Nieman News

Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard are pleased to announce the four winners and the two finalists of the 2018 Lukas Prize Project Awards. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on Thursday, May 10, 2018, at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

The Lukas Prize Project marks its 20th anniversary this year. This also is the first year that two $25,000 Lukas Work-In-Progress Awards will be granted.

Winners & Finalists of the 2018 Lukas Prizes

The J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Awards

  • Winner: Chris Hamby, an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and Pulitzer Prize winner, has won for SOUL FULL OF COAL DUST: The True Story of an Epic Battle for Justice (Little, Brown), which uncovers the terrifying resurgence of black lung disease in Appalachia and the systematic deprivation of benefits to ailing coal miners.
  • Winner: Rachel Louise Snyder, a journalist who writes about domestic violence and violence studies, has won for NO VISIBLE BRUISES: What We Don’t Know About Violence Can Kill Us (Bloomsbury), an urgent and immersive account of the scope of domestic violence in our country.

The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize

  • Winner: Amy Goldstein, a staff writer for 30 years at The Washington Post and a Pulitzer Prize winner, has won for JANESVILLE: An American Story (Simon & Schuster), a close-up profile of a small Midwestern city—the hometown of Paul Ryan—that lost a slew of jobs during the Great Recession when General Motors’ oldest operating assembly plant closed in 2008.
  • Finalist: Jessica Bruder, a journalist who reports on economic justice and an adjunct professor at Columbia Journalism School, for NOMADLAND: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century (W.W. Norton & Company), a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy that focuses on a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans.

The Mark Lynton History Prize

  • Winner: Stephen Kotkin, John P. Birkelund Professor in History and International Affairs at Princeton University and a research scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, has won for STALIN: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 (Penguin Press), a history of the world during the build-up to its most fateful hour, from the vantage point of Stalin’s seat of power.
  • Finalist: Caroline Fraser, editor of the Library of America edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, for PRAIRIE FIRES: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Metropolitan Books), the first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s life story.

About the Prizes

Established in 1998, the Lukas Prize Project honors the best in American nonfiction writing.  Co-administered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, and sponsored by the family of the late Mark Lynton, a historian and senior executive at the firm Hunter Douglas in the Netherlands, the Lukas Prize Project presents four awards in three categories annually.

Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Awards (Two Winners Each Receive $25,000)

The J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Awards are given annually to aid in the completion of significant works of nonfiction on American topics of political or social concern. The committee envisions the awards as a way of closing the gap between the time and money an author has and the time and money that finishing a book requires. Judges: Barbara Clark (chair), John Duff and Chris Jackson.

Winner: Chris Hamby’s SOUL FULL OF COAL DUST: The True Story of an Epic Battle for Justice (Little, Brown)

Chris Hamby

Chris Hamby

Bio: Chris Hamby is an investigative reporter at BuzzFeed News. His work has been recognized with the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, Harvard University’s Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, two White House Correspondents’ Association awards, and UCLA’s Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, as well as awards from the National Press Club, the National Press Foundation, and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others. In 2017, he was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. He has reported on a range of subjects, including labor, public health, the environment, criminal justice, politics, and international trade. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Hamby lives and works in Washington, D.C.

Judges’ citation: SOUL FULL OF COAL DUST combines meticulous, in-depth reporting and careful research with a sensitive portrayal of individuals afflicted with black lung disease—a scourge that still hasn’t been eradicated. Chris Hamby’s immersion in the lives of West Virginia miners and the courageous people trying to help them honors the work of J. Anthony Lukas by shining a light on the dangerous conditions endured by people in Appalachia, often forgotten, who see no better employment options than a life underground. The environmental and human costs of mining coal, and the complicity of the insurance industry in preventing treatment, staggers the mind and stirs the heart. Hamby’s work-in-progress shows us that America’s dependence on coal has implications beyond the merely theoretical.

Winner: Rachel Louise Snyder’s NO VISIBLE BRUISES: What We Don’t Know About Violence Can Kill Us (Bloomsbury)

Rachel Louise Snyder

Rachel Louise Snyder

Bio: Rachel Louise Snyder is a journalist who writes about domestic violence and violence studies. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The New Republic, and elsewhere. She has discussed domestic violence with numerous media outlets including Al Jazeera America, MSNBC, and the Diane Rehm Show. Snyder is the author of FUGITIVE DENIM: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade (W.W. Norton, 2007), named one of the best business books of the year by Library Journal, and a novel, WHAT WE’VE LOST IS NOTHING (Scribner, 2014), named one of the 10 best suspense novels of the summer by Vogue magazine. An associate professor of journalism and creative writing at American University, Snyder lives in Washington, D.C.

Judges’ citation: NO VISIBLE BRUISES plunges readers into the nightmare world of American domestic violence. Rachel Louise Snyder’s singular achievement is that she illuminates the dark corners of this specter as a way to understand it and thus eliminate it. Her perspective on the challenges faced by those who try to work within the system, and on the role of factors such as drugs, unemployment, and teenage pregnancy, point the way to possible solutions. In the best tradition of J. Anthony Lukas, Snyder participates in the story, capturing the big picture along with the telling details. As she says, what we don’t know about violence can kill us. Her compassionate yet thorough examination of the problem promises to take the national conversation on this issue in a productive direction.

Anthony Lukas Book Prize ($10,000)

The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize recognizes superb examples of nonfiction writing that exemplify the literary grace, the commitment to serious research, and the social concern that characterized the distinguished work of the award’s namesake, J. Anthony Lukas. Books must be on a topic of American political or social concern published between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. Judges: William Shinker (chair), David Blum, and Dale Russakoff.

Winner: Amy Goldstein’s JANESVILLE: An American Story (Simon & Schuster)

Amy Goldstein

Amy Goldstein

Bio: Amy Goldstein has been a staff writer for 30 years at The Washington Post, where much of her work has focused on social policy. Among her awards, she shared the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. She has been a fellow at Harvard University at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. JANESVILLE: An American Story is her first book.

Judges’ citation: With vast sweep and stunning specificity, Amy Goldstein’s JANESVILLE chronicles the dissolution of the middle class in one Midwestern community that becomes emblematic of America itself. Goldstein begins with the 2008 closing of a General Motors plant that for 80 years buttressed the families and social fabric of Janesville, then marshals shoe-leather reporting and original social science into a panoramic portrait of workers, politicians, parents, teenagers, educators, business leaders, and a community struggling to find a way forward.  As the subtitle aptly puts it, JANESVILLE is “An American Story,” a triumph of narrative nonfiction in the tradition of J. Anthony Lukas.

Finalist: Jessica Bruder’s NOMADLAND: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century (W.W. Norton & Company)

Jessica Bruder

Jessica Bruder

Bio: Jessica Bruder is an award-winning journalist whose work focuses on subcultures and the dark corners of the economy. She has written for Harper’s, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Her long-form stories have won a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism and a Deadline Club Award. Bruder teaches writing at the Columbia Journalism School. She earned an M.S. degree at the Journalism School, and was a co-valedictorian of her class. 

Judges’ citation: If the best narrative nonfiction exists to take us to stirring places we’ve never been and to share a gripping, character-driven story, Jessica Bruder succeeded brilliantly with NOMADLAND—offering a powerful human perspective on the American condition as she sees it being tested at every turn. Bruder’s epic journey—in a white 1995 GMC Vandura van she dubbed Halen—

landed on wisdom that “the last free space in America is a parking spot” and found a first-hand view into the new economy that has transformed our nation. Bruder’s urgent rendering of our current crisis, alongside portraits of Americans finding new paths to fulfillment, has given us a work that transports us into the center of our country’s beating heart.

Mark Lynton History Prize ($10,000)

The Mark Lynton History Prize is awarded to the book-length work of narrative history, on any subject, that best combines intellectual distinction with felicity of expression.  Books must have been published between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. Judges: David Maraniss, Ethan Michaeli, Sylvia Nasar, and Elizabeth Taylor

Winner: Stephen Kotkin’s STALIN: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 (Penguin Press)

Stephen Kotkin

Stephen Kotkin

Bio: Stephen Kotkin is the John P. Birkelund Professor in History and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is also a research scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He directs Princeton’s Institute for International and Regional Studies and co-directs its Program in the History and Practice of Diplomacy. His books include UNCIVIL SOCIETY, ARMAGEDDON AVERTED, and MAGNETIC MOUNTAIN. Kotkin was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for STALIN—VOLUME 1: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928.

Judges’ citation: A stunning achievement, Stephen Kotkin’s STALIN reveals with precision and clarity the period in which the impatient dictator developed into a monster who used his authoritarian rule and coercive power to manipulate social divisions, invent enemies, and forge despotism in mass bloodshed. Through his prodigious research and command of an immense body of new documents, Kotkin comprehensively documents Josef Stalin’s rule and his remaking of the USSR into an empire, and he gets inside the mind of a tyrant whose murderous obsessions led him to execute nearly a million people. This second volume of Kotkin’s planned trilogy deepens understanding of the turbulent, tragic period by juxtaposing Stalin’s extension of influence in the Soviet Union with Adolf Hitler’s rise in Germany, culminating in the most disastrous conflagration in modern history. In a landmark work of historical scholarship, Kotkin has written a captivating biography of a despot that chronicles the evolution of Stalin as a human being, political operator, and growing archfiend in this horrific era of modern history. 

Finalist: Caroline Fraser’s PRAIRIE FIRES: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Metropolitan Books)

Caroline Fraser

Caroline Fraser

Bio: Caroline Fraser is the editor of the Library of America edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, and the author of REWILDING THE WORLD and GOD’S PERFECT CHILD. Her writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, and the London Review of Books, among other publications. She lives in New Mexico.

Judges’ citation: Caroline Fraser has brilliantly recast our understanding of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life and times and affirmed her influence in shaping the myth of the iconic West.  Extensively researched, PRAIRIE FIRES reflects Fraser’s deep knowledge of westward expansion,  and captures the full arc of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life in three acts: poverty, struggle, and reinvention. Fraser illuminates how Wilder’s wildly popular ‘Little House’ series was a “profound act of American myth-making and self-transformation” by a woman who had reimagined her frontier life as epic and uplifting, with disappointment and loss transformed into parable.  Fraser keys into the vexed relationship between Wilder and her daughter, Rose, a profligate tabloid journalist prone to dramatic mood swings, and locates a dark libertarian strain running through the family. This biography considers a cultural touchstone—“Little House on the Prairie”—and magnificently places it in the American experience and imagination.

About Columbia Journalism School

For more than a century, the school has been preparing journalists in programs that stress academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer, the school opened its doors in 1912 and offers degrees including a Master of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science in Data Journalism, a joint Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Journalism, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Communications. It houses the Columbia Journalism Review, the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. The school also administers many of the leading journalism awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes, the John Chancellor Award, the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, and the Mike Berger Award. | @columbiajourn

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 1,500 journalists from 96 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; Nieman 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. | @niemanfdn