Announcing the 2018 MOLLY Award Winners

Michael Grabell and Howard Berkes will receive the 2018 MOLLY National Journalism Prize for their “Sold for Parts” at a May 17 gala in Austin.


The Texas Observer and the Texas Democracy Foundation will award Michael Grabell and Howard Berkes its 2018 MOLLY National Journalism Prize for their work on the “Sold for Parts” series. The award will be presented at a May 17 gala in Austin.

In their investigation for ProPublica, National Public Radio, and the New Yorker, Grabell and Berkes uncovered disturbing, exploitative employment practices that target undocumented workers. As Grabell writes in his New Yorker piece, “Case Farms has built its business by recruiting some of the world’s most vulnerable immigrants, who endure harsh and at times illegal conditions that few Americans would put up with. When these workers have fought for higher pay and better conditions, the company has used their immigration status to get rid of vocal workers, avoid paying for injuries, and quash dissent.”

berkes, grabell, molly, 2018
Howard Berkes, Michael Grabell  courtesy

As part of this series, Grabell and Berkes also pored over 14 years’ worth of Florida employment records and determined that employers and insurance companies worked the immigration system — and state law — to avoid workers compensation payments. Their reporting led to the defeat of state legislation in Ohio that would have prevented undocumented workers from receiving workers’ compensation benefits, and a review of state law in Florida that allowed insurance companies to avoid “paying for injured immigrant workers’ lost wages and medical care by repeatedly turning them in to the state.”

Grabell covers economic issues, labor, immigration, and trade for ProPublica. Berkes is a correspondent for National Public Radio’s Investigations Unit.  

This year’s honorable mentions went to Nina Martin, Renee Montagne, Adriana Gallardo, Annie Waldman, and Katherine Ellison for their “Lost Mothers” series, and to Seth Freed Wessler for his “The Coast Guard’s Floating Guantanamos” piece.

Martin and her colleagues produced a stunning look at maternal mortality in the United States, and, along the way, found that three-to-four times more black women die in labor when compared to white women.

Wessler exposed the U.S. Coast Guard’s practice of roaming deep into international waters to apprehend — and then hold for extended periods of time, without arraignment and in inhumane conditions — suspected drug smugglers.

ABOUT THE MOLLY AWARDS: Each year, the Texas Observer and the Texas Democracy Foundation award a print or online journalism award of $5,000 and two honorable mentions of $1,000 for great American journalism. The competition honors the memory of Molly Ivins, legendary Observer reporter, columnist and former editor. Find previous winners here. Tickets to the May 17, 2018 gala are still available at