Journalism Awards

The Nieman Foundation presents annual journalism awards to news organizations and journalists who have produced exceptional work in several categories. By shining a spotlight on journalistic excellence, the foundation aims to help the greater journalism community learn from their example; understand the often innovative research, reporting and storytelling methods they employ; and discover the lessons learned from their in-depth – sometime risky – reporting projects.

Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism

Bingham Prize judge Chris Arnold, NF '13, with winner Sam Dolnick and journalist Clara Bingham, Worth Bingham's daughter
The Worth Bingham Prize honors investigative reporting of stories of national significance where the public interest is being ill-served. Presented each year since 1967, the award is recognized as one of the top investigative reporting awards for journalists in the United States and honors the memory of journalist and 1954 Harvard graduate Worth Bingham.

Judges for the award are guided in their deliberations by such factors as obstacles overcome in getting information, accuracy, clarity of analysis and writing style, magnitude of the situation, and impact on the public, including any reforms that may have resulted.

For work completed in 2012, the winner of the Bingham Prize in 2013 was New York Times reporter Sam Dolnick for his three-part series Unlocked: Inside New Jersey’s Halfway Houses.

During his exhaustive 10-month investigation of New Jersey’s privately run halfway houses, Dolnick discovered a broken and horribly flawed correctional system in which gang activity, drug use, sexual assaults and other violent behavior were commonplace and where lax security led to hundreds of annual escapes. While at large, some fugitives committed violent crimes, including murder, yet the state failed to punish the halfway house operators responsible for the runaways.

In selecting “Unlocked” for the Bingham Prize, judges praised Dolnick’s powerful writing, the depth and scope of the investigation and the ability of the series to spur meaningful reforms including stepped-up inspections of New Jersey’s halfway houses; fines against some of the operators; and the introduction of 14 reform bills in the state legislature. The judges chose “Unlocked” from a field of nearly 100 entries submitted by many of the country’s leading investigative reporters.

Judges were 2013 Nieman Fellows Chris Arnold, an NPR correspondent; Betsy O’Donovan, former editor for The (Durham) Herald-Sun; Souad Mekhennet, a German reporter and columnist who has worked for The New York Times, Der Spiegel and the German television broadcaster ZDF; and Laura Wides-Muñoz, Hispanic affairs writer for The Associated Press. Maggie Mulvihill, NF ’05, co-director/senior investigative producer for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and James Neff, investigations editor at The Seattle Times were also on the judging panel.
Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers

The Taylor Award panel discussion with Mike Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times, Maria Sacchetti from The Boston Globe and Patricia Callahan and Sam Roe from the Chicago Tribune
The Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers encourages fairness in news coverage by America’s daily newspapers. The guidelines for the award deliberately do not offer a definition of fairness. Instead, each participating news organization is asked to explain why its submission should be considered an exemplary example of fairness in newspapers and how the work was developed, reported and presented to readers in the context of fairness.

Taylor Award judges identify stories that they believe met the highest standards of fairness in all aspects of the journalistic process: reporting, writing, editing, headlines, photographs, illustrations and presentation.

For work completed in 2012, the winner and finalists for the Taylor Award in 2103 were:

Winner: Chicago Tribune, Playing with Fire
The Tribune’s six-part series revealed how the chemical and tobacco industries for years misled the public with deceptive campaigns that promoted the use of toxic flame-retardant chemicals that don’t work and pose serious health risks to consumers. The reports exposed disconcerting information about the flame retardants commonly used in furniture that were shown not only to be ineffective in slowing fires, but also are linked to cancer, impaired fertility and developmental problems.

The Tribune investigation found that manufacturers of the chemicals controlled damaging facts about the safety of their products and issued statements that misled lawmakers and consumers for years. The reporting prompted a number of investigations and actions to remove flame retardants in many products nationwide.

The series was produced by investigative reporters Patricia Callahan and Sam Roe; environmental reporter Michael Hawthorne; photographer Alex Garcia; associate managing editor/investigations, George Papajohn; watchdog editor Kaarin Tisue; and designer Chuck Burke.

Finalist: The Tampa Bay Times, Stand Your Ground
The Stand Your Ground, series separated facts from misconceptions surrounding Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” self-defense law. The Times reviewed dozens of “stand your ground” cases to demonstrate the full impact of the law: It has been used as a winning defense for drug dealers who killed their customers and gang members involved in shootouts and it has exonerated defendants who shot their victims in the back. Six reporters worked for more than three months to catalog the information and create a searchable database containing more than 225 cases that allows readers to see the consequences of the law.

The team that produced the series included systems editor Bill Higgins; senior correspondent Susan Taylor Martin; investigative reporters Kris Hundley and Michael LaForgia; computer-assisted reporting specialist Connie Humburg; enterprise reporter Ben Montgomery; designer Darla Cameron; investigative editor Chris Davis; senior news researcher John Martin; and news researchers Natalie Watson and Caryn Baird.

Finalist: The Boston Globe, Justice in the Shadows
The Globe’s three-part series Justice in the Shadows exposes the many problems associated with the secretive federal law enforcement system that detains more than 400,000 suspected illegal immigrants in the United States each year. Some immigrants held in detention centers have no criminal record while others, including thousands of dangerous criminals, have been set free, sometimes leading to deadly results. The Globe’s year-long investigation included more than 20 Freedom of Information Act requests, most of which were at least partially or wholly denied. The paper also filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to reveal the names of criminals who were released in the United States after they were denied re-entry to their home countries.

Reporters Maria Sacchetti and Milton J. Valencia produced the series.

Judges were J. Andrew Curliss, investigative reporter for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. and winner of the 2011 Taylor Award for Twisted Truth: A Prosecutor Under Fire; Boston Globe reporters Jenn Abelson and Beth Daley, finalists for the 2011 Taylor Award for their Fishy Business investigation; and Shannon Mullen, staff writer at the Asbury Park Press who was a 2011 Taylor finalist for the series Deadly Decisions: Struggling to Understand. Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism

Lyons Award winner Marcela Turati with Borja Echevarría de la Gándara, NF '13
The Lyons Award recognizes displays of conscience and integrity by individuals, groups or institutions in communications. Nieman Fellows studying at Harvard select the winners of the award, which honors Louis Lyons, the Nieman Foundation curator who retired that year after leading the institution for a quarter of a century. Lyons was a forceful advocate for freedom of the press and helped diversify the Nieman Fellowship by including women, minorities, and international fellows.

As reported in last year’s annual report, the Nieman Class of 2013 chose Mexican journalist Marcela Turati for the Lyons Award, citing her “journalistic excellence and leadership” and the courage shown by her and other Mexicans covering organized crime. While accepting the award at the Nieman Foundation on Feb. 7, 2013, Turati spoke eloquently about the challenges and dangers she and her colleagues face on the job; reporting on the drug war; and her role in protecting and training members of the media.

In November 2013 the Nieman class of 2014 selected investigative reporter Pamela Colloff for the Louis M. Lyons Award for her tenacious investigations into wrongful convictions, which have exposed deep flaws in the criminal justice system. A National Magazine Award winner, Colloff is an executive editor at the Texas Monthly, where she has worked since 1997.

In their deliberations, fellows noted that “Colloff blends painstaking reporting about the mistakes and misconduct committed by law enforcement with wrenching personal details about the shattered lives of those wrongly convicted. When many of her colleagues have moved on from the sensational murder trials, often content that justice has been served, Colloff treads a lonely road, digging through boxes of court documents, reinterviewing witnesses and questioning the motives of prosecutors and the competence of defense attorneys. Her investigations highlight how a system designed to protect can be corrupted into jailing the innocent and letting the guilty roam free, sometimes to kill again. The power and humanity of her stories has helped force reexaminations into several cases and given them an impact far beyond the borders of Texas, where they take place.”

Colloff will receive the Lyons Award at a ceremony at the Nieman Foundation on Feb. 7, 2014.

Read a selection of Colloff’s work:
  • Innocence Lost and Innocence Found, about wrongly convicted death row inmate Anthony Graves. One month after the publication of “Innocence Lost,” the Burleson County district attorney’s office in Texas dropped all charges against Graves and released him from jail, where he had been awaiting retrial.
  • Hannah and Andrew, Colloff’s detailed narrative about a mother convicted of killing her adopted son with salt. Six weeks after the publication of story, the woman was granted a new evidentiary hearing by the highest criminal court in Texas.
  • The Innocent Man, a two-part series about Michael Morton, a man who spent 25 years wrongfully imprisoned for the brutal murder of his wife, Christine. That story earned Colloff her first National Magazine Award.
  • As a featured author on Nieman Storyboard, Colloff has shared details about the storytelling methods she employed to write “The Innocent Man.” She also explained how she crafted "Hannah and Andrew."
I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence

Jane Mayer, winner of the 2013 I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence

Established in 2008, the I.F. Stone Medal recognizes journalistic independence and honors the life of investigative journalist I.F. Stone. The award is presented annually to a journalist whose work captures the spirit of independence, integrity, courage and indefatigability that characterized I.F. Stone’s Weekly, published 1953-1971.

Investigative reporter, award-winning author and New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer was selected as winner of the 2013 I.F. Stone Medal. She accepted the award during the Nieman Foundation’s 75th anniversary weekend in September and discussed why access to sources is sometimes overrated. She also spoke about being threatened for her reporting; when secrecy is needed; and shield laws and protecting sources.

Announcing the award, former Nieman Foundation curator Bill Kovach, chair of the advisory committee that oversees the annual award, said, “Mayer is being recognized for her in-depth investigations of complex issues, the consistently high quality of her writing and her ability to maintain her reportorial independence at a large news organization.”

Other members of the selection committee included 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.” The group made their selection from recommendations presented by prominent journalists including John Darnton, Patricia O’Brien, NF '74, Don Guttenplan, Florence Graves, and Melissa Ludtke, NF '92.

In making their decision, the judges cited the exceptional caliber of her recent body of work, including her best-selling book “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals.”

Watch excerpts from Mayer’s acceptance speech  »
Joe Alex Morris Jr. Memorial Lecture

New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos delivers the 2013 Joe Alex Morris Jr. Memorial Lecture at Lippmann House

The annual Morris Lecture honors an American overseas correspondent or commentator on foreign affairs. The Nieman Foundation has awarded the lectureship annually since 1982. Morris was a member of the Harvard class of 1949 and worked as the Middle East correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. He was killed in 1979 in Tehran while covering the Iranian Revolution.

Evan Osnos, a Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer for The New Yorker, delivered the 33rd Joe Alex Morris Jr. Memorial Lecture at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard on Nov. 14, 2013. He spoke about the profound political, economic and cultural changes he witnessed in China, censorship, and the challenges facing both foreign and Chinese journalists working in the country in the current climate.

Osnos reported from China from 2005 to 2013, first as the Beijing bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune and then as China correspondent for The New Yorker, starting in 2008. In China, Osnos reported on a wide range of stories and penned the “Letter from China” blog at for four years. He also wrote stories from other parts of Asia. His reconstruction of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan, “The Fallout,” won a 2012 Overseas Press Club Award.

Osnos additionally has worked as a contributor to public radio’s “This American Life” and as a correspondent for the PBS series “Frontline/World.”

His book about China’s rise, “Age of Ambition,” will be published in May 2014. He is a 1998 graduate of Harvard University and tweets at @eosnos.

Watch Evan Osnos deliver the 33rd annual Morris Lecture » J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project

Robert Caro, NF ’66, and Beth Macy, NF ’10
Co-administered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation, the Lukas Prize Project honors the best in American nonfiction writing in three categories. It is sponsored by the family of the late Mark Lynton, a historian and senior executive at the firm Hunter Douglas in the Netherlands and honors Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author J. Anthony Lukas, NF ’69.

Winners in 2013 included two Nieman Fellows »

  • The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize ($10,000) recognizes superb examples of nonfiction writing that exemplify literary grace, a commitment to serious research and social concern.
  • Winner: Andrew Solomon, for  Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Scribner). Judges described Solomon’s book, as “a tour de force of heart, head, shoe leather, and terrific writing, gives us a moving and deeply nuanced mural of the American family today.”
  • Finalist: Cynthia Carr for Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (Bloomsbury).
  • The Mark Lynton History Prize ($10,000) is awarded to the book-length work of history, on any subject, that best combines intellectual or scholarly distinction with felicity of expression.
  • Winner: Robert Caro, NF ’66, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, for The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Alfred A. Knopf). The judges cited Caro’s book for taking “readers to a pivotal moment in modern American history when the presidential ambitions of Lyndon Johnson are first thwarted and then tragically fulfilled. At once deeply researched and utterly absorbing, this book exemplifies the power of narrative history to enlighten and entertain.”
  • Finalist: David Nasaw for The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (Penguin Group).
  • The J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award ($30,000) is given annually to aid in the completion of a significant work of nonfiction.
  • Winner: Reporter Beth Macy, NF ‘10, for Factory Man (Little, Brown and Co.). The judges cited Macy, a newspaper reporter, for “her extraordinary reporting and narrative skills,” which “come together in a compelling story about a gritty Virginia furniture maker who refuses to allow his family's company and its workers to become victims of globalization."
  • Finalist: Jim Robbins for “37 Arguments for the Survival of Birds” (Random House).