ProPublica Investigative Reporter, Ginger Thompson Wins Prestigious 2019 John Chancellor Award | Columbia Journalism School
Ginger Thompson
Ginger reporting on the DEA in Mali in 2014. Credit: Jane Hahn

ProPublica Investigative Reporter, Ginger Thompson Wins Prestigious 2019 John Chancellor Award

Columbia Journalism School announced today that Ginger Thompson, an investigative reporter and foreign correspondent, is the recipient of the 2019 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism. As a senior reporter at ProPublica, she primarily writes about the United States’ fight against international drug cartels and the human consequences of that fight. In 2018, Thompson obtained secretly recorded audio of sobbing immigrant children who had been separated from their parents as part of the Trump administration’s Zero Tolerance border policy. Two days after the audio’s release, the administration retreated from the policy. A federal judge ruled against the policy a week later.

“Ginger Thompson is a fearless and versatile investigative reporter who has uncovered impactful stories about the world’s most secretive institutions,” said Dean Steve Coll, a member of the Chancellor jury. “Her work from the past three decades reflects the courage and integrity of the late John Chancellor.”

The John Chancellor Award is presented each year to a journalist for his or her cumulative accomplishments. The prize honors the legacy of pioneering television correspondent and longtime NBC News anchor John Chancellor, best remembered for his distinguished reporting on civil rights, politics and election campaigns. Selected by a committee of eight distinguished journalists, Thompson will receive the 2019 award with a $50,000 honorarium.

“I’m overwhelmed and humbled to have been chosen for this award. I count many of the past recipients among my professional heroes,” said Ginger Thompson. “ And as for the great John Chancellor, who called himself a ‘frightened optimist’ about the state of America, I share his conviction that whenever the country’s in trouble, journalists are key to turning things around.”

The award will be presented at a luncheon ceremony at Columbia University’s Low Library in New York City on Wednesday, November 13, 2019.

“The secret to Ginger Thompson’s long, distinguished career is her unwavering focus on injustice,” said Tracy Weber, ProPublica senior editor. “Undeterred by difficulty or risk, she follows a moral imperative to tell the stories the world needs to hear, and prod the powerful to redress wrongs.” 


A member of the MS13 gang showing Ginger the MS13 hand sign. Photo: Luis J. Jimenez.
Ginger interviewing gang members in a Honduran jail. Photo: Luis J. Jimenez.
Ginger interviewing a family in El Salvador who had been separated due to the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy. Photo: Hector Emanuel.

Before joining ProPublica in 2014, Thompson spent 15 years at The New York Times as the Mexico City bureau chief, as a Washington correspondent, and as a member of the Investigative Unit. Thompson was part of a team of reporters at The New York Times that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for the series, “How Race is Lived in America.” In 2006, she was awarded the Maria Moors Cabot Prize by Columbia University for distinguished reporting from Latin America. Her work has also won an Overseas Press Club Award, and an InterAmerican Press Association Award. Thompson’s reporting has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic and Audible. 

In addition to reporting, Thompson is a visiting professor at Columbia Journalism School and has taught a course for Spanish-speaking students at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Purdue University, and a Masters in Public Policy, with a focus on human rights law, from George Washington University.

The John Chancellor Award was established in 1995 by Ira A. Lipman—who recently passed at the age of 78—founder of Guardsmark, LLC one of the world's largest security service firms. The jury is chaired by Lynn Sherr, and in addition to Lipman includes Dean Steve Coll, Dean Emeritus Nicholas Lemann, Jelani Cobb, Hank Klibanoff, Michele Norris, Bill Wheatley and Mark Whitaker, as well as John Chancellor’s daughter Mary Chancellor. 

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, the Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, and the Mike Berger Award.

Links to reporting by Ginger Thompson:

Listen to Children Who’ve Just Been Separated From Their Parents at the Border” ProPublica, June 18, 2018.

How the U.S. Triggered a Massacre in Mexico” ProPublica, June 12, 2017. 

A Drug Family in the Winner’s Circle” The New York Times, June 12, 2012. 

After Losing Freedom, Some Immigrants Face Loss of Custody of Their Children” The New York Times, April 22, 2009.

Fear and Death Ensnare U.N.’s Soldiers in Haiti” The New York Times, January 24, 2006. 

Fatal Secrets in Honduras” The Baltimore Sun, June 1995.