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24 winners named in INN’s first national Nonprofit News Awards

October 13, 2021

Mississippi Free Press named Startup of the Year; veteran journalist Charles Lewis receives Lifetime Achievement Award; Sahan Journal founder Mukhtar Ibrahim honored as Emerging Leader of the Year

Oct. 13, 2021 — Los Angeles, CA — Investigations that empowered communities, projects that informed readers and broke barriers, and innovations that led to success for nonprofit newsrooms were among the accomplishments celebrated Wednesday with presentation of the inaugural Nonprofit News Awards by the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN).

More than 50 U.S. nonprofit news organizations and news leaders received first-place or honorable mention recognition for 24 awards across nine categories reflecting journalistic excellence, community impact and business sustainability.

View the full list of winners and finalists with links to winning entries.

The Mississippi Free Press, founded March 2020, just as the pandemic hit, was named Startup of the Year, with judges noting the organization “is doing super impressive work on all fronts — journalism that doesn’t just inform Mississippians but also leads the way for national readers and media outlets.”

As Mississippi Free Press pledges on its site,  “We are introducing Mississippians to each other through our deep accountability reporting and compelling people-focused storytelling, and by convening online and physical ‘solutions circles,’ using our statewide networks to ensure inclusivity and representation.”

Charles Lewis, founder of two Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit news organizations, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Charles Lewis, executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University,  founder of two Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit news organizations, as well as co-founder of INN, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Lewis founded the Center for Public Integrity and ICIJ and remains a driving force helping young journalists move into the field. Lewis previously worked at ABC News, CBS and produced “60 Minutes.”

INN’s Emerging Leader honor went to Mukhtar M. Ibrahim, the founder, editor and executive director of Sahan Journal, covering immigrants and communities of color in Minnesota. This award recognizes an individual with fewer than five years in executive leadership who is building a sustainable news organization. Prior to founding Sahan Journal in 2018, Ibrahim covered Minneapolis city government and local affairs for the Star Tribune and wrote about national security and immigration for Minnesota Public Radio News.

Mukhtar Ibrahim is Emerging Leader of the year for his work at Sahan Journal covering communities of color and immigrants in Minnesota.

“Nonprofit news is reinventing journalism as a public service centered in community needs rather than profits. It is bringing exceptional reporting to people and issues that often go overlooked,” said Sue Cross, executive director and CEO of the Institute for Nonprofit News. “The Nonprofit News Awards recognize the extraordinary depth of reporting, community engagement and inclusivity that these journalists are bringing to millions of people every day.”

San Joaquin Valley Water and the Center for Collaborative Investigative Journalism received INN’s Journalism Partnership of the Year award for their reporting on the sinking of a central California town due to groundwater pumping for agriculture.

In addition to the four overall awards, five other honors — Best Investigative Journalism, the Insight Award for Explanatory Journalism, the Breaking Barriers Award, the Community Champion Award and the Game-Changer Award — were presented to newsrooms representing each of four size tiers, from small for those with operating budgets of $250,000 or less to those in the “super” tier with budgets of $3 million or more.

The Kansas City Beacon is a Community Champion for contributing to the well-being of the KC community through journalism-centered programs and services.

The impact of the COVID pandemic on communities, coverage of the 2020 elections and reporting on racial and social justice movements were among the themes reflected among the winning entries.

Best Investigative Journalism: Winners Spotlight DC (small); Colorado News Collaborative (medium); Spotlight PA (large); and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (super). These awards honor a single story or series that uncovered significant and impactful news in the public’s interest.

Insight Award for Explanatory Journalism: Winners Cicero Independiente (small); Oklahoma Watch (medium); Resolve Philly (large); and The Marshall Project in partnership with NPR for reporting that promoted understanding of a significant and complex subject. 

The Breaking Barriers Award for reporting that brought new understanding to an issue or topic affecting people or communities that are historically underrepresented, disadvantaged or marginalized, resulting in impactful change: Winners Cicero Independiente (small); MLK50 (medium); THE CITY (large); and Retro Report (super).

The Community Champion Award, highlighting the extraordinary contribution that nonprofit news organizations make to the well-being of their communities through journalism-centered projects and services: Winners Open Vallejo (small); Kansas City’s The Beacon (medium); Block Club Chicago (large); and The Marshall Project (super).

The Game-Changer Award, recognizing innovative ideas or practices that led to success in revenue, audience growth or sustainable financial support: Winners Dallas Free Press (small); Documented (medium); Block Club Chicago (large); and The Oaklandside (super).

The Institute for Nonprofit News launched the Nonprofit News Awards to celebrate excellence and innovation across the INN network of more than 350 independent news organizations. INN received 415 entries from 121 member newsrooms. The entries were judged by panels that included journalists from across INN’s member newsrooms and in academia, as well as respected retired journalists.

A grant from the FORTUNE Journalism PleasrFund supported prizes of $1,000 for winners of each of the four overall categories and $500 for those winners in the five tiered categories. The philanthropic fund—created by Fortune, digital artist pplpleasr, and blockchain startup Endaoment—remains open and anyone can contribute to support journalism in the public interest.

To learn more about the Nonprofit News Awards and to read the winning entries, visit:

PHOTO CREDIT: KC Beacon image by Kelsey Ryan.

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