Columbia Journalism School announced today that reporters from the Los Angeles Times and a partnership between the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica won the 2020 Meyer “Mike” Berger Award and the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, respectively.
Thomas Curwen and Francine Orr, a staff writer and a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times, have won the 2020 Berger Award for “The Street Within,” their immersive series that followed eight residents of a homeless encampment who were fast-tracked to apartments in South Los Angeles. Reported over eighteen months, the four-part series exposed the flaws of seemingly well-meaning housing policies, and how “help” can end up being cruel or indifferent to the reality of the nation’s unhoused. Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Times Norman Pearlstine said “Curwen and Orr captured an indelible picture of individuals attempting to change their lives, overcome obstacles and create a better future for themselves.” 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.
Kyle Hopkins of the Anchorage Daily News is the 2020 winner of the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award for “Lawless,” a groundbreaking investigation into the shocking lack of law enforcement in Alaska’s rural, mostly indigenous communities. Through painstaking research, Hopkins and colleagues found that 70 villages, approximately one in three communities have no police, state troopers or tribal officers to protect its residents. These communities are much more likely to be in areas of the state with the highest instances of poverty, sex crimes and suicide Weeks after the first story published, U.S. Attorney General William Barr declared a federal emergency, releasing millions of dollars in public safety funds for indigenous Alaskan communities. 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.
2020 Berger Award Jurors’ Citation:
“The Street Within” is a stunning body of work that presents the eight residents as multi-dimensional people. Both the writing and photography tell us something we don’t know, and the story is revealed with poetry, both visually and in words. This series takes off where most others end, exposing the problems of short-sighted public policies that fail to understand the complexities of human nature. With patience and persistence Curwen and Orr take the time to expose the real story — the flaws of seemingly well-meaning housing policies, how there are no simple solutions — and in fact, how “help” can end up being cruel or indifferent to the reality of the nation’s unhoused. This project should be studied by policy makers both at the state and federal level for a true understanding of the homeless crisis facing America.
Jurors: Joanne Faryon, Meg Kissinger and Dale Maharidge
Link to work:
“The Street Within”
2020 Tobenkin Award Jurors’ Citation:
The groundbreaking series “Lawless” features extraordinarily impactful reporting and storytelling layered with key voices from a historically neglected community. Through painstaking searches of databases of local and state institutions and extensive interviews, Kyle Hopkins and colleagues found that 70 villages, approximately one in three communities, have no police, state troopers or tribal officers to protect its residents. This stands in sharp contrast to the state’s mostly white cities and suburbs patrolled by state troopers dispatched by an agency originally created to protect native villages. The series prompted a swift reaction. U.S. Attorney General William Barr declared the lack of public safety in rural Alaska a federal emergency, an action that ultimately pledged more than $52 million to support new law enforcement staff and infrastructure.
Jurors: Elena Cabral, Lisa R. Cohen and Ari Goldman
Link to work: