2023 News (Large Newsroom) Winners

Marcela Rodrigues & Philip Jankowski, The Dallas Morning News

About the Winners:

In 2023, the biggest higher education story in Texas was the attack on DEI. A Republican-led bill aimed to ban diversity, equity and inclusion offices and other efforts from public institutions and, after countless hours of debate, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the proposal into law.

Throughout the legislative process, every politician debating the bill defined the three-letter acronym differently: supporters believed DEI fosters inclusivity on campuses while opponents argued that it favors race over merit. The House and Senate debates sounded like each side was referring to a different bill, and translating that for readers was challenging for Marcela Rodrigues and Philip Jankowski.

In addition to keeping readers informed about the bill’s progress, the reporters investigated angles that no other Texas reporter covered extensively: the legislation’s impact on sports eligibility, research funding and support for undocumented students.

Comments From the Judges:

“Extraordinary package of articles that uncovered important, unreported angles of the Texas ban on DEI offices and the potential ramifications. Clearly written, thoroughly reported, and fully contextualized coverage that anticipated news developments that would unfold over the coming months. Bravo.”

“These stories were a good reminder that on the ground – away from the political posturing – these programs do some good. They highlighted unintended consequences and also shed light on very real damage that can occur in people’s lives.”

Photo credits: The Dallas Morning News; Juan Figueroa