Reporter Sally Kestin’s multipart series “Equity Erased” won yet another national journalism award Oct. 28, taking the Accountability Award from Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, a professional journalism association of more than 400 independent news publishers across the U.S. and Canada.

Asheville Watchdog reporter Sally Kestin

The Accountability Award “recognizes general excellence in journalistic impact that led to the accountability of those in positions of power and a demonstrable positive outcome for the affected community,” the award citation read.

Judges wrote, “Equity Erased is a model of what patient, persistent reporting can uncover, and the fact that the NC Secretary of State, Attorney General, state bar and local sheriff were moved to take action validates the effort. This reporting showed how impactful local news organizations can be.”

Asheville Watchdog, a community-supported, volunteer-staffed nonprofit, won in the Micro Revenue Tier category.

Equity Erased, an ongoing series, documents how Buncombe County homeowners lost years and sometimes generations of equity to Asheville real estate investor Robert Perry Tucker II and his associates. The series earlier won a “Best Investigative Journalism” award from the national Institute for Nonprofit News; a National Headliners Award for investigative reporting; and top prize for Public Service Journalism from the North Carolina Press Association.

Kestin, a Pulitzer Prize winner for public service journalism, and a Pulitzer finalist for investigative reporting, co-founded Asheville Watchdog in 2020.

In awarding the prize, the LION judges wrote:

“For years, vulnerable homeowners in Asheville, North Carolina — many elderly and/or African American — had lost their homes and the equity they’d built over decades and, sometimes, generations to a local attorney/investor and his associates. Asheville Watchdog published Equity Erased, a seven-part investigative series that generated an immediate impact: A central figure was arrested on 41 felony charges, and her lawyer was charged with six felony counts. Through legal settlements, homeowners got their properties or substantial portions of their equity returned.”

 Links to stories in the Equity Erased series, and to the impact of Asheville Watchdog‘s reporting, are below:

Part 1: Real Estate Deals Strip Elderly, Poor of Homes, Land, and Inheritances 

Part 2:  Imperfectly Legal: Forced Sales Hurt Heirs, Poor Homeowners

Part 3: K

Part 4: Mission Heirs: Local Attorneys Tell Court That Property Owners Can’t Be Found

Part 5: Indiana Man Says His Name Was Used in Buncombe Real Estate Deals

Part 6: Hunting for Dead Dad’s Money, Grieving Son Finds Pain – And a Clue