COLLEGE PARK (4/25/19) — A Reuters project co-authored by Associate Professor Deborah Nelson is receiving national attention for its investigation into into the hazardous living conditions of some U.S. military families.
“Ambushed at Home” — reported through interviews with more than 100 sources and analysis of public data — has led to U.S. Senate hearings and a new proposed Department of Defense tenant bill of rights for military families.
The project has also won national journalism awards — on Thursday, the project won the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delti Chi Award for non-deadline reporting. The prize honors “exceptional professional journalism.”
On Tuesday, The Sidney Hillman Foundation awarded the project the 2019 Hillman Prize for Web Journalism. The award honors “excellence in journalism in service of the common good.”
“The reforms under way as a result of the coverage promise protections long overdue to hundreds of thousands who serve their nation,” according to an award summary on the foundation’s website. “Commenting on what Reuters found, then-Defense Secretary James Mattis said the U.S. military has a ‘moral obligation’ to provide safe housing to its warrior families.
“Former director of the National Center for Healthy Housing, Rebecca Morley, wrote, ‘You all are spurring more action than laws that have been on the books for 20 years.'”
Previously, the project won a “Best in the Business” award from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing.
“The team published over a dozen stories on how military families, who shouldn’t have to worry about the roofs over their heads, have battled top brass and the contractors who own and operate the residences,” the society’s judges wrote. “‘Ambushed at Home’ represents the best of what can occur when brave whistle-blowers and powerful reporting come together.”
The project also won the The Edgar A. Poe Award from the White House Correspondents’ Association. The award recognizes excellence in news coverage of national or regional importance.
“Using meticulous records and data research, deep reporting — often against official pushback and sources’ reluctance to come forward — and straightforward writing, the Reuters team showed families put in danger, a military that often looked the other way and private investors who profited from it all,” the WHCA judges wrote.
Nelson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, worked on the project with Reuters journalists Joshua Schneyer, Michael Pell and Andrea Januta.
She joined the Merrill College faculty in 2006 after five years as the Washington investigations editor for The Los Angeles Times. Before that, she reported for The Washington Post, The Seattle Times and Chicago Sun-Times.
Since last year, Nelson and students in the Capital News Service investigative reporting bureau have worked on “Trading Away Justice,” an ongoing national project led by CNS student journalists and faculty members in partnership with Injustice Watch, the PBS NewsHour and other professional and academic partners.
CNS and its investigative bureau pursues national reporting projects thanks in part to funding from the Park Foundation.