Show Your Work: The 2021 Awards

Elizabeth Donald
8 min readJun 24, 2021

News organizations are doing incredibly valuable work, almost entirely unappreciated by the public that benefits from them.

It’s awards season, and as usual I am flabbergasted by the enormous array of investigative work done by news reporters and how little the public realizes they benefit from them. Time after time, when there is a catastrophic failure of the system, a corrupt public official, a corporation doing terrible things in the name of profit, it only ends when a reporter shines the light of day on it.

Here is a mere sampling of the award-winning journalism that has been honored this year, with a few other pieces tossed in because they captured my attention. As you read, try not to skim. Try, instead, to imagine what the world would look like if there were no journalists to uncover these things, and whether that’s really a world in which you want to live.

And then consider subscribing to something.

  • ProPublica conducted a major investigation into IRS records to reveal how billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay almost nothing in income taxes even though they made billions. The investigation was reprinted in major news outlets, including the New York Times and Washington Post, which Bezos owns but historically has not controlled in terms of content.
  • Three journalists from BuzzFeed News won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing a vast new infrastructure built by the Chinese government for the mass detention of Muslims, using satellite imagery, architectural expertise and interviews with two dozen former prisoners. Perhaps this will finally stop the misapprehension that BuzzFeed News is just the “which Smurf are you” quizzes — the goofy side of the site pays the bill for the serious in-depth journalism of the news side that y’all won’t pay for. Here, read all about BuzzFeed and its history of investigative work, including the major reveals from Russia in 2017.
  • Univision won a Sigma Delta Chi award for “Potato Slaves,” which uncovered how immigrant workers under an H-2A visa are abused, beaten, and forced into illegal servitude for fear of losing their visas — more than 36,000 people in modern-day slavery. The report resulted in a Justice Department investigation and criminal charges were brought.
Elizabeth Donald

Journalist for more than 25 years, freelance writer, editor, photographer, and fiction author. Subscribe at or visit