Livingston Awards announced for young journalists

June 1, 2015
Contact: Laura Lessnau llessnau@umich.edu

 Livingston Awards logoANN ARBOR­—Stories about sexual assault at an elite evangelical college, the haphazard system of lax laws and weak screening standards for armed security guards, and the life-saving heroics of Syria’s first responders won the Livingston Awards today.

The $10,000 prizes for journalists under age 35 are the largest all-media, general-reporting prizes in the country.

The Livingston Awards also honor an on-the-job mentor with a $5,000 prize named for Richard M. Clurman, the distinguished Time Inc. journalist.

Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the University of Michigan to support a new emphasis on digital media efforts, the program continues to see an increase in digital submissions, with a 21-percent increase in digital entries over last year. Since the funding initiative began two years ago, the number of digital entries increased 125 percent. The overall number of entries increased 53 percent.

Livingston judges Dean Baquet of The New York Times, Christiane Amanpour of CNN International, Ellen Goodman of The Conversation Project and Ken Auletta of The New Yorker introduced the winners today at a luncheon in New York.

“The judges have a remarkable record in singling out for early recognition journalists who go on to leadership, including Thomas Friedman, Christiane Amanpour, David Remnick and Michele Norris,” said Charles R. Eisendrath, founding director of the program. “Adding a prize for mentors who provide indispensable guidance at critical moments in a developing career helped complete an important circle of celebration.”

The 2014 winners are:

Local Reporting
Kiera Feldman, 29, of The New Republic and The Investigative Fund for “Sexual Assault at God’s Harvard,” an investigation of Patrick Henry College’s mishandling of sexual assault complaints. Interviews with several female students reveal a college administration that covered up sexual assaults and shifted blame to victims.

Although other colleges and universities have come under fire for their handling of similar complaints, Patrick Henry College is one of a handful that avoids compliance with federal laws such as Title IX or the Clery Act by declining all federal funding.

“Other female students who say they reported sexual assault or harassment to the administration also left feeling that school officials blamed them instead of holding the accused male students accountable,” wrote Feldman. “The administration, they say, seemed much more concerned with protecting Patrick Henry’s pristine public image.”

National Reporting
Shoshana Walter, 29, and Ryan Gabrielson, 34, of The Center for Investigative Reporting, for “Hired Guns,” an investigation on the haphazard system of lax regulation, weak screening standards and little to no training for armed security guards.

Walter and Gabrielson compiled data on every state and uncovered cases where violent felons, the mentally ill and former police officers with civil rights violations were able to obtain jobs as armed security guards.

“This project was built on challenging an assumption many of us have made in our daily lives—that armed guards make us safer,” said the team of Walter and Gabrielson. “Few realize armed guards are subject to such low standards of training and oversight. We went to the public records for answers and were overwhelmed with cases in which people were harmed because guards had guns. The most harmed were the guards themselves.”

International Reporting
Matthieu Aikins, 30, of Matter/Medium, for “Whoever Saves a Life,” a story about first responders in Syria’s civil war. Members of the Hanano Civil Defense team risk their lives daily to save civilians caught in the aerial bombardment of Aleppo. Aikins follows the young volunteers as they rush to bomb sites, treat the injured, and retrieve bodies—dead and alive—from beneath the rubble.

“They were there to stand beside the weakest, and the most hopeless, even at the cost of their own lives, even after losing three teammates, even after the destruction of their station,” wrote Aikins. “So that others might live.”

On-the-Job Mentoring
Tom Brokaw received the Richard M. Clurman Award for his dedication to mentoring young journalists. Brokaw was sole anchor and managing editor of the “NBC Nightly News” from 1983 to 2004. He is the author of seven books, including the bestseller “The Greatest Generation” and “A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope,” his most recent release. Brokaw now serves as special correspondent for NBC News.

In addition to Amanpour, Auletta, Baquet and Goodman, the Livingston judging panel includes John Harris, editor in chief of POLITICO; Clarence Page, syndicated columnist and editorial board member of the Chicago Tribune; Scott Pelley, anchor and managing editor of the “CBS Evening News”; author Anna Quindlen; and Kara Swisher, CEO of Revere and co-executive editor of Re-Code.

About the Livingston Awards
The Livingston Awards at the University of Michigan honor outstanding achievement by journalists under age 35 in local, national and international reporting with prizes of $10,000. By recognizing the best young talent early in their careers, the Livingston Awards support the work of young journalists, create role models for the next generation of news consumers and advance excellence in journalism. Visit: livawards.org. Follow: @LivingstonAward

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. Visit: knightfoundation.org.