The I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence

Alternative news pioneer Sandy Close received the 2012 I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence at a Nieman Foundation ceremony in December. Executive editor and director of Pacific News Service (PNS), Close was selected Sandy Closegiving a voice to individuals and communities too often ignored by mainstream media. In particular, the I.F. Stone Medal selection committee acknowledged her long-time support of ethnic news organizations and her mentoring of young journalists.

At the award ceremony, Close spoke about the need to help young reporters write about topics that are not being covered adequately adding, “Journalists can break through silent spaces and media deserts.” She said that working with young people on the margins of society transformed her view of journalism and language. And she discussed her concern about sustainability for the ethnic press and small news outlets explaining that investors want to fund reporting that reaches policymakers “but we need journalism that reaches communities.”

After her presentation, Close joined other journalists to Journalists can break through silent spaces and media desertsdiscuss “The Future of Independent Journalism in a Post-Journalism World.” The panelists included Lisa Chedekel, senior writer and co-founder of the Connecticut Health Investigative Team; Xujun Eberlein, a Chinese-American writer; and Margaret Engel, executive director of the Alicia Patterson Journalism Foundation. The discussion was moderated by Laura Amico, founder and editor of HomicideWatch D.C. and a 2012 Nieman-Berkman Fellow.

Bill Kovach, chair of the I.F. Stone Medal selection committee said “The work of Sandy Close not only shows the spirit of Izzy Stone is alive and well, but stands as an inspiration to a new generation of self-publishing journalists who refuse to allow the abuses of those who hold power over the lives of others to remain secret.”

Close has served as executive director of Pacific News Service since 1974. She created YO! Youth Outlook, a monthly magazine written by and about young people in 1991 and in 1996, she co-founded The Beat Within, a weekly writing journal by incarcerated youth. That same year, she founded New California Media, which subsequently became New America Media (NAM), under the umbrella of Pacific News Service. Today, NAM is the largest editorial and marketing collaboration of ethnic media in the United States. It distributes news stories and commentaries to more than 2,000 subscribers and produces radio and television programs.

Close began her journalism career in Hong Kong as China editor of The Far Eastern Economic Review. After returning to the United States, she founded The Flatlands, an inner-city newspaper in Oakland, Calif., and spent five years writing about prison and criminal justice issues before joining PNS. Close received a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award” for her work and the 2011 George Polk Career Award. She also co-produced the film “Breathing Lessons: The Life and work of Mark O’Brien,” which won the Academy Award for best short documentary in 1997.

Established in 2008, the I.F Stone Medal honors the life of investigative journalist I.F. Stone and is presented annually to a journalist whose work captures the spirit of journalistic independence, integrity and courage that characterized I.F. Stone’s Weekly, published 1953-1971. The award is administered by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and its Nieman Watchdog Project.

An advisory committee of journalists oversees nominations and the selection of an annual medal winner. The 2012 I.F. Stone Medal selection committee was chaired by journalist and former Nieman Foundation curator Bill Kovach, author John R. (Rick) MacArthur, president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine and Myra MacPherson, author of “All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone.”