The Marshall Project has won a 2023 Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Innovation in the small digital organization category for “Testify,” an investigative series on Ohio’s Cuyahoga County criminal court system. These awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association recognize strong local and national news stories that “uphold the RTDNA Code of Ethics, demonstrate technical expertise and exemplify the importance and impact of journalism as a service to the community.”
“Testify” was produced by The Marshall Project in partnership with WOVU radio and Cleveland Documenters, using tens of thousands of court records to examine the lopsided outcomes in Cuyahoga County’s court system — including why 75% of people convicted in Cuyahoga County are Black. The project also asked members of the community to share their experiences and questions about the system.
“We are delighted to be honored with this Edward R. Murrow award this year — it’s a testament to our remarkable team and to the power of working with the local community to demand transparency and accountability from the historically opaque justice system,” said Geraldine Sealey, managing editor of The Marshall Project.
The series’ lead reporters, Rachel Dissell and Ilica Mahajan, emphasized the community’s needs for transparency and answers. “Justice system officials won’t let regular Clevelanders have this data, so we went and got it,” said Dissell and Mahajan. “Then we worked directly with Cleveland residents to make sure we answered their questions and told stories that reflected their experiences. And we’re going to keep doing it.”
Illustrator John G underscored his contribution to making the topic accessible. “The topic is crucial and one people don’t really know enough about. Overlay that with the reality of how elections work, and how that influences how the court works. It’s challenging for anyone to understand,” the illustrator said.
The Marshall Project has earned several Murrow Awards for its investigative reporting and features. In 2018, it received the award for Overall Excellence for a small digital newsroom. In 2019, The Marshall Project’s immersive multimedia story “Banished,” which examined the lives of people with sex offense convictions living under restrictive housing regulations in Miami-Dade County, Florida, won the Murrow Award for Excellence in Video.
In 2020, The Marshall Project received three national Murrow Awards: “We Are Witnesses: Becoming an American” won the award for Feature Reporting, “Detained,” by Emily Kassie, won for News Documentary,” and another one for Overall Excellence for a small digital newsroom.
Presented by the Radio Television Digital News Association since 1971, the Edward R. Murrow Awards honor outstanding achievements in broadcast and digital journalism. This year, more than 100 outlets received awards for their digital, radio, and television journalism.