Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations,” a 2014 essay in the Atlantic, has been named the “Top Work of Journalism of the Decade” by a panel of judges convened by NYU's Carter Journalism Institute.

Image: Carter Journalism Logo

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations,” a 2014 essay in the Atlantic that crafted accounts from the century and a half after the end of slavery into a powerful argument that African Americans are owed compensation for their treatment in the United States, has been named the “Top Work of Journalism of the Decade” by a panel of judges convened by New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (No. 2), Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement (No. 3), Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers (No. 4), and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (No. 5) round out the first five selections of the “Top 10 Works of Journalism of the Decade.”

“The extraordinary work we are honoring—as the best not just of one year and not just in one kind of journalism—reflect important changes in journalism and in society in the past 10 years, says Mitchell Stephens, a professor at the Carter Journalism Institute who oversaw the selection process. “Seven of the first eight were reported by women. Half of these works speak to questions of racial justice.”

Photo: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates (photo credit: Gabriella Demczuk)

The honor recognizes nonfiction works on current events that appeared from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2019. The Top 10 were drawn from more than 120 nominations, which were announced last month.

The winners will be celebrated at a virtual event tonight, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. For more information and to register, please visit the event's website.

The complete list of “Top 10 Works of Journalism of the Decade,” which includes comments from the judges, is as follows:

  1. Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” the Atlantic. “Beautifully written, meticulously reported, highly persuasive …” “The most powerful essay of its time.” “Ground breaking.” “It influenced the public conversation so much that it became a necessary topic in the presidential debate.” 
  2. Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. “It's a masterwork by one of our greatest writers and most diligent reporters.  Exquisitely written as it is researched, embracing breadth and detail alike, essential reading to understand America.” “A masterpiece of narrative nonfiction.” 
  3. Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement. Based on their reporting for the New York Times. “A chronicle of the #MeToo era.” “A pitch-perfect primer on how to take a hot-button-chasing by-the-minutes breaking story and investigate it with the best and most honorable journalistic practices.” “This is one of the defining issues of our times, one whose impact will be felt for a long time.” 
  4. Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers. “Unbelievably well written and well reported portrait of a slum in Mumbai.” “Vividly reports on the life of this slum's inhabitants.” 
  5.  Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. “The book demonstrates the ways in which the War on Drugs, and its resulting incarceration policies and processes, operate against people of color in the same way as Jim Crow. Powerful on its own terms and crucial as an engine toward transforming the criminality of our ‘justice’ system.” 
  6. Julie K. Brown, “How a Future Trump Cabinet Member Gave a Serial Sex Abuser the Deal of a Lifetime,” the Miami Herald. “Investigative journalist for the Miami Herald, examines a secret plea deal that helped Jeffrey Epstein evade federal charges related to sexual abuse.” “Brown essentially picked up a cold case; without her reporting, Epstein's crimes and prosecutors' dereliction would not be known.” “Great investigative reporting.” “Documenting the abuses of Jeffrey Epstein when virtually everyone else had dropped the story.” “What makes this particularly compelling for me is that Brown did the reporting amid the economic collapse of a great regional paper.” “A remarkable effort to empower victims.”
  7. Sheri Fink, Five Days At Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital“In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This is narrative medical journalism at its finest: compelling, compassionate, and unsettling.” 
  8. Nikole Hannah-Jones , Matthew Desmond, Jeneen Interlandi, Kevin M. Kruse, Jamelle Bouie, Linda Villarosa, Wesley Morris, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Bryan Stevenson, Trymaine Lee, Djeneba Aduayom, Nikita Stewart, Mary Elliott, Jazmine Hughes, The 1619 ProjectNew York Times Magazine. “Explores the beginning of American slavery and reframes the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” “A definitive work of opinion journalism examining the lingering role of slavery in American society.” 
  9. David A. Fahrenthold, Series of articles demonstrating that most of candidate Donald Trump's claimed charitable giving was bogus, the Washington Post. “By contacting hundreds of charities—interactions recorded on what became a well-known legal pad—Fahrenthold proved that Trump had never given what he claimed to have given or much at all, despite, in one instance, having sat on the stage as if he had.” 
  10. Staff of the Washington PostPolice shootings database 2015 to present. “The definitive journalistic exploration and documentation of fatal police shootings in America. In a decade defined, in part, by the emergence of Black Lives Matter, this Washington Post project set a new standard for real-time, data journalism and was a vital resource during a still-raging national debate.” “In the wake of Ferguson, newsrooms across the country took up admirable data reporting efforts to fill the longstanding gaps in existing federal data on police use of force. This project stands out both in its comprehensiveness and sustained dedication.”

The winners were chosen by a panel of 14 external judges drawn from many different forms of journalism and representing multiple approaches to reporting as well as by Carter Journalism Institute faculty.

All of the decade’s nominees are listed on the Carter Journalism Institute web site. These nominees were proposed by a panel of judges that included Pulitzer Prize winners Leon Dash and David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, as well as author Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, former “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather, faculty at NYU’s Carter Journalism Institute, and selected Institute students and alumni.

In 2000, NYU’s journalism program selected the “Top 100 Works of Journalism of the 20th Century.” Heading that list were John Hersey’s Hiroshima, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s Watergate investigations. In 2010, it chose the “Top 10 Works of Journalism of the Decade,” covering the first 10 years of the 21st century.

For more on the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, please visit its website

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