“Rape on the Night Shift” Wins an IRE Award


April 7, 2016
Patrice Taddonio Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist

Rape on the Night Shift — a collaborative documentary by FRONTLINE, Univision, the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED — has won an IRE award, the nonprofit journalism organization Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. announced on Thursday.

Rape on the Night Shift, which won the Broadcast/Video – Large category, investigated the sexual abuse of women who work as janitors, many of them undocumented immigrants fearful that they’ll be deported or lose their jobs if they report their alleged attackers.

The problem “is so common that the workers whisper about who to avoid while cleaning offices” and “janitors warn each other about supervisors who work late so they can attack while nobody else is around,” the IRE judges wrote in a statement announcing this year’s winners. “This documentary brought needed attention to this issue,” they said.

From San Francisco’s Ferry Building, to the malls of Minnesota, to big box stores across the country, the investigative team — including correspondent Lowell Bergman, producers Andrés Cediel and Daffodil Altan, and reporters Bernice Yeung and Sasha Khokha — found violations across the janitorial industry involving companies large and small. The film, which aired in June 2015, was a follow-up to the award-winning collaboration that produced Rape in the Fields/Violación de un Sueño, a 2013 investigation of the sexual abuse of migrant female farmworkers.

Since the debut of the Rape on the Night Shift collaboration — which also included a Spanish-language documentary, radio reports and text pieces in both English and Spanish — the nation’s largest janitorial company agreed to an outside review of rape claims made by its female janitors in California, and California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez began working on a bill inspired by the documentary to improve conditions for women who are vulnerable to abuse while cleaning buildings at night in isolation.

“We’re so pleased that the hard work behind this reporting collaboration has been honored with an IRE award,” says FRONTLINE Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath. “The investigative team uncovered the untold story of the sexual violence many women in the janitorial industry face, reported on it in a deeply compelling way, and sparked a whole new level of conversation about this important issue.”

The IRE judges praised the intensive reporting process behind Rape on the Night Shift, which included digging through government and law enforcement records, as well as interviews with more than 200 sources.

“Importantly, the story was presented in both English and Spanish online and on the air,” the judges wrote, praising the investigation for uncovering the stories of “janitorial workers who worked out of sight, afraid to speak up.”

Additionally, the FRONTLINE documentary Outbreak — an investigation of why the largest Ebola outbreak on record wasn’t stopped before it was too late, from producers Dan Edge and Sasha Achilli — was named as a finalist in the Broadcast/Video – Large category.

The IRE Awards recognize outstanding investigative reporting and are presented annually at the organization’s conference. This year’s award ceremony will take place June 18.

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