Winners and Finalists of the 2022 News Leaders Association Awards

The News Leaders Association (NLA) announced the winners of the 2022 NLA Awards for distinguished journalism and leadership.

The NLA Awards continue the long traditions of the previous ASNE and APME Awards, and are among the most prestigious in journalism.

Awards Committee Chair Alison Gerber said, “2021 was a year filled with dramatic news events, and these awards honor the journalists that did tremendous work documenting it despite tremendous obstacles. The awards recognize a variety of news organizations and show that excellent, innovative journalism is being produced across the diverse media ecosystem.”

NLA Executive Director Myriam Márquez said: “Once again, the quality of the awards submissions was outstanding and the number of entries continues to grow. Judges were impressed by all the stand-out work in all categories.”

“A hearty congratulations to the winners and finalists of the 2022 News Leaders Association Awards,” said Manny García, News Leaders Association President and Executive Editor of the Austin American-Statesman. “The body of work of every entry judged is proof that a vibrant and free press exists to expose abuses of power, correct wrongs, lift spirits and strengthen our communities and country.”

The Robert G. McGruder Award for Diversity Leadership and the News Leader of the Year Award recognize an individual leader for her/his work. The winners for those two awards will be announced at the end of this week.


Staff, Los Angeles Times: Tony Barboza, Ruben Vives, Anna M. Phillips, Sean Greene, Logan A. Arnold, Paul Duginski, Genaro Molina, Madalyn Amato, and Alex Wigglesworth won the Batten Medal for coverage of an overlooked element of climate change, extreme heat, and its misery on those least able to protect themselves. The Batten Medal each year recognizes coverage of an issue that presents an urgent challenge to the United States. This year, the award focused on coverage of climate. The Batten Medal is sponsored by editors from the former Knight Ridder company.

Winning Work: “Extreme Heat

From the judges:

Judges felt this was the best combination of accountability and explanatory work on a surprisingly overlooked element of climate change. The gravitas of a death being incorrectly accounted for and thus not attributed to the overall problem made the entry especially resounding. Judges were impressed by the impact of the work and how it led to change.


  • Staff, Bloomberg News —  “Methane Menace

    • The second-best accountability entry. Judges were stunned that such an obvious problem had been left unfixed for so long. The fact that the reporters had to gather their own data and then analyze it was also unique.

  • Tony Bartelme and Lauren Petracca, The Post and Courier — “The Greenland Connection

    • In an extraordinarily ambitious effort, The Post and Courier explained how Greenland’s melting ice sheet has a profound impact on Charleston and the Lowcountry region of South Carolina. With stunning photography and energetic, accessible writing – no small feat given the science involved – “The Greenland Connection” shows how events 3,000 miles away are reshaping the coastline, changing tides and worsening floods. This is an urgent exploration of the interconnectedness of events around the globe, and our vulnerability if we fail to pay attention. A tour-de-force of impactful journalism.


Staff: Corey G. Johnson, Rebecca Woolington, and Eli Murray of the Tampa Bay Times win the Frank A. Blethen Award for Local Accountability Reporting, which recognizes outstanding work done by a news organization that holds local authorities accountable for actions (or inaction). This award is named in honor of Frank A. Blethen and is sponsored by The Seattle Times.

Winning Work: Poisoned

From the judges:

Toxic dust inside a Hillsborough County (Fla.) lead smelter poisoned employees and their families for years. The company failed to fix problems and regulators didn’t do their jobs. Reporters from the Times stepped in, became experts on lead and revealed a culture of dangerous practices that thrived in the absence of meaningful oversight. The reporting was thorough, the writing clear, detailed and understandable. The public and public officials took notice. Meaningful results followed. A classic watchdog investigative report that demonstrates the immense value of quality, local journalism.


  • Staff, Milwaukee Journal: Raquel Rutledge, John Diedrich, Daphne Cheni,  — “Wires and Fires

    • When reporters set out to understand widespread electrical fires in Milwaukee, they discovered a disturbing truth: these fires were not pure accidents. Electrical fires were concentrated in the city’s poorest communities, which were almost entirely Black. Inspection programs that could have helped prevent these tragedies were shut down. The governor called the findings “gut-wrenching.” But for the Journal Sentinel’s decision to dig deep and explain, the sense that such fires were one-off accidents — just mishaps, just misfortune, just isolated and unforeseeable — would have prevailed.

  • Carol Marbin Miller and Daniel Chang, Miami Herald and ProPublica — “Birth & Betrayal

    • Reporters dug into a little-known 1988 program created by the Florida Legislature to protect doctors and hospitals from being sued by parents whose children suffered catastrophic brain injuries at birth. The cause of these injuries was often negligence. This program was established to cover all the child’s health needs and shift the burden from doctors to the state. But the state routinely refused medication, wheelchairs and more, and even had private investigators tail families to prove they didn’t need the help. This dogged reporting has led not only to widespread awareness but reforms that continue in Florida.


Ed Williams at Searchlight New Mexico is the winner of the First Amendment Award. This award recognizes the best example of protecting or advancing freedom of information principles, and/or overcoming significant resistance to the application of the First Amendment. The award is sponsored by Middle Tennessee State University’s Free Speech Center.

Winning Work: “Secrecy and Sacred Cows: Turmoil at New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department

From the judges:

This is a great example of the awards criteria – protecting or advancing freedom of information principles, and/or overcoming significant resistance to the application of the First Amendment. Ed Williams had a hard job – how do you find messages that are disappearing? – but his cultivation of sources led to a shocking abuse of public records law and the public’s right to know. He performed an invaluable act of public service, and New Mexicans are the better for his reporting.


  • Staff, The Arizona Republic  — “Democracy in Doubt

    • At every stage of the Arizona ballot debacle, the Republic was there – either as recount observers or pushing to get an account of proceedings held largely in the dark. Without the newspaper’s efforts, we simply wouldn’t know anything about the recount and how close it came to upending democracy.

  • Staff, The Iowa Capital Dispatch —Iowa Capital Dispatch Pursues Public Records

    • The Iowa Capital Dispatch’s investigation of gubernatorial spending and its subsequent open records lawsuit was a great example of pushing through obfuscation by elected officials and government employees to get information that the public has a right to know. By joining with the Iowa ACLU and the Iowa Freedom of Information Council in pursuing the records, they demonstrated that it is the media’s responsibility to stand up for press freedom and the right of any citizen to access the information they need to hold government officials accountable.


Meribah Knight, Senior Reporter/Producer of Special Projects and Public Radio’s WPLN News and Ken Armstrong, Reporter, ProPublica, win the Dori J. Maynard Justice Award. The award recognizes reporting on social justice issues. Sponsored by the O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism at Marquette University in Milwaukee, this award is named in memory of Dori J. Maynard, who was an ASNE board member and a strong advocate for news and newsroom diversity and journalism that addressed injustices. Judges give weight to journalism that shines a light on ignorance, stereotypes, intolerance, racism, hate, negligence, inequality and systemic obstacles.

Winning Work: “Black Children Were Jailed for a Crime That Doesn’t Exist. Almost Nothing Happened to the Adults in Charge.

From the judges:

This is what they uncovered: Police officers arrested four Black girls at an elementary school in Murfreesboro, Nashville. The children were arrested for a crime that does not exist, in an investigation led by a police officer who had been disciplined 37 times, on charges approved by judicial commissioners without law degrees, in a system overseen by a judge who failed the bar exam four times, in a county where the policy for detaining kids violated Tennessee law but that state inspectors didn’t stop year after year. The reporters also discovered that Rutherford County jailed kids in 48% of the cases.

This is truly impactful reporting of a civil rights issue that was being ignored. Collaboration between local public radio station WPLN News and  investigative national media ProPublica made the investigation powerful and impactful. They took an individual situation to a systemic level in an interesting and fresh way. Narrative is impeccable, as well as multimedia integration. This is a model for newsrooms to follow and without doubt, follows the award criteria: reporting on social justice issues; shines a light on ignorance, stereotypes, intolerance, racism, hate, negligence, inequality and systemic obstacles.


  • Staff, Christopher O’Donnell, Ian Hodgson and Nathaniel Lash, The Tampa Bay Times — “Tampa Bay Times: Arrest and Evictions

    • Local news outlet revealed that for eight years, the Tampa Police Department used the threat of eviction as a tactic to try to reduce crime in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, routinely urging landlords to evict tenants based solely on arrests. It was a tactic that had gone under the radar until a Tampa Bay Times investigation showed that whole families were losing their homes based on a single arrest. Roughly 90% of those caught up in the program were Black tenants. The judges found that this story was a great example of powerful local journalism that shines light on injustice; it has most of the elements of great journalism.

  • Staff, Corey Mitchell, Joe Yerardi and Susan Ferriss, Center for Public Integrity, published in partnership with USA TODAY and Univision —Criminalizing Kids

    • The investigation took a nationwide data approach to show the disproportionate harm that police presence in schools has on Black students and students with disabilities, and revealed that the consequences of school policing in the US disproportionately fall on students with disabilities, Black children including Native American and Latino children. The impact of the data, showcased by more than a dozen media outlets, pushed for civil liberties organizations to request reforms. The story is well presented with relevant charts, audio and video.


Jason Fagone at the San Francisco Chronicle wins the Deborah Howell Award for Writing Excellence, which recognizes the best story on any topic, with preference given to strong and stylish writing. Sponsored by Advance Publications, Inc., this award is dedicated to former editor Deborah Howell who loved compelling writing.

Winning Work:The Jessica Simulation

From the judges:

The Jessica Simulation is a breathtakingly intimate and somewhat shocking exploration of love, grief, and the boundaries of a relationship with a digital simulation of someone who has died. With remarkable detail, fueled by excerpts of dialogue between a man in mourning and a carefully constructed chatbot, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jason Fagone takes readers inside a world that is alternately fascinating and disturbing. Fagone forces readers to confront difficult questions about the future, and themselves.


  • Evan Allen, The Boston Globe — “Under the Wheel

    • “Under the Wheel” is a heartbreaking account by the Boston Globe’s Evan Allen of her nearly three-year correspondence with an imprisoned man who is both ruthless and reflective. In sharing his saga of trying to understand how violence was instilled in him by his family – he calls it his “birthmark” – Allen draws parallels to her fears as a new mother of handing down her family’s history of mental illness. This is a tour-de-force of personal journalism.

  • Jennifer Berry Hawes and Gavin McIntyre, The Post and Courier — ‘I Am Omar:’ A quest for the true identity of Omar ibn Said, a Muslim man enslaved in the Carolinas

    • “I am Omar” is a fascinating account of how a Muslim scholar was thrown onto one of the last slave ships bound for America, and how the Post & Courier’s Jennifer Berry Hawes and Gavin McIntyre uncovered and retraced his story. This effort has so many elements – history, race, religion – all interwoven into a beautiful narrative that is both important and enthralling.


The University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism, Howard Center for Investigative Journalism: Jack Rasiel, Rachel Logan, Nick McMillan, Kara Newhouse, Sahana Jayaraman, Trisha Ahmed, Molly Castle Work, Adam Marton, Sean Mussenden, DeNeen L. Brown, Kelly Livingston, Madison Peek, Nicole Pechacek, Mikayla Roberts, and Jordan Sheppard win the Punch Sulzberger Innovator of the Year Award, which recognizes innovation by a news organization in reaching underserved or disenfranchised audiences such as minority, immigrant or rural communities. Sponsored by The New York Times, this award is dedicated to the memory of former publisher Arthur Ochs “Punch” Sulzberger.

Winning Work: Printing Hate” 

From the judges:

Picking up where Ida B. Wells left off, this is an exceptional exercise in journalistic accountability and a memory project for the ages. An innovative collaboration involving students at five HBCUs, the University of Arkansas, and Black newspaper publishers, this project used data  as a time-travel tool. The journalists scraped more than 150,000 newspapers to showcase the racist coverage of horrific lynchings. The database allows users to filter varying types of harmful coverage — including reporting that attempted to justify, and even organize, acts of state-abetted racial terror. The resulting 40,000 pages of verified data and accompanying stories amount to a powerful tool of historical inquiry. This project says a great deal about the kind of world that newspapers helped create and the more honest, rigorous, accurate and morally informed future that communities can envision — together.


  • Staff, THE CITY — “Meet Your Mayor

    • New York City’s 2021 primary offered a new ranked-choice voting system and a large field of candidates seeking the nomination for mayor and other key offices. To cut through the noise of endless Zoom candidate forums and encourage turnout, The City created “Meet Your Mayor,” an online quiz that helped voters identify the candidates whose policy positions were most closely aligned with their own. The 61 questions were more than a useful tool they caused readers to reflect on the difficult tradeoffs that policymakers need to make, and brought to light important nuances that often get lost in public debates and media coverage of them. This was a brilliant and creative example of data visualization in service of civic engagement.

  • Staff, ProPublica in collaboration with The Texas Tribune and Mountain State Spotlight — “Sacrifice Zones: Mapping Cancer-Causing Industrial Air Pollution

    • This remarkable journalistic effort turned a complicated data set of pollution records from the EPA into an easy-to-access interactive map that allows anyone to input an address and find out the toxic air pollution level and the estimated cancer risk in the area. The toxic hotspots spanned the country but the reporting found that predominantly Black census tracts had more than double the cancer risk of majority white tracts. To spread this alarming reporting to the public, ProPublica (collaborating with the Texas Tribune and Mountain State Spotlight) sent postcards to affected communities and posted fliers in churches, libraries and other gathering spots. It is no wonder that the EPA took notice and responded.


Emefa Agawu at The Washington Post wins the Burl Osborne Award for Editorial and Opinion Award, which recognizes editorial writing that is excellent journalism and makes a difference in the community. The award is sponsored by The Dallas Morning News in memory of Burl Osborne, former editor, president and publisher of The Dallas Morning News.

Winning Work: “Reimagine Safety” 

From the judges:

Following the police murder of George Floyd, much of the nation asked how best to reform policing. The Washington Post’s editorial board asked a bigger, better question: How best to improve public safety? Editorial Writer Emefa Agawu spent six months gathering answers. The resulting seven-part series, “Reimagine Safety,” was a tour de force of depth reporting, public enlightenment and civic leadership.


  • Louisiana’s Attorney General Sued Our Reporter” – Editorials by The Advocate and The Times Picayune

    • When Louisiana’s attorney general faced a sexual harassment scandal in his office, he went to war against a reporter trying to get to the bottom of it all. In a series of editorials published over three months, her employer pushed back and enabled readers to participate and join them. In the end, a state judge threw out the legal assault and ordered the attorney general to pay the reporter legal fees – a significant public win.

  • A Stand Against Lies and Disinformation” – Editorials by USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin Editorial Board In a series of editorials, the board held that Wisconsin’s U.S. Senator Ron Johnson engaged in lies, distortions and half-truths throughout the presidential election, the pandemic and the insurrection. Johnson did get his say in an op-ed. The board, led by David Haynes, published it, but included annotations, correcting the record, when necessary.


Melinda Henneberger at The Kansas City Star wins Mike Royko Award for Commentary and Column Writing, which recognizes excellence in writing by an individual that expresses a personal point of view. The award is sponsored by the Chicago Tribune in memory of legendary columnist Mike Royko, who died in 1997.

Winning Work: Columns by Melinda HennebergerThe Kansas City Star

From the judges:

Melinda Henneberger comes out swinging and does not let up. She is relentless, shattering the silence that robbed a retired law-enforcement officer’s victims and their families of justice. Her outrage is controlled, and to the point. These columns are blockbusters. In Royko-esque style, she has homed in on acts of evil for which no one would have been held accountable without her focus, passion and insight.


  • Columns by Heather Knight, “San Francisco Under Siege” — The San Francisco Chronicle

    • Heather Knight cares about her city. She cares even more for the people who live there and has propelled officials to take action. Her deep reporting gives substantive heft to her columns. Knight’s pieces are incredibly powerful. She focuses on the local, showing, not telling. Her columns are setting the agenda for her city. 

  •  Columns by Robin Givhan —  The Washington Post

    • Robin Givhan sets the standard for a national columnist. She writes with stunning clarity of thought and does not let up. She makes her case with meticulous reasoning and writes with subdued passion that packs an even bigger punch because of her confident restraint.


Local editor Mike Semel and Staff at The Washington Post win the Al Neuharth Breaking News Reporting Award. The award recognizes coverage of breaking news events. Judges weighed reporting in the immediate aftermath of a breaking event and also follow-up reporting that broke new ground and held people and institutions to account.

Winning Work: “Capitol Hill Riot, January 6, 2021” 

From the judges: 

The best breaking news stories quickly and accurately convey critical information to audiences in real-time, helping readers stay safe and make informed plans. The attempted coup of the U.S. government on Jan. 6 required even more. The Washington Post did the best work that could be expected of any newsroom – sharing video, photos and scenes of insurrectionists threatening the very foundation of American democracy. But what makes The Post’s coverage so remarkable was that they did this – putting more than 30 journalists’ lives in danger – while accurately and unflinchingly calling the attempted coup what it was. After four years of industry-wide debate over how to cover an increasingly polarized America, The Post did not waver from its responsibility to present a clear-eyed version of events on Jan. 6 – so much so that future generations looking back on coverage of that day will not have to speculate as to what people knew about the insurrectionists’ takeover of the U.S. Capitol. This mix of on-the-street reporting, smart analysis and new techniques – including video and audio forensics – distinguishes The Post’s coverage as not only the best of 2021, but some of the best ever by American journalists.


  • Staff, Miami Herald —  “Tragedy in the Night: Breaking Coverage of the Collapse in Surfside

    • The staff of the Miami Herald showed incredible fortitude and responsiveness in its coverage of the collapse of a 12-story condo building, a tragedy that hit around 2 a.m.  The first reports of this startling tragedy were from the Herald’s team, which had requests in for condo-inspection records within hours of the collapse. The coverage combines responsive and audience-centric coverage with compelling video, social media and writing.

  • Staff, The Times-Picayune and The Advocate: Dan Swenson; Kayla Gagnet; Sam Karlin; Mike Smith; Matt Sledge; Andrea Gallo; Emily Woodruff; Joe Gyan; Jacqueline DeRobertis; Tyler Bridges; Gordon Russell; David Mitchell; John Simerman – “Sixteen years after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana is assaulted by a storm that was even stronger” 

    • This newsroom had to relocate its headquarters four times throughout coverage of one of the most menacing hurricanes to hit Louisiana – the one near the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. With many residents – and staffers – lacking electricity and facing floodwaters, the staff of The Advocate attacked this coverage with a ferocity and intensity that mirrored Hurricane Ida, keeping residents informed from before the storm hit land to well after it had passed.


The 2022 Awards include cash prizes, thanks to our sponsors: O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service, Journalism at Marquette University, Editors from the former Knight Ridder company, Advance Publications, Inc., The Seattle Times, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Middle Tennessee State University’s Free Speech Center, Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, Gannett and the USA TODAY Network.

An awards luncheon will be held to celebrate the winners on May 20, 2022 at the News Leaders Association’s Journalism Unplugged Hybrid Conference. The speaker for the event is Sally Buzbee, executive editor at The Washington Post. For more information click here. For more on the awards, please visit NLA’s website: .


The News Leaders Association (NLA) defends the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press and advocates for independent, fact-based, truth-seeking reporting. NLA champions ethical journalism and empowers news leaders to build diverse, sustainable newsrooms that inform and engage the communities they reflect and serve. To learn more about the News Leaders Association, please visit us at, Make sure to follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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