InvestigateWest won eight awards in the 2022 Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest. The annual contest, administered by the Society of Professional Journalists, judges entries from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska.
Find the winning stories below:
Jehovah’s Witnesses Covered Up Child Sexual Abuse In Washington State For Decades, Lawsuit Alleges
First Place, Investigative Reporting
A growing mountain of cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses alleges that the church conceals sexual abuse. Lawsuits have revealed that the nonprofit that oversees the Jehovah’s Witnesses maintains a secret database containing allegations of child molestation across multiple decades, and most allegations have not been shared with law enforcement. Victims are now speaking up via lawsuits in efforts to hold the church accountable for its history of silence. Read more
Why Washington Is Shipping More Disabled Students Out Of State, Splitting Up Families And Costing Taxpayers Millions
First Place, Education Reporting
During the 2020-21 school year, school districts in Washington sent 80 students to out-of-state facilities, according to public records. School districts send students to out-of-state facilities if they do not have the resources to provide services for children with complex needs, typically due to disabilities or childhood trauma. Advocates for kids with disabilities say they’re alarmed at how many students are increasingly being sent away from Washington. They argue it highlights a growing crisis. Read more
WA Battery Maker Faces Accusations It Gave U.S.-Owned Tech To China
First Place, Business & Economics Reporting
UniEnergy Technologies planned to do it all — build the battery of the future, create good American jobs, crack the code for clean energy. Despite millions in public funding, UniEnergy suddenly went dark in 2021, laid off its last employees and was forced to seek Chapter 11 protection under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The collateral damage left behind is far more extensive than previously reported, InvestigateWest has found. Read more
‘I Kept Reoffending’: Why Unhoused People Are Choosing To Go To Jail
First Place, Poverty & Homelessness Reporting
Chris Carver boasts that he is the “second-longest-homeless man in Spokane.” Carver, who’s survived 25 years while living on the streets, says jail is a logical choice during winter months. Carver says shelters can be overcrowded and he doesn’t feel safe in them. Carver’s choice — purposefully choosing jail sentences to escape living on the streets — fails to shock those who regularly work with the chronically homeless. No one believes that employing jails as temporary housing is smart or humane, and housing advocates say the fact that it’s happening at all proves that something has gone horribly wrong. Read more
Dozens Of Oregon School Districts Likely Undercounting Homeless Students
Second Place, Poverty & Homelessness Reporting
Many schools across Oregon are unsuccessful in identifying homeless students and connecting them with food, shelter, and academic support, an InvestigateWest analysis found. Failing to identify homeless students isn’t simply a matter of bureaucratic bookkeeping. It can mean the difference between a student accessing free school meals or going hungry; getting to participate in athletics or missing out; or receiving help with transportation to school or being dropped. Read more
At Least One Juror Refused To Call Them Guilty. But They’re Still In Prison.
Second Place, Crime & Law Enforcement Reporting
Oregon and Louisiana are the only states in U.S. history to allow divided jury convictions, a practice ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2020. While other states opt for mistrials when juries fail to reach a unanimous decision, Oregon and Louisiana grapple with split-jury verdicts. In Oregon, efforts to reform the laws have hit a roadblock, leaving hundreds of individuals incarcerated for crimes that at least one juror doubted their guilt. Read more
From Mountaintops To Ocean Bottoms, Scientists Are Discovering Just How Pervasive Plastic Is
Second Place, Environment & Natural Disaster Reporting
The reality of how pervasive plastic pollution has become around the world is staggering. The problem is only growing worse as plastic doesn’t decompose but degrades into smaller pieces that will remain in the environment for thousands of years. Now, researchers and advocates are starting to direct their attention away from the end life of plastic to focus on the beginning. If anything is going to change, they say, people should be focusing on “turning off this plastic tap.” Read more
In Washington, County Auditor Elections Become Battleground For Far-Right Election Deniers
Second Place, Government & Politics Reporting
Fueled by the false narrative that widespread fraud stole the 2020 election from Trump, election officials nationwide have been under constant attack from election conspiracists. Now, many of those conspiracists are seeking control of elections offices, asking for votes while telling those same people their votes may not count. And it’s not just statewide elections – the false voter fraud narrative is also seeping into local county auditor races. Read more
InvestigateWest is a nonprofit news organization dedicated to investigative journalism for the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 2009, the Seattle-based newsroom covers a range of topics including public health, the environment, youth, racial justice, voting and government accountability. Over the years, its reporting has prompted reforms and more than a half dozen different state laws protecting the environment, workers and foster children.
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FEATURED IMAGE: (Dan DeLong/InvestigateWest)