Reveal’s investigation into the startling workplace safety problems inside Amazon’s warehouses was named a finalist today for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting. 

In naming Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting a finalist, the Pulitzer board cited the organization’s “industrious reporting on worker injuries and the human toll of robotics technology at Amazon warehouses across the United States.” 

The investigation, Behind the Smiles, found that the company’s obsession with speed has turned its warehouses into injury mills. Piercing through government and corporate secrecy, the reporting team led by Will Evans obtained internal injury reports for nearly two dozen of the company’s warehouses nationwide. Taken together, the rate of serious injuries for those facilities was more than double the national average for the warehousing industry: 9.6 serious injuries per 100 full-time workers in 2018, compared with an industry average that year of 4.

Using never-before-heard 911 calls, Amazon employee crowdsourcing and a whistleblower’s secret records, Evans showed how the safety problems play out inside the warehouses. When a maintenance worker was crushed to death by a forklift in Indiana, for example, officials in the state, which then was jockeying to be Amazon’s second headquarters, quietly made the company’s citations and fines go away. In late April, Evans reported, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the state workplace safety agency was not justified in dropping three of the four citations given.

Producer Rachel de Leon, engagement reporter Byard Duncan, data reporter Melissa Lewis, senior reporter Katharine Mieszkowski and Director of Audience Hannah Young also contributed reporting to the project. 

The investigation also was produced as a radio documentary for Reveal. In addition, Reveal partnered with The Atlantic and The Indianapolis Star to distribute the story on the web and in print and with PBS NewsHour for a two-part television series. Reveal’s Reporting Network shared data with local news organizations to investigate Amazon facilities in their communities.

“This was a true team effort, led by Will’s tenacious reporting, that took our journalists from Alaska to Indiana,” said Editor in Chief Matt Thompson. “The team ran down countless leads to understand a fuller picture of what’s been happening within Amazon fulfillment centers and the tragic consequences that could result. I’m deeply proud of their work, grateful to the Pulitzers for the recognition and hopeful that it will bring renewed attention to what workers in these facilities are facing.” 

Evans and Reveal continue to report on Amazon workplace practices as the coronavirus has dramatically increased the demand for online shopping. In April, Evans built on his earlier reporting to expose the gaps in protection the company provided for its front-line workers.

This is the third straight year Reveal has been a Pulitzer finalist.

Reveal would also like to offer congratulations to the winners of the explanatory reporting category, the staff of The Washington Post, and to the other finalists in the category, Rosanna Xia, Swetha Kannan and Terry Castleman of the Los Angeles Times. 

And as the nation’s first nonprofit investigative journalism organization, we’d like to thank our membership, foundation and individual donors for making this kind of reporting possible. 

From all of us at Reveal, thank you.

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