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Newsday wins award for Long Island Divided series on housing discrimination

Newsday's investigative series Long Island Divided was awarded

Newsday's investigative series Long Island Divided was awarded the Punch Sulzberger Award for Innovative Storytelling. Credit: Newsday

Newsday's Long Island Divided investigation into discriminatory housing practices by real estate brokers has won the News Leaders Association's award for innovative storytelling.

The newspaper and its staff were awarded the association's Punch Sulzberger Award for Innovative Storytelling in  the large division. The award, which comes with a $1,250 prize, recognizes excellence and innovation in the use of digital storytelling. 

As part of a three-year investigation, Newsday sent testers carrying hidden cameras and microphones to meet with real estate agents.

The findings included evidence suggesting potential homebuyers were steered to neighborhoods based on race and some agents treated white and minority buyers differently, such as requiring mortgage preapproval from black customers but not white ones.

“The Long Island Divided project was an extraordinary team effort on a crucial story for Long Island. We aimed to reveal its depth and scope in our storytelling across all of our media platforms, particularly in the powerful, broad and deep digital presentation,” said Deborah Henley, editor of Newsday. 

Judges highlighted the package's video content, expandable information boxes that included details of the investigation, and digital mapping tools that revealed troubling patterns discovered by the undercover testers.

"The story was placed outside the paywall to make it accessible to a broader community, and a signal and prompt for people to support local journalism," the judges wrote. "All of these things tied together signify a thoughtful approach to digital journalism, with the audience at the center."

The probe sparked investigations by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General Letitia James, the State Legislature and Nassau and Suffolk lawmakers. 

The National Association of Realtors responded by announcing sweeping changes in its approach to housing discrimination, including plans to review state real estate licensing laws, create a voluntary fair-housing testing program for brokerages and offer new anti-bias training. Meanwhile, local real estate industry groups suspended their fair housing training programs and announced plans to offer new anti-bias instruction.

The News Leaders Association, based at the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, received 455 contest entries, which were pared down to 48 finalists. 

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