White House Correspondents’ Association 2021 Journalism Awards

The White House Correspondents’ Association announces the winners of its 2021 journalism awards for work done in 2020, dominated by reporting on former President Trump’s handling of the Covid pandemic, his actions during protests against racial injustice, the 2020 presidential election, and an in-depth investigation of the violent use of police dogs.

THE ALDO BECKMAN AWARD FOR OVERALL EXCELLENCE IN WHITE HOUSE COVERAGE

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post

The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker covered the White House with the instinct of a reporter, the narrative mastery of a writer and the analytic skills of a historian. His long-form reports during the final year of the Trump Presidency—ranging from the pandemic to impeachment to social unrest—were uniformly outstanding. They broke news, were well sourced and helped created a deeper understanding of the norm-breaking President.

THE MERRIMAN SMITH AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN PRESIDENTIAL NEWS COVERAGE UNDER DEADLINE PRESSURE – PRINT
Michael Balsamo of the Associated Press

Michael Balsamo broke the news that Attorney General William Barr was on his way to the White House to tell President Donald Trump that the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 elections that would change Joe Biden’s victory. Thanks to tireless source work and a year of preparing for contested election by Balsamo, Barr agreed to meet with him before heading to the White House. Balsamo had only a few minutes to dictate a news alert, breaking the news before the president was informed, and quickly followed up with a complete story, rich in detail and context, truly in the tradition of Merriman Smith.

THE MERRIMAN SMITH AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN PRESIDENTIAL NEWS COVERAGE UNDER DEADLINE PRESSURE – BROADCAST
Jonathan Karl of ABC News

It is stunning when any president is rushed to the hospital. But when it comes hours after the president admits he has tested positive for COVID-19, it is high drama. The news that President Donald Trump would be airlifted to Walter Reed broke an hour before the “World News Tonight with David Muir” live broadcast. Jonathan Karl raced to the hospital while continuing to gather information up until airtime. He went live just after Marine One landed; his thorough, authoritative report provide clarity while noting the minimal amount of official information available. It dominated the newscast at 6 minutes, 47 seconds. It is an outstanding example of deadline reporting under pressure.

THE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN PRESIDENTIAL NEWS COVERAGE BY VISUAL JOURNALISTS

Win McNamee, Getty Images

A powerful picture that captures the place and the personalities that collided over COVID-19. Trump’s mouth is open. He’s talking. He’s out of focus. Fauci’s eyes are closed; he’s bearing it, in the background. But he prevailed as the dominant personality on issues of fact, science, and medicine. This image captures the dynamic, the emotion, and the stakes that played out both publicly and, even more consequentially, privately as America stumbled through the pandemic.

THE KATHARINE GRAHAM AWARD FOR COURAGE AND ACCOUNTABILITY

The Marshall Project, AL.com, the IndyStar and Invisible Institute for their series, “Mauled: When Police Dogs are Weapons.”

The team’s penetrating look at the unregulated and often abused use of canine units by local police departments on typically nonviolent, nonthreatening victims couldn’t be more timely or relevant. Reporters assembled a national database of disparate records from reluctant police departments and tracked down the victims who carry the physical and mental scars of police dog attacks. At a time of intense national debate on police behavior, the team brought attention to an overlooked element of policing and started a conversation that has already led to change by some agencies.

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