Newsday's Long Island Divided's findings included evidence suggesting some real...

Newsday's Long Island Divided's findings included evidence suggesting some real estate agents treated white and minority buyers differently. Credit: Newsday

Newsday has won a Peabody Award for its Long Island Divided series, which explored discrimination in home buying on Long Island.

The award, announced Wednesday, is one of the most significant honors that can be bestowed in media.

"Newsday’s three-year-long investigation of housing discrimination and its impact on Long Island’s suburban towns and communities is local investigative journalism at its best. ... Through compelling documentary, data journalism, and hidden cameras, Long Island Divided is comprehensive and exhaustively detailed, showing the personal toll and collective impact on individuals and families subjected to housing discrimination," organizers said.

Newsday sent testers carrying hidden cameras and microphones to meet with real estate agents and record the meetings. The findings included evidence suggesting potential homebuyers were steered to neighborhoods based on race and that some agents treated white and minority buyers differently, such as requiring mortgage preapproval from black customers but not white ones.

The series, three years in the making, led state and local officials to call for investigations and propose a number of reforms.

“The Peabody Awards honor ‘a unique perspective of what constitutes a story that matters,’” said Deborah Henley, editor of Newsday. “Long Island Divided was a crucial project on a story that matters for us all. The story, told across all our platforms, particularly through powerful video and digital presentations, is a testament to the impact and importance of strong local journalism.” 

In November, State Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport) and Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Babylon) introduced a bill that would give the state greater authority to suspend or revoke a real estate agent’s license.

recommended readingLI Divided: Read the investigation and watch the documentary

The National Association of Realtors has announced sweeping changes in its approach to housing discrimination in response, and Long Island and state real estate industry groups said last year that they had suspended their fair housing training programs and would seek out independent groups to offer new anti-bias instruction.

"By recognizing specific programming, the Peabody Awards spotlight programs that demonstrate how media can defend the public interest, encourage empathy with others, and teach us to expand our understanding of the world around us," the group's website said.

In February, Long Island Divided won another major award — the George Polk Award — in the Metropolitan Reporting category. It has garnered several other journalism honors as well.

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