McGruder and AP Staff Awards Announced

2019 Robert G. McGruder Award for Diversity and Leadership

Maribel Perez Wadsworth, president of USA TODAY Network and publisher of USA TODAY, was named recipient of the 2019 Robert G. McGruder Award for Diversity Leadership, the News Leaders Association announced today.

Wadsworth oversees 109 daily newspapers in the USA TODAY network.

“She’s not just talking about diversity but putting practices in place to make it happen,” said Michael Days, president of the News Leader Association.

Upon accepting the award, Wadswoth said, “Thank you for your incredible commitment to diversity in this industry. It’s truly an honor to be a recipient of this award and to be in inspiring company of past recipients … all tireless warriors in this fight for diversity and inclusion.”

2019 Bingham Fellowship Award

Laura Castañeda, a professor of professional practice at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, is the 2019 recipient of the Barry Bingham Sr. Fellowship, awarded by the American Society of News Editors. The $1,000 award, given in recognition of an educator’s outstanding efforts to encourage students of color in the field of journalism, was presented at the inaugural News Leaders Association News Leadership Conference in New Orleans.

2019 Associated Press Staff Excellence Awards  

Accounts of perseverance in the wake of disaster, deep investigative looks into cyber threats against American democracy, and images that highlighted the human side of controversial political issues are among the stories that have won the 2019 Associated Press Media Editors Awards for AP staff.

Dake Kang and Yanan Wang, both 25, were honored for excellence by staffers 30 years old or younger for work exposing the Chinese government’s reach into their citizens’ personal lives. Judges called their work “insightful — even shocking.”

Sharon Cohen, David Goldman and Mary Hudetz were recognized for stories about Native American women and children who disappeared or were killed on tribal lands. The judges called it “great writing, important topic, and remarkable reporting that resonated not just in Indian Country, but across the country.”

Christina Cassidy and Frank Bajak won for their investigative look at the vulnerable American voting system that judges called “aggressive watchdog journalism at a high level.”

The AP’s “mission is to inform the world — fairly, objectively and accurately,” said Thomas Koetting, deputy managing editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and coordinator of the contest. “The work in this year’s competition reflects that mission — and I would add two words: compassion and humanity. In a complex and sometimes inhumane world, AP journalists reached out to those who needed a voice and told stories that otherwise would have remained hidden.”

The annual competition honors the best work by AP staff in news, multimedia and photography and is open to employees in every U.S. state and 100 countries globally.

The judges are national board members of the Associated Press Media Editors, which merged  the American Society of News Editors into the News Leaders Association. Winners were recognized at that organization’s national conference in New Orleans on Sept. 9-10.

The winners are:


Winner: South Region Staff, “Hurricane Michael”

Judges’ comments: “Using compact but powerful writing, this team skillfully captured the breadth and impact of this destructive hurricane.  Their reporting was buoyed by the voices of survivors and victims, capturing the human impact of the disaster. The strong and compelling photography also elevated the package.  A masterful effort under challenging conditions for the journalists on scene.”

Honorable mention: California Staff, “California Wildfire”


Winner: Lori Hinnant, Bram Janssen and other staff, “The Missing”

Judges’ comments: “This is a terrifying story of international importance that needed to be told. The scope is wide. The storytelling is compelling and dramatic. The methodology of compiling the numbers is new. The reporting is remarkable. In typical AP fashion, the report is rooted in rock-solid reporting, and enhanced by poignant stories of lives upended.”

Honorable Mention: Staff including Rodrigo Abd, Michael Biesecker, Rebecca Blackwell, Allen G. Breed, Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza, Nomaan Merchant, Matt Sedensky and Julie Watson, “Torn Apart: Immigration in the Era of Trump”


Winner: Sharon Cohen, David Goldman and Mary Hudetz, “Death and Disappearance in Indian Country”

Judges’ comments: “Anyone who has tried to do investigative work on Native issues will understand how hard it must have been to gain the access needed to do this story right. Great writing, important topic, and remarkable reporting that resonated not just in Indian Country, but across the country.”

Honorable Mention: Sharon Cohen and David Goldman, “Women Behind Bars”


Winner: Christina Cassidy and Frank Bajak, “Election Security”

Judges’ comments: “The results of AP’s reporting were scary, proving two years after Russian meddling in U.S. elections that our voting systems are as susceptible to tampering as ever. Cyberattacks and voter fraud are a true threat to our democracy and the country is doing little to prevent these problems. This is aggressive watchdog journalism at a high level.”

Honorable Mention: Julie Carr Smyth, Kantele Franko and Ohio Staff, “Online Charter School Investigation”


Winners: Dake Kang and Yanan Wang, “China”

Judges’ comments: “This courageous team of journalists reported on ‘orphanages’ used to separate young Muslims from their families and culture, Chinese spies placed inside homes as ‘relatives,’ systematic suppression of Christianity and stifling surveillance. The work is insightful – even shocking – and the writing is vivid and detailed.”

Honorable Mention: Krysta Fauria, “Los Angeles Bureau Video Coverage”


Winner: Ohio Staff, for its  reporting on Ohio State team doctor Richard Strauss

Judges’ comments: “The AP provided relentless coverage that involved going through employment records and tracking down former employers, coaches, athletes and nursing students. One of the keys with such continuing coverage is to keep providing relevant context, so readers can track all the steps. The Ohio AP’s coverage is particularly successful in this regard. Fine job on an unfolding story.”


Winner: Mstyslav Chernov, “Ukrainian Youth Camp”

Judges’ comments: “By blending scenes from a military-like boot camp with interviews and scenes from a parade, this video shows how deeply the nationalist movement has become entrenched in the Ukraine. Spare, clean and straightforward.”

Honorable mention: Bram Janssen, “Sahara Missing”


Winner: Nat Castañeda, Bram Janssen and Lori Hinnant, “The Missing”

Judges’ comments: This team produced two pieces – one on AP’s global investigation of the fate of migrants, as seen through a Senegalese father waiting for word about his son; the other more specifically on dangers faced by migrants attempting to cross the Sahara Desert. The pieces employ a mixture of images – still photography, video, drones, archival pieces – and are written and narrated with such restraint that they become particularly haunting. Gripping storytelling.

Honorable mention: Khaled Kazziha and video team in Zimbabwe, “Livestream of Zimbabwe’s Deadly Post-Election Violence”


Winner: Rebecca Blackwell, “Crossing Under”

Judges’ comments: Blackwell captured a moment that has so many layers – a mother crawling under a border fence in the hope of finding freedom, a father having one last tender moment with his son, a toddler enjoying his bottle, oblivious to the separation of his parents. For all the ferocious political fighting over the issue of immigration, it boils down to this: Families making heartbreaking decisions to try to improve their lives.

Honorable mention: Andrew Harnik, “The Clap”


Winner: Khalil Hamra, Adel Hana, Ariel Schalit, Felipe Dana, Oded Balilty, “Gaza on the Edge”

Judges’ comments: Tension and turmoil fill these images, many of them showing the smoke of a battlefield and the anguish of the combatants. With scenes that echo the U.S. Civil War or World War I, this series captures the large price being paid over a relatively small chunk of barren turf, and the participants – often young – who are putting their lives in danger.

Honorable mention: Rodrigo Abd, “A Caravan” and Dar Yasin, “Kashmir Conflict”


Winner: Ben Curtis, “Scavenger”

Judges’ comments: This is one of those indelible images that reveals more of itself over time, layer by layer. The storks and the woman, barely aware of each other … the repulsive conditions in which they scavenge … the smoke from burning trash that lends a surreal quality … the ramshackle housing and hanging laundry that frames the image … the dingy grayness of it all, with no real sunlight – it just goes on and on.

Honorable mention: Rodrigo Abd, “Exhausted” and Altaf Qadri, “Lifting Her Veil”


Winner: Rodrigo Abd, “Dangerous Dives”

Judges’ comments: A tour de force. The arc of this story is excellent, from Miskito divers going after lobsters, to the impact of decompression syndrome, to the families that depend on the dangerous work, to the early deaths that happen all too frequently. The variety is remarkable – images made at sea level, underwater, through the glass of a hyperbaric chamber – and yet the consistent thread of desperation is unmistakable.

Honorable mention: Bernat Armangue, “Running of the Wine Horses” and Altaf Qadri, “India: Looking for Hope”


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