Jessica Contrera, The Washington Post
In three unforgettable stories for The Washington Post, marked by deep empathy and dogged investigative skills, Jessica Contrera unmasks the tragedies endured by victims of child sex trafficking across the United States—from Ohio to Nevada to the conspiracy fringes of the web. Not only did Contrera earn the trust and honor the testimonies of three teenage girls traumatized by sexual abuse, but she also sifted through hundreds of pages of legal documents and even uncovered never-before-seen footage of a victim’s interrogation by police officers. Her reporting illustrates how systems of law meant to protect some of the nation’s most vulnerable children can harm them instead.

Leah Sottile, High Country News
“James Fuller Plymell III was a son of the Willamette Valley, the wide green land between the Oregon Coast Range and the Cascade Mountains, home to Oregon’s prized hazelnuts and luscious pinot noir grapes,” Leah Sottile writes in her High Country News feature, “Did James Plymell Need to Die?” He was also a man who lost his life at the hands of police. From this single fact, Sottile reached far beyond the local media’s limited coverage and patiently worked to piece together a much more complex—and impressively structured—narrative of Plymell’s death. She found sources to speak with from Plymell’s own cell phone, visited Albany to meet his family and friends, and fearlessly pushed for an audio interview of the first officer on scene to be released. Sottile’s investigation humanizes Plymell, who struggled with mental illness and addiction for decades, and reveals the deadly consequences of criminalizing homelessness.

Andrew Quilty, Harper’s Magazine
Andrew Quilty has lived in Kabul for years. In “When the Raids Came,” his letter from Sher Toghi for Harper’s Magazine, he wields his extensive journalistic experience in Afghanistan to document how 20 years of war led to the frenzied withdrawal of U.S. forces in August 2021. Quilty follows Abdul Jalil Anees, an Afghan farmer from the central province of Wardak, whose family gradually shifts support to the Taliban—a transformation that parallels the war-ridden country’s larger experience. In 2019, a CIA-backed night raid killed four members of his family. The attack marked the beginning of a gradual shift in Abdul’s community, culminating in one of his surviving sons’ decision to join the Taliban. “I wanted [my children] to prioritize their studies,” he told Quilty. “But after the night raid, to be honest, we didn’t have any reason to stop him.” Quilty’s remarkable report is the result of tenacity and patience.

Margie Mason and Robin McDowell, The Associated Press
Margie Mason and Robin McDowell, veteran investigative reporters for The Associated Press, harness decades of journalistic experience in Southeast Asia to craft a rich, damning account of the palm-oil industry. In their series “Fruits of Labor,” which took more than two years to complete, Mason and McDowell expose the sexual abuse, forced labor, and toxic agrochemical exposure endured by the workers—men, women, and children—who together produce roughly 85 percent of the world’s supply of palm oil. Mason and McDowell interviewed more than 130 current and former laborers from eight different countries to capture the dark underside of one of our most ubiquitous commodities–and a $65-billion-a-year industry. More than three dozen corporations are implicated in these human-right violations; not a single one has questioned the findings of the investigative series. 

Tony Plohetiski, Austin-American Statesman
Tony Plohetski’s Austin-American Statesman investigation into one of Texas’s most well-known tough-on-crime counties represents an indispensable contribution to the growing body of reporting on police brutality. Plohetski demonstrated that the sheriff’s office of  Williamson County often engaged in high-speed chases and used excessive force, for the sake of Live PD, a reality TV show that follows police officers on patrol in real time. Unmasking this was anything but easy. Plohetski had to navigate a sheriff’s office intent on discrediting him, a prolonged legal battle, and the use of confidential sources. His perseverance contributed to the sheriff’s indictment and his defeat at the polls late last year. 

Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing, and Christo Buschek, BuzzFeedNews
Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing, and Christo Buschek—a journalist, an architect, and a programmer, respectively—teamed up for BuzzFeed News’s five-part interdisciplinary series “Built to Last.” By analyzing a dataset of more than 50,000 locations, the group identified 268 compounds in northwest China where Muslim minorities, including hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, are detained. Historically, the Chinese government’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang internment camps have been difficult to track and disclose, given Beijing’s secrecy and tight control over state affairs. (Rajagopalan herself was expelled from the country in 2018, after six years of reporting there.) “Built to Last” provides definitive and undeniable precision where readers have typically encountered mystery.

Tom Warren and Katie J. M. Baker, BuzzFeed News
Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post
Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica

Hannah Dreier, ProPublica
Christine Kenneally, BuzzFeed News
Connor Sheets, Alabama Media Group

John Woodrow Cox, The Washington Post
Kristen Gelineau, Todd Pitman, and Esther Htusan, The Associated Press
Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch, Miami Herald

Hannah Dreier, The Associated Press
David Fahrenthold, The Washington Post
Selam Gebrekidan, Stephen Grey, and Amina Ismail, Reuters

Martha Mendoza, Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, and Esther Htusan, The Associated Press
Ian Urbina, The New York Times
James Verini, The Atavist Magazine

Matthieu Aikins, Matter
Alex Campbell, BuzzFeed
Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker

Matthieu Aikins, Rolling Stone
Dave Philipps, Colorado Springs Gazette
Megan Twohey, Reuters

Alberto Arce, The Associated Press
David Barboza, The New York Times
Michael M. Phillips, The Wall Street Journal

Rukmini Callimachi, The Associated Press
Kathy Dobie, Harper’s Magazine
A.M Sheehan and Matt Hongoltz-Hetling, Advertiser Democrat

Emily Bazelon, Slate
John Bowe, Mother Jones
Jonathan M. Katz, The Associated Press

Ken Bensinger, Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times
Sheri Fink, ProPublica
Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times

Barry Bearak and Ceclia Dugger, The New York Times
Richard Behar, Fast Company
Peter Godwin, Vanity Fair

Kelly Kennedy, Army Times
Joshua Kors, The Nation
Tom Vanden Brook, Peter Eisler, and Blake Morrison, USA Today

Rukmini Callimachi, The Associated Press
Jesse Hamilton, The Hartford Courant
William Langewiesche, Vanity Fair
Charles Forelle, James Bandler, Mark Maremont, and Steve Stecklow, The Wall Street Journal

Kurt Eichenwald, The New York Times
James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, The New York Times
Chris Rose, The Times-Picayune
Cam Simpson, Chicago Tribune

David Grann, The New Yorker
Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times
Maximillian Potter, 5280 Magazine
Elizabeth Rubin, The New York Times Magazine

Dan Christensen, Miami Daily Business Revie
Tom Junod, Esquire
John Lantigua, The Palm Beach Post
George Packer, The New Yorker