White House Correspondents’ Association Announces 2016 Journalism Awards

The White House Correspondents’ Association, founded in 1914 and dedicated to full coverage of the President of the United States, is proud to announce the winners of its annual awards for distinguished print and broadcast journalism.

  • The winner of the Aldo Beckman Memorial Award for excellence in White House coverage is Carol Lee of the Wall Street Journal.
  • The winner of the Merriman Smith Award for outstanding White House coverage under deadline pressure is Matt Viser of the Boston Globe.
  • The winner of the Merriman Smith award for broadcast journalism is Norah O’Donnell of CBS News.

The Edgar A. Poe awards, which recognizes excellence in coverage of events or investigative topics of regional or national interest, will be shared this year by Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post and Neela Banerjee, John Cushman Jr., David Hasemyer and Lisa Song of InsideClimate News.

The Edgar A. Poe Award

The Edgar A. Poe Award honors excellence in news coverage of subjects and events of significant national or regional importance, written with fairness and objectivity. A prize of $2,500 was established by the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Newhouse Newspapers in honor of their distinguished correspondent, Edgar A. Poe.

Terrence McCoy. Photo © Mary F. Calvert
Terrence McCoy. Photo © Mary F. Calvert

From the Judges on Terrence McCoy of The Washington Post

After African-American Freddie Gray died in police custody in Baltimore, McCoy investigated the fact overlooked by others that Gray ingested lead paint as a child, leaving him permanently disabled. McCoy learned Gray was among tens of thousands of poor black Baltimore residents similarly poisoned as children. Gray had received a settlement from a 2008 lead poisoning lawsuit, with the money distributed over years to assure that plaintiffs, often unsophisticated in financial matters, didn’t spend all the money at once. But Gray sold the payouts to a company called Access Funding in return for a lump- sum payment that cost him several hundred thousand dollars in lost payouts. McCoy’s investigation found access funding had struck similar deals with many other lead poisoning victims. His findings led to substantial reforms aimed at protecting these vulnerable citizens.

From the Judges on InsideClimate News

As early as 1977, scientists at energy and oil giant Exxon Corporation told top executives that fossil fuel emissions were warming the planet. Over time, however, Exxon became a leader in denying climate change and argued that the science was inclusive. Reporters Neela Banerjee, John Cushman, Jr., David Hasemyer and Lisa Song of InsideClimate News, used documents, interviews and the public record from four decades to reveal a deeply disturbing trail from climate change discovery to denial. The story prompted the New York Attorney General to issue a subpoena to force Exxon to disclose records in order to determine if it committed fraud under state law.

Honorable Mention to Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe

Michael Kranish”s 10-part “Divided Nation” series probed the impact of class, race and income inequality on voter sentiment. His strong characters and compelling writing made personal the vast and widening gap between rich and poor in America. Kranish’s reporting linked the 2008 economic crisis, massive home foreclosure, escalating CEO compensation, corporate stock buy-back plans and centuries-old racial schisms to the voter anger, frustration and disillusionment.

Judges for the Poe Award

  • Ellen Shearer: Director, Medill School of Journalism Washington Program, Co-Director, Medill National Security Journalism Initiative, Washington, DC
  • Indira Somani: Howard UniversityAsst. Professor/Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Scholar, Washington, DC
  • A’Lelia Bundles: National Archives Foundation Washington, DC
  • Frank Sesno: Director, The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, Washington, DC

The Merriman Smith Memorial Award

The Merriman Smith Memorial Award for excellence in presidential news coverage under deadline pressure originated in 1970 in memory of Merriman Smith of United Press International, a White House correspondent for more than thirty years. The award carries a cash prize of $2,500.

From the Judges on Matt Viser

In his July 14 piece, “An Inside Look at How the Iran Talks Unfolded,” Viser made the judges feel like they were in the room with Secretary of State John Kerry, his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and the other negotiators in Vienna. Viser made the diplomatic language of a landmark international agreement accessible to average readers. His story skillfully wove in telling details and scene-setting color.

From the Judges on Norah O’Donnell:

O’Donnell’s “60 Minutes” interview with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, was insightful regarding the Vice President’s announcement that he would not seek the presidency.

Honorable Mention for David Nakamura, The Washington Post:

“An Angry Obama Upbraids Critics Who Want to Block Refugees from Syria.” The account of President Obama’s reaction to the Paris attacks-and to his Republican critics-while attending an economic summit in the Philippines was deeply reported and well written.

Judges for the Merriman Smith Award:

  • Tom Diemer: Editor and Lecturer Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism Washington Program
  • Steve Crane: Cronkite News, Arizona State University, Washington, DC
  • Jackie Jones: Associate Professor and Chair of Multimedia Journalism, Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD

The Aldo Beckman Award

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.

From the Judges on Carol Lee of the Wall Street Journal: Carol Lee focused on one of the most critical responsibilities of a president, foreign policy. Her coverage displayed a heft and authority that illuminated Mr. Obama’s policies as well as motivations. She melded the elements into a coherent framework that was understandable to her readers and wove those themes into her coverage of events, providing context and clarifying analysis.

Judges for the Aldo Beckman Award:

  • Barbara Cochran: Curtis B. Hurley Chair, University of Missouri School of Journalism, Washington, DC
  • Kwame Holman: Former Political Correspondent, PBS NewsHour, Upper Marlboro, MD
  • Bryan Monroe: Verizon Chair and Professor, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

The WHCA Board of Directors would like to congratulate the 2016 journalism awards winners and extend our deepest thanks and gratitude to the judges who worked on this year’s award submissions.