The Center for Public Integrity has won the Institute for Nonprofit News’ Breaking Barriers Award, and Audience Engagement Editor Ashley Clarke has been named Nonprofit Newcomer of the Year.
At an awards ceremony in Philadelphia Wednesday, Clarke was honored for helping transform the mission, workplace culture and partnerships of one of the country’s oldest nonprofit news organizations.
“Unhoused and Undercounted,” a Public Integrity investigation by data journalist Amy DiPierro and senior reporter Corey Mitchell, in partnership with The Seattle Times, Street Sense Media and WAMU/DCist, was recognized with the Breaking Barriers Award. The series, for which Clarke coordinated audience engagement, showed that local school districts across the country were failing to identify and serve hundreds of thousands of homeless students.
The Breaking Barriers Award honors journalism that brings “new understanding to an issue or topic affecting people or communities that are historically underrepresented, disadvantaged or marginalized, resulting in impactful change.”
Clarke, 25, joined Public Integrity in 2021 after working at NBC4 Washington as a production assistant and weekend assignment editor. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland, where she studied multiplatform journalism and Arabic.
She helped define and enforce a newsroom-wide principle of reporting “with and in service to” the people and communities closest to the problems and solutions Public Integrity tackles. And she helped build an innovative local journalism collaboration model that was featured in a keynote address at the 2023 Collaborative Journalism Summit in June.
“Ashley joined Public Integrity as we were defining a new mission that focused all of our investigative journalism tradition on confronting inequality in the U.S., and she saw right away that it would require a different approach to our journalism and how we treat our colleagues, sources and partners,” said Public Integrity Editor in Chief Matt DeRienzo. “I think she immediately recognized the potential of the nonprofit journalism model to upend deeply unequal power structures around who has access to information and how people’s stories are told. But also that nonprofit news can reinforce and protect those systems if not bluntly challenged.”
“I’m incredibly honored to be recognized in this way,” Clarke said. “A few short years ago, I could not have imagined that I would be sitting alongside such talented journalists let alone be celebrated for my work.”
In addition to her role in engagement and partnership work in the newsroom, Clarke is a steward in the Public Integrity union and is co-chair of a staff-led Public Integrity Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Her reporting has prompted reform of a Washington, D.C., housing program and contributed to a project that exposed how state tax policies are placing a disproportionate burden on lower-income people. That work has been honored with multiple awards this year. And in February, Clarke was named to Editor & Publisher magazine’s 25 under 35 list of young leaders having an impact on the journalism industry.
Last week, Public Integrity won a national 2023 Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence for its portfolio of investigative reporting about inequality in the United States, as well as an Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Feature Reporting.
Public Integrity’s journalists have been recognized with numerous other honors in recent months, including the Paul Tobenkin Award, a Peabody Award nomination, a National Headliner Award, an Excellence in Financial Journalism award, a National Association of Black Journalists Salute to Excellence Award, the Sigma Award recognizing the world’s best data journalism, two finalist honors for the Shaufler Prize for reporting about underserved people, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing’s “Best in Business” awards, the Gracie Awards honoring media produced by and for women, the D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Dateline Awards, and the Signal Awards recognizing the country’s best podcasts.
Founded in 1989, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity is one of the oldest nonprofit news organizations in the country and is dedicated to investigating systems and circumstances that contribute to inequality in the United States.
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