The Park Center for Independent Media (PCIM) at Ithaca College has announced that this year’s Izzy Award “for outstanding achievement in independent media” will be shared by a publication and two journalists who undertook trailblazing and intrepid reporting during 2020.
The nonprofit news outlet Truthout extensively covered the injustices enmeshed in the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting its political, economic, environmental, and racial issues; Liliana Segura at The Intercept undertook path-breaking reporting that revealed longstanding truths about the unfairness of capital punishment — from its disproportionate impact on people of color to the arbitrariness of how people end up on death row; and Tim Schwab writing in The Nation uncovered The Gates Foundation’s striking conflicts of interest, complicated web of influence, and troubling monopoly power in the field of global health.
The Izzy Award Ceremony will be held Thursday, April 27, at 7:00 p.m. EDT.
During 2020, Truthout launched the series “Despair and Disparity: The Uneven Burdens of COVID-19,” which comprises 250 articles covering the political, economic, environmental, and racial aspects of the pandemic. These stories included reporting by incarcerated people, mothers of prisoners who wrote about torture-like conditions in prisons, and pieces on the surge in overdoses during the pandemic—and how the DEA contributed to it. Truthout also published investigations on COVID’s rapid spread in women’s prisons and COVID-driven prisoner uprisings; the plight of Native Americans; abandonment of homeless people amid COVID; and how close quarters intensified the virus’s spread in ICE detention. Other stories included the complicity of Trump’s EPA in worsening asthma-causing pollution that increases COVID vulnerability.
“Through the year of social distancing, Truthout proved that journalists need not be distant from the people hardest hit by the pandemic, including prisoners and ICE detainees,” the Izzy Award judges wrote. “Its work during 2020 exposed social and racial injustices baked into COVID’s impacts and systemic flaws that worsened the pandemic. Inmate Lacino Hamilton wrote columns for Truthout about COVID in U.S. prisons, and thanks heavily to Truthout’s attention and public platform beginning in 2015, Hamilton won his freedom from the Michigan prison system in September after 26 years of wrongful incarceration for a crime he did not commit.”
Truthout is a nonprofit independent news outlet. Its editor-in-chief is Maya Schenwar.
Senior Intercept reporter Liliana Segura undertook in-depth reporting during 2020 that revealed how, in the midst of the pandemic, the Trump administration carried out numerous executions. Segura’s cutting-edge reporting laid bare the unfairness of capital punishment, its lopsided impact on people of color, and the arbitrariness of who is put to death. Segura’s work gives voice to individuals and families marginalized by the federal government. Her coverage also highlighted the cruelty of promising closure to victims’ families, some of whom vociferously opposed the executions. Her work is a crucial public record of a killing surge that was largely unnoticed but nevertheless led to a new push to abolish the federal death penalty.
“Liliana Segura so thoroughly documents the adjudication injustices and horrific conditions inside federal penitentiaries and court systems from Mississippi, to Tennessee, to Texas, to Indiana, and more; and the courageous efforts of defense lawyers, activists, spiritual advisers, and families to prove the innocence of some of the black, brown, indigenous, and poor people condemned to death row,” noted the judges. “Through her stellar investigative journalism, Segura lets her readers accompany the trauma, solidarity, hope, and ultimate cruelty that is involved in capital punishment. Her stories lead us to deeply ponder the absurdity of the government’s execution sprees, and of a system so unwilling to engage alternatives,” they added.
Segura is an investigative journalist at The Intercept and was previously an associate editor at The Nation.
In a three-part investigation published at The Nation, Tim Schwab explored the opaque operations of the Gates Foundation. Schwab’s work reveals how the super-rich transform money into power and raises vital questions about the undemocratic hold that billionaires wield over public policy. Schwab’s groundbreaking reports on the Gates Foundation outlined complicated financial conflicts of interest, potential self-dealing, and the dominant influence in the field of global health. With independent tax experts estimating Bill Gates’s personal tax savings from philanthropy to be as high as $14 billion—potential tax revenue diverted to fund private pet projects— Schwab’s findings also raise questions about how the public good is undermined by loopholes that favor the extremely wealthy.
“Bill Gates is a singularly powerful private citizen and the Gates Foundation is a dominant force globally, yet the mainstream media has all but avoided anything but hagiography when dealing with them,” said the judges. Schwab has “brilliantly gone where journalists belong, and he has taken both Gates and the Gates Foundation into account for their actual conduct and their clear self-interest,” doing the “hard digging and thoughtful analysis that exemplifies fearless, independent journalism at its best,” the judges concluded.
Schwab is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C., whose multi-part Nation investigation into the Gates Foundation was part of a 2019 Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship.
The Izzy Award is named for I. F. “Izzy” Stone., the dissident journalist who launched I. F. Stone’s Weekly in 1953 and questioned McCarthyism, the Vietnam War, racial injustice, and government deceit. This year’s judges were Robert W. McChesney, professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Raza Rumi, director of the Park Center for Independent Media; Jeff Cohen, founding PCIM director and founder of FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting); and Patricia Rodriguez, associate professor and chair of the Department of Politics at Ithaca College.