First Prize

News (Large Newsroom)

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Fairfax County Schools

Hannah Natanson
The Washington Post


About the Entry

A deeply sourced investigation into how, and why, one of the nation’s top school systems was caught surprisingly unprepared for the push to move its instructional programs online amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Comments from the Judges

“Authoritative writing, holding school officials and learning platform providers accountable while providing solid explanatory journalism about what went wrong when the pandemic closed schools, switched to online learning, then had to shut that down.”

“It would be easy to dismiss the glitches the Fairfax district was having as being a routine pandemic-related problem, but Hannah Natanson stayed on top of these issues, telling the story of the problems through the voices of students, parents and teachers, and holding the district accountable for its mistakes.”


The Pandemic and Illinois Schools: A Digital Divide, Vulnerable Students and Hidden Data
Jennifer Smith Richards,  Jodi S. Cohen and Haru Coryne
Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois

Comment from the judges: “A comprehensive series examining how the pandemic exposed weaknesses in online learning, and the inequities that underpin them.”

Trump’s Words, Bullied Kids, Scarred Schools
Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox and Perry Stein
The Washington Post

Comment from the judges: “Incredible investigative piece documenting the rise of bullying and discrimination, with many gut wrenching examples, that occurred during the Trump administration.”