Announcing the Winners of the 2020 Christopher J. Welles Memorial Prize and WERT Prize for Outstanding Global Business Journalism by a Female Journalist | Columbia Journalism School

Announcing the Winners of the 2020 Christopher J. Welles Memorial Prize and WERT Prize for Outstanding Global Business Journalism by a Female Journalist

The Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia Journalism School announced today that reporters from The New York Times and Fortune, respectively, won the 2020 Christopher J. Welles Memorial Prize and WERT Prize for Outstanding Global Business Reporting by a female journalist.

Mary Williams Walsh, ‘83 Knight-Bagehot, a financial reporter at The New York Times, has been awarded the 2020 Christopher J. Welles Memorial Prize for her impressive body of reporting at the intersection of finance, public policy and the aging population, and for recent work assessing the impact of COVID-19 on state budgets, public pensions, debt and corporate bankruptcies.

In reviewing Ms. Walsh’s work, the committee said: “Mary Williams Walsh’s beat might best be described as 'watching out for the collective wealth of the less fortunate,' be they impoverished states or the imperiled pension funds of working people. These stories...alone qualify her for the prize, but this Welles Prize might also commemorate the years she has stayed on this beat, forcing it on us while much of the business press found buzzier topics...”

The Welles Prize honors the memory of Christopher J. Welles, a former director of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship who was considered a top business writer from the 1960s to the 1980s for his penetrating accounts of malfeasance, corruption and corporate collapses. It is given annually to a graduate of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship. 

Erika Fry, a senior writer for Fortune, has won the 2020 WERT Prize for her piece "Epidemic of Fear," charting the years-long tragic course of a vaccine against dengue fever.

"'Epidemic of Fear' by Erika Fry reads almost like a movie screenplay," said Committee Member Kimi Yoshino, Los Angeles Times Managing Editor. "I was riveted by every paragraph until the end. It’s masterfully written and meticulously reported."

The WERT Prize honors excellence in comprehensively reported business journalism by a woman that fosters a greater understanding of global business. The WERT Prize was established in 2018 and is funded by a bequest made by the Women’s Economic Round Table and support from the Muriel F. Siebert Foundation and the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

Knight-Bagehot alumni participating in the Welles Prize selection included: Quentin Hardy (‘95), Head of Editorial at Google Cloud; Bloomberg News reporter Greg Farrell (‘97); Columbia Journalism School Adjunct Faculty Member Leslie Wayne (’80) and Business and Financial Journalist Chana Schoenberger (‘06). 

In addition to Ms. Yoshino, the WERT Prize committee members included New York Times Deputy Managing Editor Rebecca Blumenstein; Fast Company Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Mehta; Founding Editor of Quartz Africa Yinka Adegoke; Michelle Holmes, former Vice President; Head of Partnerships, Advance Local; Kevin Delaney, Co-Founder of Quartz; and Sandy Sugawara, former Deputy Director of Voice of America.

"I’d like to thank the Women's Economic Round Table, the Siebert Foundation and McKinsey for their generous support of the WERT Prize, plus members of both committees for taking the time to judge the entries," said Knight-Bagehot Director Ann Grimes. 

Both awards will be presented on October 21, 2020 at the Knight-Bagehot 45th Anniversary Celebration and Virtual Gala. Comedian and author Sarah Cooper will headline the event. To purchase tickets for the 45th Anniversary Celebration and Virtual Gala, visit: 


The Knight-Bagehot Fellowship offers experienced journalists the opportunity to enhance their understanding and knowledge of business, economics, finance and technology, as well as gain a strong understanding of the business of journalism itself, in a full-time program administered by the Columbia Journalism School. The fellowship is named for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami, which established an endowment for the program, and Walter Bagehot, the 19th­-century editor of The Economist. 

About Columbia Journalism School

For more than a century, the 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 its doors in 1912. It offers a Master of Science, Master of Arts, a joint Master of Science degree in Computer Science and 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, and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. In addition to the Pulitzer Prizes, the school 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.