Tony Bartelme, The Post and Courier Senior Projects Reporter, Wins Prestigious 2021 John Chancellor Award | Columbia Journalism School
man stands in ankle deep waters outside building
Bartelme wading into 2020 floodwaters to test for bacteria levels for a report on the threat of sunny-day tidal floods.

Tony Bartelme, The Post and Courier Senior Projects Reporter, Wins Prestigious 2021 John Chancellor Award

Columbia Journalism School announced today that Tony Bartelme, senior projects reporter for The Post and Courier, is the recipient of the 2021 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism. 

His body of work shows a fierce determination to identify important and often neglected issues in the community — and then find answers that create change. 

For over 30 years, Bartelme has produced outstanding reporting in the public interest for the Charleston, S.C. newspaper, where he covered important local issues and traveled the world on stories that had a global reach while impacting his readers at home. His investigations have ranged from comprehensive environmental reporting to rooting out local corruption, which resulted in several criminal charges and convictions. He has uncovered hazardous waste sites that led to multi-million dollar cleanups and initiated collaborations across a number of local newspapers that gained national attention — and that’s just over the past three years. 

Those collaborations were part of a series titled “Uncovered,” to capture the double entendre of exposing wrongdoing while highlighting the problem of expanding news deserts. Leveraging his earlier investigations into shady sheriffs and prosecutors, Bartelme identified new targets in rural corners of South Carolina. Instead of bigfooting struggling papers in the process, The Post and Courier offered their stories for free and invited reporters to work with the members of the Uncovered team. To date, at least 18 news organizations across South Carolina have signed on. 

These stories and many others demonstrate Bartelme’s ability to stretch the limits of what local newspapers can offer their readers. 

Bartelme’s environmental reporting has set national standards for its quality and depth. He wrote about the threat to the ocean’s plankton, which produces half the world’s oxygen. He used a unique thermal imaging camera to show readers what emissions of carbon dioxide look like from buses, planes and power plants in a report called “Chasing Carbon.” He reported early on how climate change is endangering the Gulf Stream and then did deep dives again years after his initial investigation. As recently as August 2021, he traveled to Greenland to document how its rapidly melting ice affects Charleston. 

"Tony is among the most versatile reporters working today, capable of bringing complex science and environmental issues to life, while doggedly ferreting out corrupt government and business leaders,” said The Post and Courier Editor Glenn Smith.

“He exemplifies the ethos of the Chancellor Award — dedicating his career to telling big, important stories through the lens of his local community,” said Steve Coll, Dean and Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism of the Columbia Journalism School and a member of the Chancellor jury. “In this time of increasingly large news deserts and economic turmoil for local news outlets, Tony Bartelme’s work models excellence for the profession.”

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, Bartelme will receive the 2021 award with a $25,000 honorarium.

The award will be presented at a virtual ceremony held by Columbia Journalism School on Wednesday, November 17, 2021. 

silhoutted man stands amid water and icebergs
Bartelme travelled to Greenland in Aug 2021, including the Ilulissat Icefjord here, to document how its rapidly melting ice affects Charleston.
selfie of man in surgical mask in operating room
Bartelme observed a 2013 surgery in which the neurosurgeon stopped a woman’s heart so he could fix her aneurysm.
two men in field of tall plants
For a 2019 story about the endangered Santee Delta, Bartelme and a colleague searched in head-high cordgrass for the remnants of a village of enslaved rice field workers.

Bartelme has been with The Post and Courier since 1990. Prior to that, he spent five years at The Greenville News-Piedmont in Greenville S.C. He has written or co-written four books on topics as varied as the global shortage of surgeons, the downfall of South Carolina’s former governor Mark Sanford, the workers who built the largest cable-stayed bridge in North America and a round-the-world solo sailing race, for which he also penned a documentary script. He is a three-time Pulitzer nominee and the recipient of various other honors. He graduated from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and was a 2010-2011 Harvard Nieman Fellow. 

The John Chancellor Award was established in 1995 by Ira A. Lipman. Mr. Lipman, who died in 2019, was the founder of Guardsmark, LLC, one of the world's largest security service firms. The jury is chaired by Lynn Sherr, and in addition to Ira Lipman’s son Josh 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, The Simon and June Li Center for Global Journalism, the Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security, 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, Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, the Mike Berger Awards and the WERT Prize for Women Business Journalists.


Links to reporting by Tony Bartelme:

The Greenland Connection

Rising Waters 


Stickin’ with The Pig

Every Other Breath