Pulitzer Center grantee Garance Burke won a 2023 Clarion Award from the Association for Women in Communications for her Pulitzer Center-supported project, Tracked, which was published by the Associated Press. Alongside AP journalist Sally Ho, Burke's reporting won in the Newspaper Investigative Series category. The Clarion Award honors “excellence in clear, concise communications.”
Tracked reveals how governments across the world use surveillance technology on often unknowing communities. Proponents say these systems can promote safety and guide policy decisions, but Burke’s reporting shows how risks and abuses of power can be dangerous.
In particular, Burke’s team found that child welfare systems were frequently using algorithms that determine a “risk score,” attempting to predict whether a child will be placed in foster care in the next two years. However, predictive technologies like these disproportionately target Black families, a result of the inherent bias in the data used by the algorithm that reinforces stereotypes and structural inequality.
Consequently, Black families are more likely to be investigated by child protective services, and family separation is more common.
Tracked spurred U.S. government officials to respond. After Burke’s investigation of the use of predictive technology in the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, child welfare system, the state of Oregon stopped using a similar algorithm. The Biden administration cited similar concerns in its AI Bill of Rights, released last October.
In addition, the Justice Department investigated a Pittsburgh-area child welfare system, with Justice Department Civil Rights Division attorneys citing Burke’s reporting.
Other stories in the series reveal how police departments across the United States use a tool to track people’s movements through their cellphones, as well as how police around the world have seized upon new COVID-19 technologies for mass surveillance.
The Clarion Awards were founded in 1973 and recognize newspapers, television, marketing, books, public relations, and more. Judges are experienced communications professionals who “evaluate entries for substance, style, originality, and achievement of objective.”
To see a full list of the 2023 Clarion winners, click here.