Announcing the 2019 Winners of the Mike Berger Award & Paul Tobenkin Award | Columbia Journalism School
two photos: troops and child in parents' arms
First Photo: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post, Second Photo: Ilana Panich-Linsman/ProPublica

Announcing the 2019 Winners of the Mike Berger Award & Paul Tobenkin Award

Columbia Journalism School announced today that reporters from The Washington Post and ProPublica, respectively, won the 2019 Meyer “Mike” Berger Award and the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award.

Terrence McCoy ('12 M.A. Politics Graduate), a staff writer for The Washington Post, has won the 2019 Berger Award for his series on Americans who were challenged in deeply personal ways by some of the most significant political and social issues of the day including the opioid crisis and immigration. “McCoy’s work exposed a complex landscape that lies far beneath the nation’s divides — one in which the experiences and actions of ordinary people often run counter to prevailing assumptions,”  said Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post. The Berger Award, named after the late New York Times reporter Meyer “Mike” Berger, is awarded annually to a reporter(s) for an outstanding example of in-depth, human interest reporting. The award carries a $1,500 honorarium. 

Ginger Thompson, Senior Reporter; Michael Grabell, Reporter; and Topher Sanders, Reporter, of ProPublica have won the 2019 Tobenkin Award for their series “Zero Tolerance,” which focused on the experiences -- and voices -- of children who were separated from their parents after crossing the Mexico-U.S. border due to the Trump Administration’s family separation policy. At the heart of the reporting was an audio recording that captured the sounds of children, recently separated from their families at the Mexican border, sobbing and begging for their parents; the clip was played at a White House Briefing, by lawmakers on the floor of Congress, and by protestors at demonstrations across the country. The Tobenkin Award honors the late New York Herald Tribune reporter, and recognizes outstanding achievements in reporting on racial or religious hatred, intolerance or discrimination in the United States. The award also carries a $1,500 honorarium.

McCoy and reporters from ProPublica are invited to speak to Columbia Journalism students and professors at Columbia University’s annual Journalism Day ceremony on May 21, 2019. 


2019 Berger Award Jurors’ Citation:

Columbia University is proud to present Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post with the Mike Berger Award for his richly-drawn portraits of Americans ensnared in the most vexing political and social issues of our day. By deftly gaining access to his subject’s most private moments, McCoy gives us riveting stories that go against the conventional narrative: a heartsick grandmother struggling to understand her white supremacist grandson, a disabled truck driver desperately seeking relief for his opioid addiction, an exasperated Catholic priest conjuring mercy as he visits his brother priest in jail and the mother of a young woman murdered by an undocumented immigrant who finds courage and grace as she grieves. McCoy gives them a voice and, for us, a window into their torment. His immersive reporting is the finest example of how storytelling helps us understand our complex world.

Jurors: Joanne Faryon, Meg Kissinger and Dale Maharidge
Links to work:

‘Unintended Consequences’

‘You shouldn’t be doing this’

Facing the flock

Trump used her slain daughter to rail against illegal immigration. She chose a different path.


2019 Tobenkin Award Jurors’ Citation:

Columbia University is proud to present ProPublica’s Ginger Thompson, Michael Grabell and Topher Sanders with the Tobenkin Prize for their exceptional work documenting the desperately cruel practice of family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border. Their reporting demonstrated just how vulnerable arriving asylum seekers and migrants are, and how children in particular face the gravest dangers, whether it be physical, sexual or simply emotional violence. ProPublica’s brave and dogged reporting on this issue sparked moral outrage and a much-needed national conversation about migration and family separations. It’s precisely this kind of urgent, rigorous journalism that represents the best of our profession.

Jurors: Daniel Alarcón, Elena Cabral and Lonnie Isabel 

Link to work:

Zero Tolerance


About Columbia Journalism School

For more than a century, the Columbia Journalism 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 in 1912 and offers Master of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science in Data Journalism, a joint Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Journalism, The Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business 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, The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights 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, Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, the Mike Berger Awards and the WERT Prize for Women Business Journalists.


Caroline Martinet Wernecke, Assitant Director of Professional Prizes
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