(New York, NY, October 8, 2019) Hunter College announced today the winners of its 2019 James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism, which recognize excellence in written reporting that exposes widespread injustices, underlying causes, and possible reforms.
At the October 29 award ceremony, a Special James Aronson Award for Media in the Public Interest will be presented to Puerto Rico’s Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (Center for Investigative Journalism) in recognition of its outstanding and groundbreaking reporting, providing in-depth information and analysis vital to the people of Puerto Rico and other parts of the U.S.
“Puerto Rico’s Centro de Periodismo Investigativo is a worthy recipient of a James Aronson Award, having obtained, exposed, and explained a trove of hurtful comments made by officials at the highest echelons of power on the island,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “The reports sparked a widespread outcry that resonated across the globe and provoked swift change. I am pleased to acknowledge the critical contributions of the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo to my homeland at a key point in its history.”
The other 2019 winners are:
Blowout: Inside America’s Energy Gamble
Jamie Smith Hopkins, Jie Jenny Zou, Rachel Leven, Jim Morris, Center for Public Integrity; Kiah Collier, The Texas Tribune; Michael Biesecker, Tong-hyung Kim, The Associated Press; Zach Toombs, Newsy
Texas is oil and gas country. Behind denials of climate change is a more alarming story. Even as human populations suffer the effects of devastating storms and environmental degradation, this series exposes the doubling down on fossil fuels, this time for export, and with the full participation of the Chamber of Commerce, corporations, and the U.S. government. A must-read for the environmental movement.
Aviva Stahl, Gothamist
A provocative and compelling piece, “Manhattan Gulag” exposes extreme conditions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a pre-trial solitary confinement facility plagued by civil and human rights abuses and violations, including include filthy conditions, vermin infestations, substandard medical care, and violence and abuse at the hands of guards. The reporter spent 18 months investigating life inside the correctional center’s cells of 17 feet by 8 feet, with no natural light and isolation so extreme that inmates are punished for speaking through the walls. But while the detention center sits just blocks from City Hall and Wall Street, few people knew that a gulag exists right in the heart of Lower Manhattan.
Shocked and Humiliated
Susan Ferriss, Center for Public Integrity, in collaboration with The Washington Post
This outstanding investigation reveals how federal agents at U.S. airports, border crossings, and immigration detention centers used vaginal probing, shackling, handcuffing, and hours-long interrogations as federal officers scrutinized people in search of hidden drugs. In a profound and direct style of reporting, Ferriss uncovered and documented 11 invasive-search legal claims, and her reporting revealed that six had resulted in government settlements with victims totaling more than $1.2 million in payments.
Toxic City, Sick Schools
Barbara Laker, Wendy Ruderman, and Dylan Purcell; Photos and video by Jessica Griffin;
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The reporters document 9,000 environmental problems in Philadelphia’s public schools, thanks to dogged reporting and interviews with more than 120 teachers, parents, students, and experts. The parents’ stories about their children were compelling, heartbreaking, and unassailable. The story changed the public dialogue and led to significant reforms and funding that affected tens of thousands of children.
Cultivating a Community
James E. Causey; Angela Peterson, photographer; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Forty-five percent of the residents in Milwaukee’s 53206 ZIP code live below the poverty line. Nearly 4,000 of its men are or have been in prison. We Got This is a community garden where 58-year-old Andre Lee Ellis mentors endangered black boys, ages 12 to 17. This is also the neighborhood the reporter grew up in. The story includes his journal reflections as he reports on a place that was also once his home.
Father. Son. Cellmates.
Samantha Melamed, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Set in Pennsylvania’s prison system, “Father. Son. Cellmates” has tremendous narrative power as you meet the fathers and sons who share the same prison cell and gradually learn how they came to be who they are and where they are. This feature story required tremendous reporting diligence to navigate prison bureaucracies, win the trust of the prisoners themselves, and get them to open up about their lives. At a time when efforts are growing to scale back or abolish entirely the U.S. system of mass incarceration, Melamed helps us better understand how that system continues from one generation to the next.
Undergraduate Journalism Winner
Maria Luisa Imbachi, Hunter College
Imbachi is a senior at Hunter College majoring in media studies with a concentration in journalism. Born in Colombia and raised in East-Elmhurst, Queens, Imbachi was a staff writer for The Athenian, covering sustainability and immigration issues. Her multimedia stories about Dreamers offer a unique insight into people who have an opinion but often no voice, and her stories on the environment help students understand the importance of sustainability.
Grambs Aronson Cartooning with a Conscience Award
Rogers is the 2019 recipient of the Cartooning with a Conscience Award for the range of his work, unique artistry, and poignant social justice commentary.
After 25 years as the award-winning editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rob Rogers was fired in June of 2018 for drawing cartoons critical of President Trump. Rather than bow to pressure from management to soften his criticism of Trump, Rogers risked his livelihood to maintain his integrity.
The Aronson Awards will be presented on Tuesday, October 29, from 6:30 to 9 pm, at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, 2180 Third Avenue (corner of 119th Street), New York City. Winners will also discuss their inspiration and the challenges of reporting their stories. The esteemed journalist Karen Hunter will serve as host. Attendance is free, but an RSVP is required at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The James Aronson Awards are named after the journalist and educator who served Hunter College as a professor of journalism for 24 years. Among his famous quotes: “I believe that there is in the United States a company of honest journalists of all ages, conscious of the potential power of an informed people . . .”
Past winners of the Aronson Awards have been recognized for exposing discrimination based on race, class, gender, religion, or sexual orientation; economic exploitation; violations of human rights, civil liberties, or free expression; environmental degradation; and brutality to civilians in war. English language newspapers, magazines, blogs, and online publications based in the U.S. are eligible.
This article has been updated to include the video of the 2019 James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism, held October 29, 2019.