An investigation of widespread race and gender discrimination in the temporary worker industry won first place for business and financial reporting in the Best of the West journalism contest.

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting exposed a nationwide pattern, where employers used temp agencies to outsource their racist and sexist practices. Temp agencies used code words like “country boys,” “blue eyes” and “vanilla cupcakes” to signal employers’ preferences for white workers. Black job seekers were typically hurt the most.

“Wow! It’s hard to believe this was frequently occurring in the year 2016, but this story delivered convincing evidence,” wrote the judge, Des Moines Register business reporter Kevin Hardy. “The source work shines, and the strong writing brings to life the hypocrisy and outrage.

“We also appreciated that this uncovered something new – not a topic we’ve seen addressed elsewhere,” he added. “Plus, it looks out for some of the most marginalized workers in the marketplace.”

The Best of the West competition honors journalism from newspapers, magazines and online news organizations in 14 states, from Texas to Hawaii.

Reveal’s temp industry investigation also has received awards from the Columbia Journalism School and the Sidney Hillman Foundation.

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