2024 Maria Moors Cabot Prize Winners Announced

Columbia Journalism School announced the 2024 winners of the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes for outstanding reporting in the Americas.

July 10, 2024

Honoring Outstanding Reporting in Latin America and the Caribbean

Special Citations for Coverage of Criminal Gangs and Disinformation

Columbia Journalism School announced the 2024 winners of the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes for outstanding reporting on the Americas. The 2024 Cabot Prize Gold Medalists are Lalo de Almeida, documentary photographer, Brazil; Carlos Ernesto Martínez, El Faro, El Salvador; John Otis, NPR, the Committee to Protect Journalists, United States; and Frances Robles, The New York Times, United States.

In addition, the Cabot Jury selected two 2024 Special Citation recipients: InSight Crime, a think tank and investigative news organization, is being honored for deepening our understanding of organized crime and its impact across the Americas. Laura Zommer, a journalist who is leading the fight for transparency using technology and digital journalism tools, is also receiving a special citation. 

The Cabot Prizes honor journalists and news organizations for career excellence and coverage of the Western Hemisphere that furthers inter-American understanding. Godfrey Lowell Cabot of Boston founded the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes as a memorial to his wife in 1938. They are the oldest international journalism awards.

“We honor the 2024 Cabot Prize winners for their outstanding coverage of the Americas, and for providing critical and reliable information to people everywhere,” said Columbia Journalism School Dean Jelani Cobb. “On behalf of Columbia, congratulations on your accomplishments in journalism.”

Each Cabot Prize winner will receive a gold medal and a $5,000 honorarium. The 2024 Cabot Prize winners and Special Citation recipients will be celebrated at Columbia University’s Low Library on Tuesday, October 8.

“This is a truly consequential time for journalism and civil society in the Americas, with rising authoritarianism, increasingly sophisticated disinformation and the rampant growth of criminal organizations,” said Cabot Board Chair Rosental Alves. “All of these 2024 Cabot honorees inspire us with their important work on these issues and more across platforms.”

2024 Maria Moors Cabot Prizes Winners: 

Lalo de Almeida, documentary photographer, Brazil

Lalo de Almeida is a documentary photographer whose images have graced the pages of Brazilian daily newspaper Folha de S.Paulo for the last 30 years. During this time, his work has been characterized by a deep, unwavering commitment to documenting the most pressing issues of our time.

From the depths of the Amazon jungle to the walls that reinforce borders – and separate people – across the Americas and the world, to the dangers of the climate crisis in Brazil, Panama, Peru and the Arctic to the endless flow of migration, his lyrical and thoughtful images have crossed the geographic lines of his native Brazil to win the highest accolades in photojournalism. His images show us not only a world that is worth saving, but also reflect the empathy and profound respect with which he treats the stories and the people he turns his gaze upon.

As de Almeida continues to navigate the ever-changing landscape of photojournalism, seeking ways to keep documenting and exposing uncomfortable truths, he stands as a testament to the transformative power of photography and the enduring impact of visual storytelling in shaping our collective consciousness. 

For his remarkable talent, tenacity, journalistic integrity and courage to keep documenting the destructive forces threatening our environment, the Maria Moors Cabot Board is proud to honor Lalo de Almeida with a Maria Moors Cabot gold medal.

Carlos Ernesto Martínez, El Faro, El Salvador

Over more than two decades, Carlos Martínez has established an outstanding journalism career in El Salvador and beyond that has made him one of the leading reporters in the Western Hemisphere. He has achieved this level of professional success under extreme circumstances, including risking his own life to cover some of the most important stories in the region.

Martínez has brought field experience, courage, and a strong narrative voice to his reporting including short texts, books, and documentaries, among other formats. He has reported for El Faro on the migration phenomenon, torture and other human rights violations. Martínez has also covered organized crime and prison systems in one of the most dangerous regions in the world.

Today, his coverage of the expansion of gang activity is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to understand how criminal networks are devastating Central America, and how their influence is spreading across Mexico and the United States. He spent a decade investigating the phenomenon of violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America, particularly in the regional prison systems, the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs and their effects on Central American societies. He is also committed to covering the migration of undocumented Central Americans. Martínez is the author of the book “Together, All Together,” an account of the first caravan of Central American migrants that traveled through Mexico in their attempt to reach the United States. 

In addition to his work as a journalist, he is the co-creator and content director of the Central American Journalism Forum, the largest journalistic event in Central America.

In recognition of his firm commitment to the best journalism – particularly with chronicles and investigations – the Maria Moors Cabot jury wishes to honor Carlos Martínez with the Maria Moors Cabot Prize.

John Otis, NPR and the Committee to Protect Journalists, United States

In 1989, John Otis arrived in Panama as a young correspondent for United Press International. Just days later he was scrambling to cover the U.S. invasion that ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. It was a dramatic start for a correspondent who would go on to dedicate his life to explaining Latin America to his fellow Americans.

After covering Central America and the Caribbean for UPI, Otis moved to Bogotá, Colombia, where he has been based since 1997. He was South America bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle, then reported for TIME magazine. For the past decade, Otis has worked as a correspondent for NPR, and as a special contributor to The Wall Street Journal and Americas Quarterly magazine. 

He has excelled in his coverage of drug and guerrilla wars in Colombia. His book, “Law of the Jungle,” is a history of that conflict and focuses on three U.S. military contractors who were held hostage by Marxist rebels, then rescued by Colombian special forces. Otis has also reported on rising authoritarianism in Venezuela, the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil, and political and economic strife in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru and Paraguay. At the same time, he has championed the rights of fellow reporters in the region. For the past 13 years, he has been a consultant for the Committee to Protect Journalists, investigating press censorship, jailings, death threats and the killings of journalists in Latin America. 

For his outstanding contribution to Inter-American understanding through his excellent journalistic work, the Maria Moors Cabot jury is proud to honor John Otis with the Maria Moors Cabot Gold Medal.

Frances Robles, The New York Times, United States

For more than a quarter century, Frances Robles has been an authoritative voice in the Americas, telling us unique, historically significant and insightful stories first at The Miami Herald and more recently at The New York Times. From earthquakes and political upheaval, to guerrilla wars and corruption, Robles has often risked her life to expose the truth. She was also one of the early chroniclers of the phenomenon of young Central American children on perilous journeys to the southern U.S. border, alone or with traffickers, in desperate attempts to enter the United States. Of special note, Robles has focused her light on an issue that the Board believes to be among the region’s most pressing today: the growth of political authoritarianism that threatens democracy everywhere.

In Nicaragua, where the government is stripping its own people of their citizenship; in Venezuela, where the masses face deprivation while the rich luxuriate, and of course in Cuba with its endless struggles, Robles has produced exemplary journalism. Her tenacity shines especially brightly when repressive governments try to keep people like Robles out and to thwart them at every turn. Another example of that determination includes her work on Haiti, its bottomless collapse and especially a series of exclusive reports on the assassinated prime minister and the torturous plight of his widow.

For her moving and laser-focused illumination of the region’s crises and occasional triumphs, the Maria Moors Cabot Jury is proud to honor Frances Robles with a Cabot Gold Medal.

2024 Maria Moors Cabot Prize Special Citation Recipients 

InSight Crime, Colombia

InSight Crime has deepened the understanding of organized crime and its impact across the Americas with on the ground investigative reporting, data analysis, and research about criminal dynamics in the region. The organization's reporting reveals how organized crime and resulting violence have become driving forces in mass migration and environmental degradation, including illegal mining and logging contributing to climate change. They lay bare the threat to democracies posed by powerful criminal organizations and corrupt officials that weaken governments.

InSight Crime’s reporting and rigorous research have made it a resource for journalists, academics, civil society leaders, government officials, and policymakers seeking to learn more about organized crime’s long tentacles. The investigations are transnational, like the criminal organizations that are the focus of the reporting and include not only Latin America but also the United States and Europe.

Founded by journalists Steven Dudley and Jeremy McDermott in 2010 with a handful of people in Colombia, InSight Crime has built a team working in countries across Latin America “bound by an abiding belief that exposing organized crime is critical to dismantling it.”

Knowledge and understanding of criminal organizations that pose a threat across the hemisphere have never been more important. At the same time, reporting has become increasingly dangerous in the countries that are most affected. For all this, the Maria Moors Cabot Jury honors InSight Crime with a Cabot special citation.

Laura Zommer, Factchequeado, Argentina

At a time when truth and facts are under siege by misinformation, Laura Zommer leads the fight for transparency and fact-checking using technology and digital journalism tools. When she joined Chequeado.com in Argentina in 2012, fact-checking was almost unknown in Latin America. Today, Chequeado is the pioneering nonprofit journalism organization in the region with a team of 40 professionals dedicated to detecting lies, mis- and disinformation. Chequeado revolutionized journalism, first in Argentina and then throughout Latin America. 

Zommer has inspired and mentored many other journalists who created new fact-checking sites across the region. In addition, in partnership with Clara Jiménez Cruz, co-founder of Maldita.es, a fact-checking pioneer in Spain, Zommer created Factchequeado for the Spanish-speaking community in the United States. She also launched LatamChequea, the first Latin American fact-checking network, which includes organizations from 19 countries. LatamChequea played a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the need for social media companies to invest more resources in combating misinformation and for governments to establish legislation to protect transparency and journalism. 

These remarkable contributions have rightfully earned Laura Zommer a special citation from the María Moors Cabot Prize board, recognizing her as a visionary and a beacon of integrity and innovation in modern journalism in the Americas.                                         

The Cabot Prize Board meets annually to select the winners, and to discuss press freedom in the Western Hemisphere. In May 2024, the Cabot Board issued a statement condemning the criminalization of independent journalism in Latin America.

Members of the Cabot Prize Board in 2024:

Jury Chair Rosental Alves, Knight Chair in International Journalism, University of Texas, Austin; Hugo Alconada Mon, investigative journalist, La Nación (Argentina); Juan Enríquez Cabot, chairman and CEO of Biotechonomy, LLC; Carlos Fernando Chamorro, founder and editor, Confidencial (Nicaragua); Angela Kocherga, KTEP news director who also reports in the field on border issues including migration, the border security buildup, binational health, and trade; Marjorie Miller, administrator, Pulitzer Prizes, Columbia University; Elena Cabral, assistant dean, academic programs at Columbia Journalism School; Boris Muñoz, Venezuelan-American journalist, author and editor; Tracy Wilkinson, reporter covering foreign affairs out of the Los Angeles Times’ Washington bureau; Adriana Zehbrauskas, documentary photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona; Abi Wright, executive director of Professional Prizes at Columbia Journalism School.