Nieman News

The recipients of the 2015 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards include groundbreaking reporting on bacha posh, the practice of girls raised as boys in Afghanistan, by Jenny Nordberg; a revealing account of Abraham Lincoln’s complex relationship with the press by Harold Holzer; and an eye-opening work by Dan Egan investigating how invasive species have threatened the existence of the Great Lakes.

The awards will be presented to the winners and finalists on Tuesday, May 5, at a ceremony at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in Manhattan. Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University co-administer the awards.

J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize Winner:

Jenny Nordberg for “The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan” (Crown Publishers)

In their citation, the judges stated that Nordberg’s work “is much more than a hard-won investigation populated with diverse characters and potent scenes. It’s also a careful surrender of assumptions about gender and patriarchy and the Western lens on a troubled country—a book through which readers emerge both challenged and changed.” The winner receives $10,000.

Nordberg is a New York-based foreign correspondent and a columnist for the Swedish national newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2003.

J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize Finalist:

Joshua Davis for “Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

In their citation, the judges wrote “The well-drawn characters are sympathetic, engaging and interesting.” “Spare Parts” has been made into a major motion picture, which was released in January 2015. Davis is the co-founder of Epic Magazine and a contributing editor at Wired Magazine.

Mark Lynton History Prize Winner:

Harold Holzer for “Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion” (Simon and Schuster)

The judges said, “In this imaginatively conceived, beautifully written book, Harold Holzer demonstrates that there are still sides to the 16th president we haven’t appreciated. Holzer’s Lincoln was an early master of public relations, employing the newspapers of his day to serve his own political purposes and those, he judged, of the embattled Union. Lincoln persuaded where possible, coerced when necessary; he wooed editors one day and imprisoned them the next…This elegant volume confirms Holzer’s place as one of America’s preeminent scholars of Lincoln.” The winner receives $10,000.

Holzer is one of the country’s leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln, a Roger Hertog Fellow at the New-York Historical Society and senior vice president for public affairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mark Lynton History Prize Finalist:

Andrew Roberts for “Napoleon: A Life” (Viking)

The judges wrote, “Andrew Roberts’s rich biography is an outstanding addition to the literature on Napoleon—exhaustively researched, insightfully constructed, compellingly written.”

Roberts is a best-selling author and a fellow of the Napoleonic Institute and of the Royal Society of Literature.

J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Winner:

Dan Egan for “Liquid Desert: Life and Death of the Great Lakes” (W.W. Norton)

The judges applauded Egan, noting that he “dedicated himself to covering the ecology of the Great Lakes—a reaffirmation of the need for intensive beat reporting – and wrote compelling articles on this ominous threat to one of this country’s most glorious natural resources…This superbly written manuscript is a cry of alarm for us to reverse the consequences of America’s economic decisions before the Great Lakes become hopelessly clogged by zebra mussels and other alien marine life, with dire ecological, recreational and economic consequences.” The prize carries a $30,000 honorarium.

Egan is a Pulitzer Prize finalist who has been covering the Great Lakes for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel since 2003. He is a 2012 graduate of Columbia Journalism School.

J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Finalist:

Heather Ann Thompson for “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy” (Pantheon Books)

The judges wrote, “Heather Ann Thompson’s tough-minded, compassionate and exhaustively researched account will finally give us, more than four decades on, the definitive story of that seismic event, one that will shine a light on the reasons why that tragic conflict between prisoners and the authorities occurred, what actually transpired during those tense and dramatic few days, and its complex legacy for our time.”

Thompson is a professor of History at Temple University.

The judges for the 2015 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards are: Cris Beam, author and creative writing professor at Columbia University and New York University; Henry William Brands, Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist; Gerald Howard, vice president and executive editor at Doubleday; David M. Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History Emeritus at Stanford University; Mark Kurlansky, New York Times best-selling author; Betty Prashker, former vice president, associate publisher and editor-in-chief at Crown Publishing Group; David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent at The New York Times; Bill Shinker, former president and publisher of Gotham/Avery Books; and Tim Weiner, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and National Book Award winner.

About the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards

Established in 1998, the prizes recognize excellence in nonfiction that exemplifies the literary grace and commitment to serious research and social concern that characterized the work of the awards’ Pulitzer Prize-winning namesake, J. Anthony Lukas, who died in 1997. One of the three Lukas Prize Project Awards, the Mark Lynton History Prize, is named for the late Mark Lynton, a business executive and author of “Accidental Journey: A Cambridge Internee’s Memoir of World War II.” Lynton was an avid proponent of the writing of history and the Lynton family has sponsored the Lukas Prize Project since its inception.

About the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard educates leaders in journalism and elevates the standards of the profession through special programs that convene scholars and experts in all fields. More than 1,400 journalists from 93 countries have been awarded Nieman Fellowships since 1938. The foundation’s other initiatives include Nieman Reports, a quarterly print and online magazine that covers thought leadership in journalism; the Nieman Journalism Lab, a website that reports on the future of news, innovation and best practices in the digital media age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling.

About the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

For over a century, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has been preparing journalists with instruction and training that stresses academic rigor, ethics, inquiry, and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer, the School opened its doors in 1912 and offers master of science, master of arts, and doctor of philosophy degrees. 

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