From a pool of more than 400 publishers across the country, The Reader was selected for having the best solutions journalism project with “The Fight to Change Social Studies in Nebraska.”

The story focuses primarily on students, from middle school to high school, who objected to the way they were taught history. Published in March of 2021, the story led to a change in a textbook used in Omaha-area schools. The article also predated the controversy surrounding critical race theory, a decades-old educational framework to challenge how we teach history, especially history surrounding race, that became a hot-button issue months later.

Notable in the story was how few schools would grant interviews with officials or teachers. But Leah Cates, an intern at the time and now an on-staff writer and membership coordinator, found a way to still tell an incredibly well-researched, riveting narrative.

“The Fight to Change Social Studies in Nebraska.”

Judges also noted that the project was “deceptively simple” with a concept that could easily be replicated anywhere. Other entries in the category included:

  • Block Club Chicago for its free, bilingual COVID-19 hotline that connects people to testing, vaccines, rent relief and other critical information and resources.
  • Flint Beat for its three-part series exploring the potential impact of Flint’s policing plan to combat gun violence.
  • Wausau Pilot & Review and Madison365 for their collaborative project exploring how the criminal justice system solved issues that emerged in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

See more winners here. Read about all the finalists here.


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Chris Bowling

Chris has worked for The Reader since January 2020. As an investigative reporter and news editor he’s taken deep dives into topics such as police transparency, affordable housing and COVID-19. Originally...

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