A woman looks worried as she holds a box in front of her face
Credit: Illustration by Jason Raish

For the second straight year, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX has won the prestigious Investigative Reporters and Editors award in the large radio category, this time for its investigation into sky-high injury rates at Amazon’s warehouses. 

The investigation, Behind the Smiles, found that the company’s obsession with speed has turned its warehouses into injury mills.

“This was just amazing work,” the IRE judges wrote. “Labor reporters have become dinosaurs at so many news organizations, and it’s inspiring to see this dogged storytelling. Reveal and PRX went through impressive lengths to get information on injuries that both Amazon and OSHA wanted hidden. And the revelations about Amazon truly penetrated the public’s consciousness about a company that’s become ubiquitous in American life. Our jaws were on the floor before the 5-minute mark. Bravo.”

The investigation cut through corporate and government secrecy to compile the most comprehensive data ever assembled on Amazon worker injuries. Through old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting and targeted social media engagement, reporters obtained official internal records for 23 of the company’s 110 fulfillment centers nationwide. The rate of serious injuries for those facilities proved to be sky-high – one was more than six times the national average. Some of the most dangerous warehouses were those that used robots, which the company had hyped as safer for humans. 

To bring the story alive on the radio, reporters used never-before-heard audio that was secretly recorded by a whistleblower in Indiana and 911 calls from Amazon workers who say they were being forced to work through a gas leak. 

Click on the link to listen to, read or watch the investigation. 

The project team for the radio piece included: Will Evans, Katharine Mieszkowski, Taki Telonidis, Rachel de Leon, Kevin Sullivan, Najib Aminy, Andrew Donohue, Esther Kaplan, Matt Thompson, John Barth, Al Letson, Melissa Lewis, Hannah Young, Byard Duncan, David Rodriguez, Mwende Hinojosa, Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda.

Reveal also partnered with The Atlantic and the Indianapolis Star to distribute the story on the web and in print, and with PBS NewsHour for two video segments.

Reveal’s Caregivers and Takers — an investigation into exploitation in the home health care business — was also a finalist in the same category. The judges wrote: “At a time when senior care is an ever-important topic, this investigation took on a surprising angle and found millions in stolen wages through difficult and impressive analysis of public records. And yet, the piece also tied in excellent real person storytelling.”

In addition, a project grew out of our Reveal Reporting Networks — which connect hundreds of local reporters across the U.S. to data, tips and resources gathered by our reporters — won the radio/audio small category. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting’s Prosecution Declined investigated how police fail to solve rape cases, which built on reporting from our Case Cleared collaboration with Newsy and ProPublica. We featured the story in a December episode of Reveal.

Investigative Reporters and Editors is the premier investigative reporting training organization. Last year, Reveal won IRE’s radio/podcast award in the large category for its investigation into working conditions at Tesla’s car factory.

And last month, the Amazon project also won The Society of American Business Editors and Writers’ award for retail in the small category, and Caregivers and Takers won SABEW’s award for investigative reporting in the small category.

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