones and ProPublica as the latest in a long line of winners of the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize.

EWA is grateful to the Edwin Gould Foundation for sponsoring this year’s contest.