The American Society of News Editors and Associated Press Media Editors announced April 2 the winners of this year's NLA Awards for distinguished writing, digital storytelling and photography. The winning work is a collection of high-quality, high-impact journalism from news outlets of various sizes and platforms.
The NLA Awards honor the best in print, digital, photo and video content in 11 categories. The contest drew over 500 entries.
This is the first year of the NLA Awards, continuing the 39-year tradition of the ASNE Awards and the 48-year tradition of the APME Awards, among the most prestigious in journalism. Many of the categories are sponsored and come with cash prizes, thanks to a group of editors from the former Knight Ridder Inc., The Dallas Morning News, Advance Publications Inc., the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Seattle Times, the Chicago Tribune, the O'Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism at Marquette University in Milwaukee and The New York Times.
"We are proud to recognize this collection of exceptional work," said ASNE President Nancy Barnes, senior vice president for news and editorial director of NPR. "Newsrooms small and large are steadfastly reporting on the most important stories of the day, calling out abuses of power and wrongdoing, and delivering journalism that makes a difference."
"These winners rose to the top from a group of outstanding entries," said APME President Angie Muhs, former editor of The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois. "They told powerful stories that shone light on injustices or dangers faced by vulnerable people, and in many cases, their journalism led to change."
With the exception of the Batten Medal and the O'Brien Fellowship Award for Impact in Public Service Journalism, which covered work published since 2017, the awards were given for work completed in 2018. All news websites, news services (including radio, TV stations and magazines) and newspapers in the United States were eligible to enter. Outside the United States, news organizations that are headed by an active member of ASNE or APME were also eligible.
Judging took place both online and on site at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. Following are the winners and finalists of each category, along with remarks from the judges:
Batten Medal for Courage in Journalism
Maggie Michael of The Associated Press is the winner of the Batten Medal, which honors public service journalism in memory of revered reporter, editor and newspaper executive James K. Batten. The medal is intended to celebrate the journalistic values Batten stood for: compassion, courage, humanity and a deep concern for the underdog. Ms. Michael will receive $2,500 for winning the award, sponsored by a group of editors from the former Knight Ridder Inc.
Winning work: "Yemen's Dirty War"
From the judges: "Maggie Michael's dogged and persistent reporting in war-torn Yemen serves as the very definition of the Batten category. It's courageous, sustained coverage with substantial impact. Michael's reporting revealed a host of injustices — including the deployment of child soldiers as young as 10, torture by factions on all sides of the war, and corruption that had diverted international food aid from starving families. The reporting led to scores of prisoners released from Emirati-controlled prisons, investigations and UN intervention."
Burl Osborne Award for Editorial Leadership - Large and Small
The staff of The Palm Beach Post, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Miami Herald and WLRN Public Radio will receive $1,250 for winning the Burl Osborne Award for Editorial Leadership Large division, and Corey Friedman of The Wilson Times will receive $1,250 for winning the Burl Osborne Award for Editorial Leadership Small division. This award recognizes editorial writing that is excellent journalism and makes a difference in a community. The award is sponsored by The Dallas Morning News in memory of Burl Osborne, who died in 2012.
Winning work (Large category):
From the judges: "Judges were impressed with this partnership, which marshaled resources to educate and urge readers to take action on a critical regional issue. In crisp and compelling language, these editorials articulated complicated issues and how they would affect residents, conveying a sense of responsible urgency without undue sensationalism or panic. These were well-reported and a public service."
Kevin Walter, The Buffalo News — "Cracking Erie County's patronage-laden Water Authority"
Staff and David Plazas, Michael A. Anastasi, Maria De Varenne, The Tennessean (USA TODAY Network) — "Civility Tennessee"
Winning work (Small Category):
"School's policy stifles speech"
From the judges: "This newspaper tackled an important topic — the public's right to offer their views to elected officials — and it didn't let go. It offered readers information to get involved and it effected change. A fine example of a news organization looking out for its readers."
Deborah Howell Award for Writing Excellence
Dan Barry and Jeffrey E. Singer of The New York Times will receive $2,500 for winning the Deborah Howell Award for Writing Excellence, which recognizes excellence in news and feature writing (except commentary or editorials) that's not done as breaking news. The award is sponsored by Advance Publications Inc. in memory of former editor Deborah Howell, who died in 2010.
Winning work: "The Case of Jane Doe Ponytail"
From the judges: "An outstanding narrative about a woman from a remote Chinese village who came to the United States with dreams of American citizenship, and ultimately died on a street in Queens outside the seedy massage parlor where she worked. The writing flows seamlessly; the scenes come alive in remarkable detail. A heartbreaking piece that continues to haunt long after the last word is read. Amazing work."
Dori J. Maynard Award for Justice in Journalism
Sharon Cohen, David Goldman and Mary Hudetz of The Associated Press are the winners of the Dori J. Maynard Award for Justice in Journalism, which celebrates journalism that overcomes ignorance, stereotypes, intolerance, racism, hate, negligence and indifference. They will receive $2,500 for winning the award, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in memory of Dori J. Maynard, who was an ASNE board member and a strong advocate for news and newsroom diversity.
Winning work: "Missing in Indian Country"
From the judges: "In a story made more difficult because of the lack of a national database, three Associated Press journalists sifted through thousands of missing persons reports and did countless interviews to "bring attention to a largely invisible plight: Native American women who have gone missing or been murdered, their cases too often unsolved or forgotten," as the nomination letter notes. The compelling reporting sparked local newspaper editorials in North Dakota and Montana, demanding that Congress pass legislation to improve data collection and help address the problem. The Justice Department doubled the funding it gives tribes for public safety programs and crime victims."
Gary Harki, The Virginian-Pilot — "Jailed in Crisis: For many inmates, mental illness is a death sentence"
Staff: Finlay Young, Kathleen Flynn and Nadia Sussman, ProPublica, in collaboration with TIME — "Unprotected"
Frank A. Blethen Award for Local Accountability Reporting — Large and Small
Barbara Laker, Wendy Ruderman and Dylan Purcell of The Philadelphia Inquirer will receive $1,250 for winning the Frank A. Blethen Award for Local Accountability Reporting Large division, and Ed Williams of Searchlight New Mexico will receive $1,250 for winning the Frank A. Blethen Award for Local Accountability Reporting Small division. This award, sponsored by The Seattle Times in honor of Frank A. Blethen, who has been The Times' publisher and CEO since 1985, recognizes outstanding work done by a news organization that holds important local institutions accountable for their actions.
Winning work (Large): "Toxic City: Sick Schools "
From the judges: "The Inquirer used every tool in the toolbox to craft these compelling stories that sparked a public dialogue and led the community to demand safe and healthy schools. The reporting was tenacious and creative, and put its focus where it needed to be — on the kids who were forced to go to school in these conditions."
Matthew Dolan and David Jesse, Detroit Free Press — "In Donors We Trust"
Kiera Feldman, ProPublica (in partnership with The Investigative Fund and Voice of America) — "Trashed: Inside New York's Deadly Private Garbage Industry"
Winning work (Small): "A Pattern of Failures"
From the judges: "This small, feisty organization produced an investigation into New Mexico's private foster care industry that was compelling and expertly written, pulling readers through a complex topic. And it got results: spurring a state investigation and putting the issue front-and-center in the state's gubernatorial race."
Mike Royko Award for Commentary and Column Writing
Melinda Henneberger of The Kansas City Star will receive $2,500 for winning the Mike Royko Award for Commentary and Column Writing, which recognizes excellence in writing by an individual that expresses a personal point of view. The award is sponsored by the Chicago Tribune in memory of legendary columnist Mike Royko, who died in 1997.
Winning work: Columns by Melinda Henneberger
From the judges: "Melinda Henneberger writes with fearlessness and intelligence, whether she is calling to account a popular governor attempting to sidestep scandal, or revealing the news that she had been raped three-plus decades ago and didn't report it to police. Her columns, often driven by passion and infused with logic, leave readers feeling more enlightened with each building paragraph."
O'Brien Fellowship Award for Impact in Public Service Journalism
The staff of the South Florida Sun Sentinel are the winners of the O'Brien Fellowship Award for Impact in Public Service Journalism. This award recognizes public service work that helps solve community or societal issues and leads to changes in laws, regulations or other demonstrated results. They will receive $2,500 for winning the award, sponsored by the fellowship at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
Winning work: "Parkland"
From the judges: "The O'Brien Fellowship Award for Impact in Public Service Journalism goes to the South Florida Sun Sentinel for its heroic and fearless reporting of the tragic killings of 17 students and educators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The staff of the Sun Sentinel faced an obstructing and recalcitrant school district, sheriff office, even a court system, which sought to intimidate, block and obfuscate reporters from uncovering the roots of the tragedy. Sun Sentinel staffers, using dogged reporting, public records, legal action, video evidence, uncovered a systematic failure in responsibility before, during and after the murders."
Punch Sulzberger Award for Innovative Storytelling — Large and Small
The staff of The Washington Post is the winner of the Punch Sulzberger Award for Innovative Storytelling Large division and Marcel Honore, April Estrellon and Cory Lum of Honolulu Civil Beat are the winners of the Punch Sulzberger Award for Innovative Storytelling Small division. This award recognizes excellence and innovation in the use of digital tools to tell news stories. Each winner will receive $1,250 for winning the award, sponsored by The New York Times in memory of former publisher Arthur Ochs "Punch" Sulzberger, who died in 2012.
Winning work (Large category): "1968"
From the judges: "The Washington Post told an interactive story of how the 1968 riot happened locally, as well as the story of what occurred globally with 2,000 declassified Secret Service reports, archival photographs, handwritten logs and interviews. It was a stunning comprehensive account of the year. The UI/UX was clean and the interconnectivity between text, photo, video and audio was thoughtful."
Staff, The Wall Street Journal —"Tap" Storytelling"
Staff: Sisi Wei, Nick Fortugno, Matt Katz, Kavitha Surana, ProPublica — "The Waiting Game"
Winning work: "Are We Ready?"
From the judges: "This project, through clear narrative and excellent use of photography, shows just how unprepared Hawaii is for the inevitable coming of a major hurricane — and how lucky it was to avoid a recent one. The story is very clear, told through multiple pieces, and with a tone that makes it clear that failure to prepare means disaster. Very strong journalism throughout. You'd think volcanoes on the Big Island are enough."
Al Neuharth Breaking News Reporting Award
The staff of Capital Gazette, Annapolis Md. and The Baltimore Sun are the winners of the Al Neuharth Breaking News Reporting Award for coverage of the Capital Gazette shooting, and will receive $1,250 for winning this award. This award recognizes coverage of breaking news events produced in the first 24 hours of an event, and is sponsored by the Gannett Foundation.
Winning work: "Capital Gazette shooting"
From the judges: "This powerful package of compelling and deeply informative content (in-the-moment tweets, thorough and accurate news stories, photos and poignant profiles) demonstrated courage and dedication in the face of overwhelming personal loss. The journalists put their mission above their misery to inform the public, honor their fallen friends, and still somehow ‘put out a damn paper.’ The work they produced lived up to the highest standards of breaking news reporting while covering a horrific tragedy in their own workplace, their own lives. The judges would like to give special recognition to the Capital Gazette staff members that did stellar work that day and have continued to do so in the weeks and months since the tragedy as they honor those who lost their lives on June 28: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters."
Staff, The Kansas City Star - "Tragedy on Table Rock Lake"
Staff, Miami Herald - "The Fall of the Florida International University Bridge"
Visual Journalism Award — Large and Small
Kristen Zeis of The Virginian-Pilot is the winner of the Visual Journalism Award Large division, and Todd Wiseman, Alana Rocha and Justin Dehn of The Texas Tribune are the winners of the Visual Journalism Award Small division. This award rewards powerful and meaningful photography, videos and any visual multimedia that capture a community, issue or news event.
Winning work (Large category): "No Turning Back: The story of a transgender man's experience as a Navy sailor"
From the judges: "This was a revealing look at an important story, especially one that was developing as discussions took place in Washington about the ban on transgender troops. Access with the military was difficult but the story was told well, given what was available. The examination of the topic was done with sensitivity."
Staff: Gabrielle Lurie, Jessica Christian, and Santiago Mejia, San Francisco Chronicle — "Inferno in Paradise"
Gary Coronado, Los Angeles Times — "Without a Home"
Winning work (Small category): "The Texas Tribune: 13 Hours to Midnight "
From the judges: "Smoothly shifting back and forth between original video and sit-down interviews, The Texas Tribune created a compelling look back at Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis' 2013 filibuster of anti-abortion legislation. The pacing was excellent, the story gripping, and the reflective nature of the interviews gave balance and context to both sides of the debate. The use of a countdown timeline was particularly effective in building and holding interest."
First Amendment Award
Stephen Deere, Dan Klepal, J. Scott Trubey and Kelly Yamanouchi of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are the winners of the First Amendment Award. This award recognizes the best example of protecting or advancing freedom of information principles, and/or overcoming significant resistance to the application of the First Amendment. The First Amendment Award winner receives $1,000, sponsored by Middle Tennessee State University's Free Speech Center.
Winning work: "How Atlanta Trampled the Public's Right to Know "
From the judges: "Over months of reporting, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed a pattern of brazen violations of open-government laws by the administration of Mayor Kasim Reed, a one-time rising star in Democratic politics who had promised the most transparent administration in city history. The reporting lifted the veil on an entirely different reality in which the mayor's aides repeatedly and deliberately thumbed their noses at the public's right to know what went on in city government. The coverage produced results: the first-ever criminal investigation of open-records violations in Georgia, and adoption by the city of a government transparency law."
A group of news leaders and journalism professionals around the nation determined finalists and winners. In addition to the ASNE Awards Committee Co-Chairs Brian McGrory of The Boston Globe and George Stanley of Gannett and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and APME Awards Committee Chair Tom Koetting of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, judges were
Nancy Ancrum, Miami Herald
Mark Baldwin, Rockford Register Star
Nancy Barnes, NPR
Peter Bhatia, Detroit Free Press
Kathy Best, Missoulian
Alfredo Carbajal, Al Dia (The Dallas Morning News)
Nicole Carroll, USA TODAY
Paul Cheung, Knight Foundation
Rick Christie, The Palm Beach Post
Michael Days, Philadelphia Media Network
Paula Froke, APME Executive Director
Alison Gerber, Chattanooga Times Free Press
Audrey Cooper, San Francisco Chronicle
Lucy Dalglish, University of Maryland
Manny Garcia, USA TODAY Network
Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, The Washington Post
Bill Greene, The Boston Globe
Katrice Hardy, The Greenville News
David Haynes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Teri Hayt, ASNE Executive Director
Mark Katches, Tampa Bay Times
Peter Kovacs, The Advocate
Emily Le Coz, GateHouse Media
Colin McMahon, Tribune Publishing
Juli Metzger, Ball State University
Summer Moore, GateHouse Media
Angie Muhs, State Journal-Register
Sarah Nordgren, The Associated Press
Deb Pastner, Star Tribune
Autumn Phillips, The Post and Courier
Mitch Pugh, The Post and Courier
George Rodrigue, The Plain Dealer
Mark Russell, The Memphis Commercial Appeal
Jim Simon, Honolulu Civil Beat
Mizell Stewart, Gannett/USA TODAY Network
Robyn Tomlin, The News & Observer
Hollis Towns, USA TODAY Network
Sherman Williams, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Mike Wilson, The Dallas Morning News
ABOUT THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF NEWS EDITORS
The American Society of News Editors focuses on leadership development and journalism-related issues. Founded in 1922 as a nonprofit professional organization, ASNE promotes fair, principled journalism; defends and protects First Amendment rights; and fights for freedom of information and open government. Leadership, innovation, diversity and inclusion in coverage and the journalism workforce, opinion journalism, news literacy and the sharing of ideas are also key ASNE initiatives.
ABOUT THE ASSOCIATED PRESS MANAGING EDITORS
The Associated Press Media Editors advances the principles and practices of responsible journalism. Founded in 1931, it supports and mentors a diverse network of current and emerging newsroom leaders. APME champions the First Amendment and promotes freedom of information and trains journalists to realize their aspirations and thrive in a rapidly changing environment. APME promotes forward-looking ideas that benefit news organizations and the communities they serve. It works closely with The Associated Press, the largest independent media operation in the world.
ABOUT THE NEWS LEADERS ASSOCIATION
The American Society of News Editors and the Associated Press Media Editors have joined forces to become the News Leaders Association. NLA aims to foster and develop the highest standards of trustworthy, truth-seeking journalism; to advocate for open, honest and transparent government; to fight for free speech and an independent press; to nurture the next generation of news leaders committed to spreading knowledge that informs democracy. Our goal is for all citizens to be informed by accurate, truthful, independent reporting so they can demand the best from our democratic institutions.