| Hillman Foundation

Charlie Pierce wins September Sidney for "Love and Death in New Orleans"

Photo credit: 

Andrew Whitacre, Creative Commons.

The Sidney Hillman Foundation is very proud to announce that veteran journalist and political commentator Charlie Pierce has won the September Sidney Award for “Love and Death in New Orleans, a Decade After Hurricane Katrina,” a haunting feature for Esquire

Read more about Pierce’s reporting process in The Backstory with Lindsay Beyerstein. 


Nos Faltan 43: New Inquiry Raises Doubts on Fate of Missing Mexican Students

Photo credit: 

Lindsay Beyerstein. 

An independent inquiry casts doubt on the Mexican government’s claim that the bodies of 43 missing normal school students, who disappeared from the state of Guerrero last fall, were incinerated in a rubbish pit in Cocula:

The Mexican government said that the students were killed and incinerated in a rubbish dump because they were mistaken for members of a drug gang. However, the 500-page report released on Sunday underlines the inconsistent and at times contradictory confessions of detainees, who have since claimed they were victims of torture, as well as questions the justifications given by the federal authorities for not acting to stop the attacks.

“This report provides an utterly damning indictment of Mexico’s handling of the worst human rights atrocity in recent memory,” said José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch.

The report is the result of a 6-month inquiry by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. Forensic experts told investigators that the official account was physically impossible. In their opinion, it would have been impossible to cremate so many bodies so completely with so little fuel. People who were supposedly involved in the disposal of the bodies told IAHRC investigators that they produced the official story under torture. Medical records seem to validate the torture allegations.

Sidney's Picks: Left in the Silica Dust

Photo credit: 

Silica dust, Creative Commons. 

The best of the week’s news…

Sidney's Picks: The Life and Death of Jamaica High

Photo credit: 

Andeecollard, Creative Commons.

Sidney's Picks: Strip Mall Courts, Nail Salon Sweeps, and More

Photo credit: 

Origami gavel, Glenn Sapaden, Creative Commons.

The Best of the Week’s News

Sidney's Picks: ISIS Invents Theology of Rape

Photo credit: 

Territory controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as of October, 2014. Karl-Ludwig Poggemann, VICE, Creative Commons. 

  • ISIS invents a theology of rape to justify sexually assaulting its prisoners. 
  • Rukmini Callimachi, the reporter who broke the news of ISIS’s theology of rape, explains how she reported the story. 
  • The federal government asserts that it’s unconstitutional to ban the homeless from sleeping outdoors.
  • Remembering Sandra Bland.
  • Bumble Bee Foods to pay a $6 million fine for accidentally cooking a worker to death. 

Chemical Warehouse Blasts Kill 50, Injure 500 in China

Photo credit: 

Photo of chemical storage facility, 2012, for illustration only. XericX, Creative Commons. 

Two huge explosions rocked the Chinese city of Tianjin on Wednesday night. At least 50 people are dead and more that 500 are injured in what appears to have been a devastating industrial accident:

The blasts, at a company licensed to store a witches’ brew of hazardous chemicals, left more than 500 people injured, 52 of them critically, and produced shock waves felt for miles. [NYT]

At least twelve of the dead are firefighters who responded to an earlier call from Ruihai International Logistics, a company that manages hazardous cargo.

BuzzFeed News Wins August Sidney for Exposing Rampant Abuse of Guest Workers

Photo credit: 

Jessica Garrison, BuzzFeed News.


BuzzFeed News wins the August Sidney Award for their sweeping investigation into abuses of guest workers under the H2 visa program. H2 visas exist to supply short-term labor for jobs that Americans supposedly won’t do. H2 jobs run the gamut from crayfish shelling in Louisiana to running carnival rides in Vermont. The program attracts workers from Indian, Mexico, Guatemala, and elsewhere. Unfortunately, as BuzzFeed News discovered, the structure of the program invites abuse. Workers are tied to a single employer. If they are unsatisfied with their pay or working conditions, they have no recourse. BuzzFeed found that thousands of H2 workers complained of abuses ranging from wage theft and false imprisonment to sexual abuse. 

The winning story is the work of investigative reporter Jason Bensinger, senior investigative editor Jessica Garrison, and data editor Jeremy Singer-Vine. 

Find out how BuzzFeed News got the winning story in The Backstory