Nina Martin of ProPublica and Renee Montagne of NPR won the 2018 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting Tuesday for their series on maternal deaths in the United States.
“An underreported story with a devastatingly human angle, their report shines a light on a problem all around us, but rarely told with such power and grace,” Director of the Shorenstein Center Nicco Mele said in a press release Tuesday.
The Goldsmith Prize, which celebrates investigative reporting that “promotes more effective and ethical conduct of government,” debuted in 1991 and is administered by the Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy. The award includes $25,000 for the winner and $10,000 for each of the other five finalists.
Finalists included stories by reporters at the Washington Post, the Miami Herald, Buzzfeed News, and the Asbury Park Press. The finalists investigated abuses in the juvenile justice system, exploitation of opioid addicts seeking treatment, and Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
The New York Times also received a special citation for its reporting on sexual harassment, which Mele said led to a “social, cultural, and community reckoning” unlike anything he had ever seen.
During a panel at the Kennedy School before the awards ceremony, Martin discussed her personal experiences reporting on the winning story.
“In 2000, my sister gave birth in Texas to a healthy baby boy, but she nearly died in the process. I remember the trauma my family and I faced,” Martin said. “It struck me, especially because she had been told this kind of thing never happened to anyone.”
After joining ProPublica, Martin said her editor encouraged her to “go big” and investigate the growing rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. But with the lack of public data available on maternal complications, Martin found reporting on the issue to be challenging.
“Many states don’t even have maternal mortality review committees that count and analyze maternal deaths, and when they do, the data that they have is de-identified,” Martin said.
Martin and her colleague began combing through closed Facebook groups and GoFundMe to find stories of women who had died or nearly died in childbirth from maternal complications.
“We weren’t finding many cases of severe maternal morbidity reported in news stories,” Martin said. “Instead, we found maternal morbidity stories mostly in private chat groups on parenting websites, and also in closed Facebook groups.”
The series written by Martin and Montagne has promoted public awareness of maternal complications, in addition to inspiring legislation in New Jersey and Texas, according to the Shorenstein Center website.
At the event, Mele presented Martha Raddatz, ABC News chief global affairs correspondent and co-anchor of This Week with George Stephanopoulos, with the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism.
During her speech, Raddatz said the Goldsmith Prize finalists deserved the recognition for their tenacity in reporting on important issues and encouraged them to continue their work.
“Go there, be there, feel it, smell it, know it from the inside out, and then report it.”
—Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez.