Livingston Awards for Young Journalists announce 2022 winners

June 8, 2022

Stories highlighting Texas’ troubled mental health care system, the spread of viral disinformation and its effects on personal relationships, and the darker side of a religious order founded by Mother Theresa are the latest winners of the Livingston Awards. 

The awards, announced today, honor stories that represent the best in local, national and international reporting by journalists under the age of 35. The $10,000 prizes are for work released in 2021.

The Livingston Awards also honored the late Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Washington Post, with the Richard M. Clurman Award for mentoring. The $5,000 prize is given each year to an experienced journalist who has played a pivotal role in guiding and nurturing the careers of young reporters. The prize is named for the late Richard M. Clurman, former chief of correspondents for Time-Life News Service and architect of the Livingston Awards.

A program of Wallace House at the University of Michigan, the awards bolster the work of young reporters, create the next generation of journalism leaders and mentors, and advance civic engagement around powerful storytelling. The sponsors include the University of Michigan, Knight Foundation, Indian Trail Charitable Foundation, Mollie Parnis Livingston Foundation, Christiane Amanpour, Fred and Judy Wilpon Foundation, Dr. Gil Omenn and Martha Darling, and Google News Initiative.

Livingston Awards national judges Raney Aronson-Rath of Frontline, María Elena Salinas of ABC News, Anna Quindlen, author, and Bret Stephens of The New York Times introduced the winners at a ceremony, hosted by former long-serving Livingston Awards national judge Dean Baquet of The New York Times.

“Reading the Livingston Award entries we are reminded of the power of journalism to chronicle not just the biggest stories of the moment, but also looming crises and long ago misdeeds only now being called to account,” said Lynette Clemetson, director of Wallace House. 

“This year’s winners each craft beautifully nuanced portraits of the consequences of systemic failures and loss of trust in institutions. Through meticulous reporting, they leave us no choice but to ponder the responsibility of those in power and our individual roles in either perpetuating or changing the systems that guide our lives.” 

The 2022 winners for work published in 2021 are:

Local Reporting

Alex Stuckey
Alex Stuckey

Alex Stuckey, 31, of the Houston Chronicle for “In Crisis,” an investigation of Texas’ mental health facilities, revealing an underfunded system shrouded in secrecy, where patient care takes a backseat to blame-avoidance. Her work prompted new state procedures and legislation to begin to address these problems.

“Alex Stuckey’s vivid accountability journalism about the challenges people living with severe mental illness face in Texas reveals a state in crisis and a serious bureaucratic breakdown with devastating human consequences. The systematic failure in Texas set against the stories of individual families is both urgent and heartbreaking and a model of great journalism,” Aronson-Rath said. “Drawing on a long-standing personal interest in care for those living with mental illness, her investigation illustrates a complex web of state level policies and failures that have a dire impact on the people who need the services the most.”

National Reporting

Jose Del Real
Jose Del Real

Jose Del Real, 31, of The Washington Post for “Truth, Trust and Conspiracy Theories in America,” a series examining viral disinformation, how it spreads and the impact it has on the personal relationships of those involved.

“As we try to navigate this complicated world we are living in, chock full of divisions and conspiracy theories that lead to anger and hatred, it is refreshing to read the humanity that Jose Del Real put into his stories on this very perplexing issue,” Salinas said. “He treats his characters with respect and compassion and helps the reader try to understand what moves them. Jose Del Real is a gem who so eloquently reminds us that conspiracy theories are part of American history and that only truth and trust can attempt to overcome them.”

International Reporting

Erika Lantz (top), and Elin Lantz Lesser
Erika Lantz (top), and Elin Lantz Lesser

Erika Lantz, 31, and Elin Lantz Lesser, 30, of Rococo Punch and iHeartRadio for “The Turning, The Sisters Who Left” a podcast series exploring the insular world of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Theresa, and the darker side of devotion.

“Sometimes it is the intimate, the human, that unexpectedly illuminates the great world for us. That was the case for me with ‘The Turning: The Sisters Who Left,'” Quindlen said. “In the anguished words of women who had entered the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa, I heard the classic dilemma of women’s lives: sacrifice vs. freedom. Following faith and seeking to serve the poor, these women had discovered a system of isolation and control that began to break their spirits. Their stories were told with such care and sensitivity that their struggles lived within me afterward, less a podcast, more a world.”

Mentoring Award

Fred Hiatt
Fred Hiatt

Fred Hiatt, editorial editor of The Washington Post, was honored posthumously with the Richard M. Clurman Award for his personal commitment to counsel, nurture and inspire young journalists.

“Somehow, Fred saw through the writer I was to the writer I wanted to be, one I couldn’t have become without his patience and support, one encouraging email at a time,” wrote Alexandra Petri, columnist for The Washington Post, in a program tribute to Hiatt. “Fred must have had access to some reservoir of time that most people do not, because I can name dozens of people who feel the same gratitude for the doors he opened.”

In addition to Aronson-Rath, Salinas, Quindlen and Stephens, the Livingston national judging panel includes; Ken Auletta of The New Yorker; John Harris of Politico; Matt Murray of The Wall Street Journal; Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune; Lydia Polgreen of Gimlet; and Kara Swisher of The New York Times and Vox Media.