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AP’s McDowell, Mason win UW-Madison Anthony Shadid award


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two investigative reporters at The Associated Press won the 2021 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics for a series on palm oil labor abuses, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Journalism Ethics announced Tuesday.

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This July 21, 2019, photo shows AP investigative reporters Robin McDowell, left, and Margie Mason in Pontianak, Indonesia. (AP Photo/Robin McDowell)

The center said Margie Mason and Robin McDowell went to extraordinary lengths to interview more than 130 current and former palm oil workers in Indonesia and Malaysia and captured stories of vulnerable people producing one of the most widespread commodities on the planet. Mason and McDowell chronicled instances of rape, trafficking, slavery, child labor and routine exposure to toxic agrochemicals. Using supply chain tracking, they also traced the abuses back to some of the biggest names in food and cosmetics and to banks funding the industry.

“These journalists brought to light the rampant injustices undergirding the $65 billion palm oil industry,” said Lucas Graves, judging chair and professor of journalism and mass communication. ”Their investigation is a masterclass in ethics and integrity, and shows how conscientious reporting can make a tremendous difference in the world.”

The winners will be presented with the award in an online ceremony in May. The award is named for a graduate of the university and former Associated Press reporter and editor who died in 2012 while reporting in Syria for The New York Times.

“For so many of us, Anthony Shadid was a role model of journalistic ambition and integrity. So it is especially meaningful that this impactful work by Margie, Robin and their AP colleagues be recognized with this year’s award in his name,” said Brian Carovillano, vice president and managing editor of the AP.

Graves said this year’s submissions were “really outstanding.”

“But the winning story stood out for its global scope and the breadth of its impact,” he said.

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