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University of Wisconsin–Madison

2021 Shadid Award Winners

The Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison invites you to join us for our virtual award ceremony on Monday, May 10 honoring the 2021 recipients of the Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics

This year’s ceremony will feature acclaimed photojournalist and UW alum Lynsey Addario in conversation with journalist and honorary degree recipient David Maraniss.

Associated Press palm oil investigation wins 2021 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics

Investigative reporters Margie Mason and Robin McDowell of the Associated Press have won the 2021 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics from the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison for their investigative series on palm oil labor abuses

Mason and McDowell went to extraordinary lengths to interview more than 130 current and former palm oil workers in Indonesia and Malaysia, capturing the stories of the vulnerable people producing one of the most ubiquitous commodities on the planet. They chronicled instances of rape, trafficking, slavery, child labor and routine exposure to toxic agrochemicals. Drawing on their expertise in supply chain tracking, the reporters also traced these abuses back to some of the biggest names in food and cosmetics and to banks funding this booming industry. 

Named for UW–Madison alum and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Anthony Shadid, the award honors the outstanding ethical decision making of journalists 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 widely admired for his ethical approach to international reporting.

“We had a really outstanding group of submissions this year,” said Lucas Graves, judging chair and UW–Madison professor of journalism and mass communication. “But the winning story stood out for its global scope and the breadth of its impact. These journalists brought to light the rampant injustices undergirding the $65 billion palm oil industry. Their investigation is a masterclass in ethics and integrity, and shows how conscientious reporting can make a tremendous difference in the world.”

Kathleen Bartzen Culver, the James E. Burgess Chair in Journalism Ethics and director of the Center for Journalism Ethics, praised the four other finalists for the award: 

  • Agnes Chang, Adriana Gallardo, Loren Holmes, Kyle Hopkins, Marc Lester, Anne Raup, Nadia Sussman and Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica. In their series, “Unheard,” this team of journalists and photographers gathered the stories and created portraits of people affected by sexual assault in Alaska. According to the nomination, the project represents a “new kind of collaborative journalism rooted in trust and respect for 29 Alaskans who have stepped forward to share their stories.”
  • Amy Silverman, Beena Raghavendran, Maya Miller, Shoshana Gordon, Alex Devoid, Mamta Popat, Rebecca Monteleone (University of Toledo), Arizona Daily Star and ProPublica. State of Denial: Inside Arizona’s Division of Developmental Disabilities” investigated the failings of the State of Arizona’s services for residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their nomination describes how they included the voices of those with disabilities and published a “plain language” version of the story to make it accessible to those with disabilities. 
  • Mara Rose Williams, Eric Adler, Mike Hendricks, Cortlynn Stark and Shelly Yang, Kansas City Star. In “The Truth in Black and White: An Apology from the Kansas City Star,” Star reporters did a deep dive into the 140-year history of the paper, unveiling a legacy of disrespecting, disregarding and disenfranchising the city’s Black citizens. In making themselves the target of their own investigation, the reporters sought to mark a new beginning. Their nomination reads: “we hope, over time, to set things right, in ways both substantive and symbolic.” 
  • Amy Brittain, Reena Flores and Bishop Sand, Washington Post. In the seven-part podcast “Canary: The Washington Post Investigates,” reporters explore the decisions of two women to share their accounts of sexual assault and the consequences of those choices. According to the nomination, the team worked hard to take advantage of the intimacy of audio storytelling without sensationalizing the pain of their sources.

“Each of these finalists demonstrates a commitment to reporting and storytelling with courage and care,” Culver said. “It’s all too easy for many of us to look away from abuses inflicted on vulnerable people. These journalists illuminate injustices we must address and open our eyes to changes we must make.”

The winning team will be presented with the 2021 award in an online ceremony on May 10, 2021. 

For more information, contact Krista Eastman, Center for Journalism Ethics administrator, at

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.

Anthony Shadid works with students on a visit to the UW-Madison campus in 2010.

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.