ONA announces 137 finalists in the 2021 Online Journalism Awards

Celebrating honors for excellence in newsletters, collaboration and partnerships, pandemic coverage, audio digital storytelling and 17 more categories.

By on September 8, 2021

The Online News Association (ONA) is honored to share the finalists for the 2021 Online Journalism Awards (OJAs). Winners will be announced on Oct. 15.

In 2021, the Online Journalism Awards feature 45 prizes across 21 categories. ONA’s Awards and Recognition Committee introduced two new categories and additional changes to reimagine or update existing ones based on community feedback and changes in the industry:

  • Topical Reporting: Pandemic Coverage: This new award honors a single story or a portfolio that focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic and addresses aspects such as science, public health, policy, lifestyle and economic impact.
  • Excellence in Social Justice Reporting: This new award honors journalism that highlights systemic inequities encountered by historically marginalized communities, including coverage of social movements, racial justice, migration, access to education, voting rights and more.
  • Student Journalism Award: This award reimagines recognition for student work with two subcategories: Student Portfolio and Student Team Portfolio.
  • Breaking News: This award has been streamlined with two subcategories for newsroom size: Small/Medium and Large. It previously included separate subcategories for Small, Medium and Large newsrooms.

A diverse group of 114 digital media professionals representing 20 countries teamed up to screen 1,179 entries—the largest pool of entries the competition has seen since it was established in 1999. More than 60 judges deliberated to determine finalists and winners.

Five honors come with a total of $40,000 in prize money, thanks to generous support from SmartNews, McKinsey Publishing, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications. These awards recognize general excellence, engaged journalism, immersive storytelling, public service and climate change reporting.

The 2021 Online Journalism Awards finalists:

Breaking News, Large Newsroom

  • Capitol Riots, The Washington Post
  • Explosion in Beirut, The Washington Post
  • The Siege on the U.S. Capitol, The New York Times

Breaking News, Small/Medium Newsroom

  • Adam Toledo Shooting, Block Club Chicago
  • Northern California’s Wildfire Siege, San Francisco Chronicle
  • The Historic Texas Freeze, KUT

Digital Video Storytelling, Long Form

  • Blood on Black Wall Street: The Legacy of the Tulsa Massacre, NBC News Digital
  • Manhunt, Manitoba, The Globe and Mail
  • The Story Of, VICE Media Group

Digital Video Storytelling, Medium Form

  • Prison Officials in Kansas Ignored the Pandemic. Then People Started Dying., The Intercept
  • Siona: Amazon’s Defenders Under Threat, Pulitzer Center, The New Yorker

Digital Video Storytelling, Series

  • China’s Rebel City: The Hong Kong Protests, South China Morning Post
  • Covid Confessions, Fischr Media
  • Stressed Election, The New York Times

Digital Video Storytelling, Short Form

  • Field Testing, Nieman Storyboard
  • The Last Call, FRONTLINE, The New Yorker

Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling, Large Newsroom

  • A Cicada’s Life, The Washington Post
  • Gone, The Globe and Mail
  • Lac-Mégantic – La dernière nuit, CBC/Radio-Canada
  • POLITICO’s 2020 Election Experience, POLITICO

Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling, Medium Newsroom

  • Blue to Red in 30 Miles, LehighValleyLive.com
  • George Floyd: a leader in his community, Univision News Digital
  • Inside Xinjiang’s Prison State, The New Yorker

Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling, Small Newsroom

  • Birth in the 21st Century, Barret Cooperativa, Lab RTVE, À Punt Mèdia
  • No Epicentro (At the epicenter), Agência Lupa
  • Shield of Europe – The Human Cost of Migration Policy, Jelle Krings

Excellence in Audio Digital Storytelling, Limited Series

  • Canary: The Washington Post Investigates, The Washington Post
  • I’m Not A Monster, FRONTLINE, BBC Sounds, BBC Panorama
  • The Doodler, San Francisco Chronicle, Ugly Duckling Films, Neon Hum Media

Excellence in Audio Digital Storytelling, Ongoing Series

  • Foundering: The WeWork Story, Bloomberg
  • Overheard: Searching for Himalaya’s Ghost Cats, National Geographic
  • The Take, Al Jazeera English Online, Al Jazeera Digital

Excellence in Audio Digital Storytelling, Use of Audio Storytelling

  • Four Hours of Insurrection, The Washington Post
  • The Last Surviving Former ‘Sex Slaves’ of Wartime Philippines, NPR

Excellence in Collaboration and Partnerships

  • 101 East – The Plunder of West Papua, Al Jazeera English
  • Mauled: When Police Dogs Are Weapons, The Marshall Project, AL.com, IndyStar, Invisible Institute and The Baton Rouge Advocate
  • The Failures Before the Fires, Better Government Association
  • The FinCEN Files, BuzzFeed News, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 media partners

Excellence in Immersive Storytelling

  • Covid-19 Particle and Airflow Simulations, The New York Times
  • Inside Xinjiang’s Prison State, The New Yorker

Excellence in Newsletters, Portfolio

  • THE CITY newsletters: The Daily Scoop, The Rent Update, The Worker Update, The Civic Newsroom, THE CITY
  • What Day Is It?, The Washington Post
  • WSJ’s Six-Week Money Challenge, The Wall Street Journal

Excellence in Newsletters, Single Newsletter

  • Les Bonnes Infos (The Good News), Bulletin
  • The Civic Newsroom newsletter: News for Voters Choosing New York’s Next Leaders, THE CITY
  • The Savvy Principal, Education Week
  • WBUR: Massachusetts Election Prep, WBUR

Excellence in Social Justice Reporting, Portfolio

  • George Floyd’s America, The Washington Post
  • “Quiero una familia”: Con qué sueñan los chicos que hace más tiempo esperan ser adoptados, LA NACION, Fundación La Nación
  • Policing and Racial Injustice in the United States, The New York Times
  • Reimagine Safety, The Washington Post

Excellence in Social Justice Reporting, Single Story

  • Flimsy plastic knives, a single microwave, and empty popcorn bags: How 50 inmates inside a Michigan prison prepared a feast to celebrate the life of George Floyd, The Counter
  • Foster Care Agencies Take Millions of Dollars Owed to Kids. Most Children Have No Idea., The Marshall Project, NPR
  • Sound of Judgment, News & Observer, ProPublica
  • The Grandmother Lake: Conservation and Colonialism in Guatemala, IWMF

Explanatory Reporting, Large Newsroom

  • Indifferent Justice, The Washington Post
  • Last Words, The Boston Globe
  • Rebuilding Minneapolis, Star Tribune
  • The Chicano Moratorium: 50 Years Later, Los Angeles Times

Explanatory Reporting, Medium Newsroom

  • Delta on the Edge, San Francisco Chronicle
  • N.J. was primed for a pandemic (and it could happen again), NJ Advance Media
  • Paradise Lost: Hawaii’s Disappearing Beaches, Honolulu Star-Advertiser and ProPublica
  • Too Young to Die, Montgomery Advertiser

Explanatory Reporting, Small Newsroom

  • Hawaii Grown, Honolulu Civil Beat
  • Hidden Hardship: Guest Farmworkers with visas died of COVID-19 in obscurity while Trump planned wage freezes, Center for Public Integrity
  • Sourced from Inside, The Counter

Feature, Large Newsroom

  • One Block, One World, The Boston Globe
  • Stopping the Next One, BBC Future, BBC Reel, Pulitzer Center
  • The Cursed Platoon, The Washington Post
  • What the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Destroyed, The New York Times

Feature, Medium Newsroom

  • Enough: George Floyd’s biracial cousin finds her place in the fight for racial justice, KING 5
  • Mountain Hunters: How the elusive snow leopard is adapted to one of Earth’s most extreme environments, National Geographic
  • The CIA’s Afghan Death Squads, The Intercept
  • The Evidence Burns Away, San Francisco Chronicle
  • Trapped in Mexico: The trauma of seeking asylum in the U.S. during the Trump era, Univision News Digital

Feature, Small Newsroom

  • Preserving the Erased Decade of the Chinese Feminist Movement, 歪脑 | WHYNOT by Radio Free Asia
  • The 7 Climate Tipping Points that Could Change the World Forever, Grist
  • Year of Loss, Block Club Chicago

Gather Award in Engaged Journalism, Micro/Small Newsroom

  • El Tímpano’s Community-Powered Coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic, El Tímpano
  • Reaching and Engaging Incarcerated Audiences, The Marshall Project

Gather Award in Engaged Journalism, Overall Excellence

  • Poverty Reporting Beyond the Statistics, The New York Times
  • State of Denial: Inside Arizona’s Division of Developmental Disabilities, Arizona Daily Star, ProPublica
  • Unheard, Anchorage Daily News, ProPublica

General Excellence in Online Journalism, Large Newsroom

  • The Boston Globe
  • The New York Times
  • The Washington Post

General Excellence in Online Journalism, Medium Newsroom

  • ProPublica
  • Univision News Digital
  • WBUR

General Excellence in Online Journalism, Small Newsroom

  • Agência Pública
  • CalMatters
  • Grist
  • The Marshall Project

General Excellence in Online Journalism, Micro Newsroom

  • Idaho Education News
  • InfoAmazonia
  • PublicSource

Knight Award for Public Service

  • 101 East – The Plunder of West Papua | Al Jazeera English
  • Missing Them, a COVID-19 Memorial and Accountability Journalism Project, THE CITY
  • Tracking Covid-19 in American Nursing Homes, The New York Times

Online Commentary

  • Catherine Rampell on Immigration, The Washington Post
  • Demystifying the People Trying to Overthrow the U.S. Election, The New York Times
  • Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Washington Post
  • Weird Money, The Verge

Sports, Large Newsroom

  • Boston Globe Sports, The Boston Globe
  • Sports and the Pandemic, The New York Times

Sports, Small/Medium Newsroom

  • The Hero We Deserve, NJ Advance Media
  • The Man in Chains Whom Soccer Helped to Survive, MARCA

Student Journalism Award, Student Portfolio

  • Emma Healy Student Journalism Portfolio, The Heights at Boston College
  • Hope at the End of the Line, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
  • Revive: Humans in Nature, UBC School of Journalism, Writing, & Media

Student Journalism Award, Student Team Portfolio

  • Essential and Exposed, University of Maryland
  • “Kids Imprisoned” by Carnegie-Knight News21, Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • The 61% Project, Newhouse School at Syracuse University

The Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Large Newsroom

  • Bias Behind Bars, The Globe and Mail
  • Mauled: When Police Dogs Are Weapons, The Marshall Project, AL.com, IndyStar, Invisible Institute, The Baton Rouge Advocate
  • Power Gap, The Globe and Mail

The Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Medium Newsroom

  • Lights. Camera. Violence., Austin American-Statesman, KVUE-TV
  • Targeted, Tampa Bay Times
  • What Parler Saw During the Attack on the Capitol, ProPublica

The Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Small Newsroom

  • At Risk, In the Dark | Spotlight PA
  • The Hidden Tab, Spotlight PA, The Caucus

Topical Reporting: Climate Change

  • How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering, The New York Times
  • The 7 Climate Tipping Points that Could Change the World Forever, Grist

Topical Reporting: Pandemic Coverage, Portfolio

  • COVID-19, The Washington Post
  • Explaining the Coronavirus, The New York Times
  • The Boston Globe’s coverage of nursing home outbreaks, The Boston Globe
  • Tracking and visualizing the coronavirus, USA TODAY

Topical Reporting: Pandemic Coverage, Single Story

  • American Virus: How US failed to meet the challenge of COVID-19, USA TODAY
  • A vaccine, or a spike in deaths: How America can build herd immunity to the coronavirus, The Washington Post
  • Scars of the Pandemic, Univision News Digital
  • The Virus at Sea, FRONTLINE

University of Florida Award in Investigative Data Journalism, Large Newsroom

  • Power Gap, The Globe and Mail
  • The FinCEN Files, BuzzFeed News, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 media partners
  • Underfunded and Under Threat, KHN, AP

University of Florida Award in Investigative Data Journalism, Small/Medium Newsroom

  • La promesa rota: el colapso de la seguridad social en Venezuela, Prodavinci
  • The NYPD Files, ProPublica
  • Waves of Abandonment The Permian Basin is ground zero for a billion-dollar surge of zombie oil wells., Grist, Texas Observer

Note: Judges were recused from reviewing entries from their own organizations. For 2021, no finalists and winners were selected for the Award for Technical Innovation in the Service of Digital Journalism.

The judges included:

  • Adriana Lacy, Freelance
  • Adrienne Shih, Audience Editor, Los Angeles Times
  • Aimee Rinehart, Deputy Director, First Draft News
  • Adam Griffiths, Chief Product Officer, Foreign Policy
  • Anjanette Delgado, Senior News Director, Detroit Free Press
  • Bernadette Tuazon, Director of Photography, CNN Digital
  • Benét Wilson, Senior Credit Cards Editor, Points Guy
  • Brett Rosner, Senior Editor, WSB-TV
  • Brian Ries, Curation Editor, Twitter
  • Claire Caulfield, Reporter, Honolulu Civil Beat
  • Christine Loureiro, Digital Editor, Toronto Star
  • Christine Ricciardi, Reporter, Denver Post
  • David Smydra, Curation Director, Twitter, and ONA Board Vice President
  • Eric Lubbers, Chief Technology Officer/Co-Founder, The Colorado Sun
  • Elodie Mailliet Storm, CEO, Catchlight.io
  • Eshani Mathur, Social Editor, Bloomberg Quint
  • Fahmida Rashid, Executive Editor, Venture Beat
  • Farrah Fazal, Correspondent, CBS News
  • Hari Sreenivasan, Anchor/Senior Correspondent, PBS NewsHour
  • Ilona Vinogradova, Country Director, BBC News
  • Jason Fox, Chief Digital Officer, Consumer Reports
  • Jason Tuohey, Managing Editor, Digital, Boston Globe
  • Jen Wilson, Head of Curation Standards, Twitter
  • Jeremy Gilbert, Knight Chair in Digital Media Strategy, Northwestern University
  • Jiazhen Zhang, Video Director, SB Nation
  • Jo Kelly, News Partnerships, Twitter
  • Jonathan Kealing, Chief Network Officer, Institute for Nonprofit News
  • Jonathan Paterson, Content Director, Editor, Consultant, Freelance
  • Judy Siegel, Director of Product Design & UX research, Dow Jones
  • Laura Amico, Senior Editor, Harvard Business Review
  • Laura Wainman, Digital Executive Editor, WUSA
  • Lisa Tozzi, Contributing Editor, Fuller Project
  • Louise Storey, Chief Product Officer, The Wall Street Journal
  • Lyng-Hou Ramirez, Content & Operations Director, Grupo de Diarios América
  • Kayla Epstein, Political Reporter, Business Insider
  • Kim Fox, Product Lead, CalMatters
  • Kirsten Dewar, Head of News, Dataminr
  • Khushbu Shah, Editor in Chief, Fuller Project
  • Martin Kotynek, Editor-in-Chief, Der Standard
  • Matt Adams, Audience Strategist, NPR
  • Meg Ely, Head of Audience, Bloomberg
  • Michael Bolden, Director of Culture + Operations, San Francisco Chronicle
  • Millie Tran, VP of Growth, Condé Nast
  • Momi Peralta Ramos, Data Journalism and Multimedia Development Manager, La Nación
  • Nicola Keaney, Trends Editor, Twitter
  • Nikhil Swaminathan, Executive Editor, Grist.org
  • Paul Olund, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft
  • Priyanka Vora, Head of Audience, Quartz
  • Reuben Stern, Director, New York Program, Missouri School of Journalism
  • Robert Hernandez, Professor, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
  • Rodney Gibbs, Senior Director, Strategy and Innovation, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and ONA Board Treasurer
  • Rubina Fillion, Head of Audience, New York Times Opinion, and ONA Board member
  • Saeed Ahmed, Director of Digital, NPR
  • Sandra Gatthman, Writer and Host, Al Jazeera
  • Sara Goo, Executive Editor, Axios
  • Seymat Thomas, Editorial Projects and Development Manager, Euronews
  • Shazna Nessa, Global Head of Visual, The Wall Street Journal, and ONA Board President
  • Tara Kelly, Data Editor, European Journalism Centre
  • Tessa Kaday, Head of Product, News UK
  • Zhaoyin Feng, Correspondent, BBC News