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University of Wisconsin–Madison

2020 Shadid Award Winner & Finalists

Photo of stack of brochures about the Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics

“The Quiet Rooms” wins 2020 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics

The Quiet Rooms” by Jodi S. Cohen and Lakeidra Chavis of ProPublica and Jennifer Smith Richards of the Chicago Tribune has won the 2020 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics from the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Through careful work with vulnerable and traumatized children, Cohen and Richards documented the unlawful use of seclusion and restraint in Illinois public schools, prompting state officials to impose an emergency ban on seclusion within a day of publication. 

Named for UW–Madison alumnus and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Anthony Shadid, the award honors the difficult ethical decisions journalists make when telling high-impact stories. Shadid, who died in 2012 while reporting on Syria, was a member of the Center for Journalism Ethics advisory board and worked to encourage integrity in reporting.

Lucas Graves, associate professor in the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication and chair of the Shadid Award judging committee, said this year’s winner showed how conscientious reporting can make a real difference.

“Cohen, Chavis and Smith had to navigate a string of difficult decisions in exposing the pattern of abuse taking place across Illinois public schools, beginning with how to find out what children went through without traumatizing them all over again,” Graves said. “This series sparked widespread reforms while also earning praise from both school supervisors and the families of children involved — a testament to how careful, thorough and honest the reporters were as they worked on the story.”

Director of the Center for Journalism Ethics Kathleen Bartzen Culver praised the other three finalists for the award: 

2020 Finalists

“This year’s finalists all show us the critical role journalists play in protecting vulnerable people,” Culver said. “They made difficult choices throughout their reporting and have marked a path for others to follow in telling these kinds of stories. We’re proud to celebrate their courage and integrity.”

Recent winners of the award include the Miami Herald reporters who investigated how wealthy hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein covered up his crimes of molesting and sexually assaulting scores of underage girls and a group of Reuters reporters who exposed the industry that dissects, rents and sells the bodies of the recently deceased.

On Dec. 2, 2010, foreign correspondent for the New York Times Anthony Shadid (center) speaks to a group of journalism students in a Vilas Hall classroom at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Shadid is a UW-Madison alumnus and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

On Dec. 2, 2010, foreign correspondent for the New York Times Anthony Shadid (center) speaks to a group of journalism students in a Vilas Hall classroom at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Shadid was a UW-Madison alumnus and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

ABOUT ANTHONY SHADID: The award is named for Anthony Shadid, a UW-Madison journalism alumnus and foreign reporter for the Washington Post and The New York Times. Shadid won two Pulitzer Prizes for his courageous and informed journalism. He died in February 2012 while reporting in Syria.

Shadid had a special connection to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, its School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Center for Journalism Ethics. He sat on the Center’s advisory board and was a strong supporter of its aim to promote public interest journalism and to stimulate discussion about journalism ethics.

ABOUT THE CENTER: The mission of the Center for Journalism Ethics is to encourage the highest standards in journalism ethics worldwide. We foster vigorous debate about ethical practices in journalism and provide a resource for producers, consumers and students of journalism. We honor the best in ethical journalistic practice and will not hesitate to call attention to journalistic failings. The Center is housed in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.