Texas Observer Announces Finalists in the 15th Annual MOLLY Journalism Prizes

Also introducing the winners of the TxO NextGen Scholars program.


Update: We are very pleased to announce that the winner of the 2021 MOLLY Prize for Investigative Journalism is Katie Englehart for “What Happened in Room 10,” originally published by California Sunday Magazine. We are also very pleased to announce that the winner of the first-ever MOLLY Prize for political commentary is Kyle Whitmire for his series of columns entitled “Alabamafication of America,” originally published by the Alabama Media Group. Congratulations to our 2021 winners. 

The Texas Observer, the original reader-supported nonprofit news organization of the Lone Star state, today announced finalists in the 15th annual MOLLY Investigative Journalism Prize, an award of $5,000 recognizing superlative work in the spirit and legacy of the legendary Molly Ivins. The field of extraordinary submissions ranged from coast to coast, featuring industry-leading journalists on the most pressing issues of our time.

For the first year, the Texas Democracy Foundation and the Observer are also presenting an award of $2,000 for Excellence in Political Commentary/Columns, in memory of the biting commentary Molly Ivins offered throughout her career. Winners of both awards will be announced during a first-ever virtual gala ceremony on Thursday, June 10, at 6:30PM CT.

The Observer will also debut the magazine’s first redesign in over a decade at the gala and recognize the winners of the TxO NextGen Scholars program, an immersive week of (virtual) hands-on mentorship and training in investigative journalism for five student journalists from June 7 to June 11. Convened in partnership with NextGenRadio, TxO NextGen 2021 provides competitively selected participants the opportunity and resources to learn how to report and produce print work. Those chosen for the project are paired with a professional journalist who serves as mentor for the week. This year’s cohort of students will produce work ready for print consideration–a first in NextGen’s history–in the Observer. They receive a $500 stipend.

This year, the Observer received an unprecedented number of entries from leading newspapers, nonprofit journalism outfits, and online native outlets across the country. The selected finalists reflect some of the most innovative investigative journalism in America today.

The finalists of the 2021 MOLLY Investigative Journalism Prize are:

The finalists of the 2021 MOLLY Prize for Excellence in Political Commentary/Columns are:

The winners of the 2021 TxO Next Gen are Sadie Brown (@sadieebrown) of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY; Vio Dorantes (@DorantesVio) of the University of Texas at Austin; Sumaiya Malik (@sumaiyasaidthis) of the University of Texas at Austin; Jillian Price (jillian_ali) of the University of Texas at Austin; and Tovah Strong (@tstrongbyandby) of the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Molly Ivins’s legendary editorial run at the Observer lasted six years, from 1970 through 1976, but she never quite left: Her irreverence and irrepressibility continue to help define our mission. The MOLLY Prizes value work that reflects Molly’s ability to look critically at the issues of the day with compassion and/or humor, tell the stories that need telling, challenge conventional wisdom, and focus on issues of civil liberties and social justice. We launched the MOLLY Investigative Journalism Prize after her passing in 2007 as a way to honor this legacy.

Previous winners represent the best in American journalism, and have included Pamela Colloff, ProPublica; Hannah Dreier, ProPublica; Michael Grabell and Howard Berkes, ProPublica/NPR; Shane Bauer, Mother Jones; Joseph Neff, The News & Observer; Esther Kaplan, Virginia Quarterly Review; Dave Philipps, The Gazette (Colorado Springs); Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker; Trevor Aaronson, Mother Jones; Jeff Sharlet, Harper’s Magazine; A.C. Thompson, ProPublica; Rick Casey, Houston Chronicle; and Diane Suchetka, The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Past keynoters of the event include Joan Walsh, Jose Antonio Vargas, Dan Rather, Ellen Goodman, Seymour Hersh, Gail Collins, Paul Krugman, Connie Schultz, John Quiñones, and Jamelle Bouie.

For information on how to purchase tickets to support the MOLLY Prizes, please click here.

ABOUT US: The Texas Observer is the original reader-supported nonprofit news organization of Texas. We strive to make the state a more equitable place by exposing injustice through investigative journalism, narrative storytelling, and cultural coverage. Since its founding in 1954, the Observer’s reporting has prompted investigations and hearings in the U.S. Congress and the Texas Legislature, led to the exonerations of wrongly convicted Texans, and garnered widespread acclaim from some of the most prestigious reporting prizes in the country.

In 1994, Ronnie Dugger, founding editor and the publisher of the Texas Observer for 40 years, transferred ownership to the Texas Democracy Foundation, which was established as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization to publish and promote the Observer.

The MOLLY Prizes are made possible in part thanks to the support of Greg Wooldridge and Lynne Dobson and the Tejemos Foundation, Dale and Libby Linebarger, the Rapoport Family, and other generous donors.

NextGen TxO is made possible thanks to support from Roxanne Elder in memory of her mother, journalist and journalism teacher Virginia Stephenson Elder, Vincent LoVoi in honor of Jim Marston and Annette LoVoi, and other generous donors.