First Prize

2021 News (Large Newsroom) Winners

Erin Richards, Alia Wong & Jack Gruber, USA TODAY

School Reopening Coverage

About the Winners

Throughout 2021, Erin Richards worked to identify districts on the leading edge of in-person schooling and persuade them to let her in. Their trust in Richards allowed her to offer solutions amid so many headlines about chaos. 

Images and video from Jack Gruber captured relationships budding, plus the difficulties interacting with the “Skittles” who were still on Zoom. Also, Richards and Alia Wong launched a two-part accountability project on efforts to find and reintegrate America’s “missing” kids.

Comments from the Judges:

“Reporters did it right with perspectives from everyone including students and drilling down in the data to find out who’d gone missing, how many COVID cases there were. Compelling data included the discovery that most schools have no idea whether students were attending online or not. The stories were well written with pairing telling statistics with narrative arcs proving that important doesn’t have to mean dull.”

“A strong package focused on a very important topic. The stories show national sweep while also smartly focusing their reporting on the groups of students who were most alienated and left at-risk by remote learning. The pieces also wisely focused on a few key characters, and combined on the ground reporting with effective pulling back to look in depth at subjects like the collection and importance of attendance data.”