2020 Award Winners

The White House Correspondents’ Association is pleased to announce the winners of our 2020 journalism awards.

“This year’s winners represent the best of the kind of journalism America needs now more than ever — fact-based reporting that holds those in power accountable without fear or favor,” said Jonathan Karl, the president of the association.

The winners include journalists from PBS, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times and ProPublica.

The awards this year include two new prizes:  The Katharine Graham Award for Courage and Accountability and the Award for Excellence in Presidential News Coverage by Visual Journalists.

Of the entries for the new Katharine Graham Award, the judges wrote: “If anyone doubts the vigor of journalism today, we would invite them to look at the entries for the Katharine Graham Award for Courage and Accountability. It was a remarkable field covering a range of topics, which made it hard to settle on a winner.”

Here are the winners of the 2020 WHCA journalism awards:


The Aldo Beckman Award for Overall Excellence in White House Coverage:

Yamiche Alcindor of  PBS NewsHour

From the judges:

Yamiche Alcindor is serious, incisive and — though she has a quiet demeanor — tough as nails. Her asylum seekers report was exceptionally well done. She has interesting new takes on national stories. Her work on immigration and race are sensitively handled.

Alcindor’s qualities reflect integrity, impartial analysis, breadth and depth of knowledge of the presidency and a love of the institution. We look forward to watching her work for decades to come.


In Britain, Trump combines ceremony with controversy

In Ohio, do Republican voters care about Trump’s remarks on race?

Trump praises ‘unity’ at G-7, but diverges from other leaders on policy

Why the man Trump once called ‘my African American’ is leaving the GOP

How Rudy Giuliani went from ‘America’s mayor’ to Ukraine business broker

Asylum seekers forced to remain in Mexico face daily threat of violence


Honorable mentions:

Peter Baker: As always, he produces “big idea” stories illustrated with small details and color. He speaks truth to power. Peter Baker is a must read and a rare talent.

Phil Rucker: His work is a “must read.” He has great insight into President Trump and the Administration’s workings. He can always shed light on the president’s behavior and motivations.



The Merriman Smith Memorial Award for Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure for Print:

Alan Cullison, Rebecca Ballhaus and Dustin Volz of  The Wall Street Journal.

From the judges:

The story that would light the fuse of impeachment posted on a sunny Friday afternoon in September. Under the headline ‘Trump Repeatedly Pressed Ukraine to Investigate Biden’s Son,’ Wall Street Journal reporters Alan Cullison, Rebecca Ballhaus and Dustin Volz revealed that in a July phone call the president of the United States pressured Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to initiate a probe of Hunter Biden.

As described by the New York Times three months later, the Journal’s “explosive” story was the final straw for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Within days the once-reluctant Pelosi initiated an impeachment investigation. The story illuminated what until then had been provocative but vague reports of a whistleblower’s complaint about a Trump call with a foreign leader.

The Journal reporters wrote with context and sweep and made the implications clear from the start: Trump, the lede said, wanted Zelensky to work with Rudy Giuliani “on a probe that could hamper Mr. Trump’s potential 2020 opponent.” The Journal’s relentless reporting broke new ground and gave the public information that the administration had tried to keep under wraps.

See the story


The Merriman Smith Memorial Award for Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure for Broadcast:

CNN for “FBI. Open the door.”

From the judges:

CNN’s reporting on the Roger Stone arrest began a month earlier, with a clue about a court scheduling anomaly. Then came unusual grand jury activity. Then an odd, packed suitcase wheeled by one of the prosecutors in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Stone. It culminated early in the morning of Jan. 25, 2019, when a CNN producer and a photojournalist, staked outside of Stone’s home in Ft. Lauderdale, captured the 5 a.m., no-knock raid by the FBI of the former confidant of President Donald Trump.

CNN’s viewers saw the raid unfold in real time, the product of a team or reporters, producers and photojournalists tracking the investigation over months, connecting the dots and scooping the rest of the press corps. They even scooped Stone’s own lawyers, who only found out when CNN called for a comment. In addition to the exclusive video, the team produced a compelling, supportive package that explained the charges against Stone.  On deadline.



The Award for Excellence in Presidential News Coverage by Visual Journalists:

Doug Mills of the New York Times for “the Pelosi Clap.”

From the judges:

Doug Mills’ photograph of Nancy Pelosi and President Trump at the State of the Union Address is a visual representation of one of the most contentious political relationships in recent memory. The Speaker of the House lets the nation know exactly what she thinks of Trump as she claps with outstretched arms, tilting her head with a smirk across her face. The image brilliantly displays the tension, the personal animus and the power clash among branches of government that tells the story of this time and of this presidency. As the coronavirus story has developed, and we have witnessed the ongoing competition and crisis in Washington, it remains a vivid and relevant illustration of the fundamental discord and dysfunction that has attended this unprecedented, deeply polarized time.

By Doug Mills, The New York Times



The Katharine Graham Award for Courage and Accountability:

ProPublica’s “Death in the Pacific.”

From the judges:

The stories shined a new light on separate collisions in 2017 involving two Navy destroyers and a 2018 Marine mid-air collision, incidents that led to the deaths of 23 service members. Months of reporting and document reviews exposed problems in the esteemed Pacific Fleet that the Navy – which worked hard to block the reporting – would rather have ignored or blamed on sailors. Top-notch reporting was combined with detail-rich writing that made the stories impossible to put down.


Feb. 6, 2019

Fight the Ship: Death and Valor on a Warship Doomed by its own Navy

Dec. 30, 2019

Faulty Equipment, Lapsed Training, Repeated Warnings: How a

Preventable Disaster Killed Six Marines

Nov. 20, 2019

Blame Over Justice: The Human Toll of the Navy’s Relentless

Push to Punish One of Its Own


Honorable Mention

The Chicago Tribune and ProPublica for their “Quiet Rooms” project. It exposed the practice in Illinois schools of restraining or locking children away in isolation rooms for infractions as simple as using “raised voice tones” at school. The practice was a shock to some parents. Through careful reporting and well-crafted storytelling, they showed how a well-intentioned law was abused – recording more than 35,000 incidents in 15 months – and they sparked legislative change.”




The Aldo Beckman Award for Overall Excellence in White House Coverage

This award recognizes a correspondent who personifies the journalistic excellence and personal qualities of Aldo Beckman, a former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. Established in 1981, the Aldo Beckman, a joint effort of The Tribune Company and the WHCA, carries a cash prize of $1,000.


Lucy Dalglish, Dean, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland.

Jackie Judd, retired correspondent for ABC News, PBS NewsHour, CBS News and NPR.

Ann Compton, retired White House correspondent for ABC News and WHCA president 2007-2008.

The Merriman Smith Memorial Award for Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure

The award for excellence originated in 1970 in memory of Merriman Smith of United Press International, a White House correspondent for more than thirty years. The $2,500 award was conceived to perpetuate Mr. Smith’s memory and to promote the excellence he brought to his profession. The award is offered in two categories: Print and television


Ellen Shearer, Washington Bureau Chief and William F. Thomas Professor of Journalism, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University.

Jim Kuhnhenn, Press Freedom Fellow at National Press Club Journalism Institute, former White House reporter for the Associated Press, Congressional correspondent for Knight Ridder.

Bryan Monroe, Associate Professor of Practice, Temple University Klein College of Media and Communication; former president of NABJ; former Editor-in-Chief, Ebony & Jet magazines.

The Award for Excellence in Presidential News Coverage by Visual Journalists

The award is presented for the first time in 2020. It recognizes a video or photojournalist for uniquely covering the presidency from a journalistic standpoint, either at the White House or in the field. This could be breaking news, a scheduled event or feature coverage. The award is based on a single piece of visual journalism and comes with a prize of $1,000.


Carole Simpson, former anchor for ABC News and Professor Journalism at Emerson College.

Yanick Lamb, Professor, Cathy Hughes School of Communications, Department of Media, Journalism and Film, Howard University.

Frank Sesno, Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University.

The Katharine Graham Award for Courage and Accountability

The award is being given for the first time in 2020. It recognizes an individual or newsgathering team for coverage of subjects and events of significant national or regional importance in line with the human and professional qualities exemplified by the late Katharine Graham, the distinguished former publisher of The Washington Post. Judges will look for excellence in stories with fairness and objectivity in selecting a recipient, and special consideration will be given to reporting undertaken despite adversity. It comes with a prize of $10,000.


Peter Maer, retired CBS News White House Correspondent, longtime WHCA Board member and officer.

Steve Crane, Cronkite News/Arizona PBS, Arizona State University, Washington, D.C.

Amy Eisman, Director of Journalism Division, School of Communication at American University.

Terence Hunt: retired former deputy bureau chief and White House correspondent for the Associated Press.