Announcing the Winners of the 2023 WERT Global and Welles Prizes

October 17, 2023

The Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia Journalism School announced today that a reporter from Bloomberg News and a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal have won the 2023 Christopher J. Welles Memorial Prize and that the WERT Global Prize for outstanding business reporting by a woman has been awarded to a reporter for The New York Times.

The prizes will be presented tonight at the Knight-Bagehot 48th Anniversary Gala Dinner at the Marriott Marquis in New York City.

The Welles Prize judges singled out two Knight-Bagehot alumni to receive the award: Jon Hilsenrath, Class of 1995-1996, and John Tozzi, Class of 2016-2017.

Hilsenrath, who worked as an editor and reporter for The Wall Street Journal for nearly 26 years, was cited for his book, “Yellen, The Trailblazing Economist Who Navigated an Era of Upheaval,” a biography of Janet Yellen, the U.S. Treasury Secretary and former Federal Reserve chair. The book represents the culmination of Hilsenrath’s stellar reporting on economics over the decades, the judges said.

“Jon knocked it out of the ballpark with this book that weaves so many threads into one compelling narrative about the last few decades of economics in America and the woman who was central to it all,” said judge Leslie Wayne, Knight-Bagehot Class of 1980. The book goes beyond biography and provides a detailed insider's view into the biggest economic challenges and crises of the last several decades. “Written with clarity and insight, “Yellen” is a perfect mix of the personal and policy, of politics and passion,” said Wayne.

Tozzi, a health care reporter for Bloomberg News, was cited for his series of stories exposing how New Jersey’s health insurer overpaid claims by millions of dollars and continued to do business with the insurer at considerable cost to taxpayers and state workers. His work highlights the essential impact of beat reporting, the judges said.

Tozzi's work “was detailed, dogged, clear and mind-blowing,” said judge Quentin Hardy, Knight-Bagehot Class of 1995. Hardy listed several criteria by which Tozzi’s work stood out: “I was outraged. I wanted to know more. I understood something about the world better (if less happily). I hope the reporter is still on the case, and that others join him.”

"These stories took us behind the scenes. They shocked us. They saddened us. And they showed us the critical role good business journalism plays in holding government and corporations accountable. We are pleased to honor the work of these three reporters."

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

Knight-Bagehot alumni participating in the Welles Prize selection included Hardy, Head of Editorial, Google Cloud; Robert Smith, Class of 2019, Director of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship; and Wayne, a Columbia Journalism School Adjunct Faculty Member.

Hannah Dreier, an investigative reporter at The New York Times, won the WERT Global Prize for “Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S.” and related stories exposing a migrant child labor scandal involving some of the world’s largest corporations. Dreier’s deeply reported work showed the struggles of real children in the context of the complex global political and economic challenges their families face. The story had immediate impact and led to sweeping changes in how the Department of Labor investigates child labor cases.

“If there’s one comprehensive story to read on the child labor crisis in the United States, this is it,” said judge Kimi Yoshino. “The deeply-reported piece is filled with images and voices of children, which drove home that this is about real kids, juggling school and work — and often the economic demands of their families in other countries — and that it’s not just about statistics and policies. The story tied all the pieces together, setting this crisis against the global geopolitical and economic challenges we’re experiencing today and how that has fueled immigration of unaccompanied minors to the United States. It’s no wonder this story prompted swift and immediate impact.”

The WERT Global Prize honors excellence in comprehensively reported business journalism by a woman that fosters a greater understanding of global business. The WERT Global Prize was established in 2018 and is funded by a bequest from the Women’s Economic Round Table and support from the Muriel F. Siebert Foundation and the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Thanks to a generous donation by the Siebert Foundation in honor of the 45th anniversary of the Women’s Economic Round Table, this year’s winner will receive $4,500.

The WERT Global Prize committee members included Kimberly Johnson, Deputy Chief News Editor, The Wall Street Journal; Jessica Liebman, Chief People Officer, Insider; and Yoshino, Editor in Chief, The Baltimore Banner. Knight-Bagehot alumni who read entries in the first round of judging included Sam Dean, Meghan Morris and Vivienne Nunis of the Class of 2023 and Christopher Otts of the Class of 2022.

“These stories took us behind the scenes,” said Robert Smith, Director of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship. “They shocked us. They saddened us. And they showed us the critical role good business journalism plays in holding government and corporations accountable. We are pleased to honor the work of these three reporters.”  

The Knight-Bagehot Fellowship offers experienced journalists the opportunity to enhance their understanding and knowledge of business, economics, finance and technology and gain a deep understanding of the business of journalism through a full-time program run by 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.