Honoring our finest: Journalists of the Year

March 6, 2009

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

This is the time of year when I’m reminded of how proud I am to work for Reuters News. So permit me to put criticism on hold for a moment and write a column of praise.

The 2008 Journalists of the Year awards were presented Thursday night at a ceremony at Thomson Reuters headquarters in New York. The 10 awards, presented by Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger, honored individuals and teams responsible for the top journalism produced last year by Reuters News.

Looking at the winners, I’m not only proud but humbled. The expertise, the tenacity, the speed and in some cases the sheer bravery of these journalists is inspiring.

Take Goran Tomasevic, awarded Photo of the Year for his stunning image of Marine Sergeant William Olas Bee taking cover from Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. You can almost hear the bullets pinging into the foxhole. Goran is modest, though: “If I hadn’t already been pointing the camera at the Marine when the bullet hit the wall, there is no way I would have been able to react quickly enough to take those pictures.”

Or Emmanuel Braun, honored as Video Journalist of the Year for his work in Africa. He was the only agency TV crew to get into the Central African Republic, a near-forgotten crisis zone where conflict between rebels and the government has displaced tens of thousands. And when British mercenary Simon Mann went on trial in Equatorial Guinea, Emmanuel bravely carried on shooting subversively with a mini camera after his main camera was rendered useless by Guinean soldiers and he had been repeatedly threatened and told not to continue his coverage.

Tenacity doesn’t just happen in the world’s war zones, either. Patrick Rucker won the Scoop of the Year award for his July 11 report that the Fed would lend emergency funds to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Fed initially denied the story after markets closed that day, something competitors jumped on, even labeling our work erroneous. But Patrick’s reporting was rock-solid and, barely 48 hours later, his scoop was 100-percent confirmed.

I’m humbled by the expertise and solid reporting that Eadie Chen brought to her coverage of macroeconomic issues from Beijing. She was named Reporter of the Year for her efforts and was simply unparalleled in breaking economic stories in one of the toughest countries of the world on which to report. One of her secrets: Patiently and diligently cultivating contacts.

China was also the setting of the Story of the Year, the Reuters News team’s coverage of the Beijing Olympics. The Beijing Games was one of the most important since the Olympics began, as China cemented its importance on the world stage with a dazzling display of showmanship and organization.

Mike Dolan, who was named Editor of the Year, showed that a tumultuous year in the markets brings out the best in our journalists. Mike, the financial markets editor for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, delivered a balanced, astute and important news file that was light on hyperbole while still capturing drama. He’s the sort of smart, dedicated editor who helps make Reuters News indispensable to our clients.

Reuters News proved indispensable to clients in covering another war zone: Georgia. The Reuters Television team covering the war won the Video Story of the Year award. The team of more than a dozen dominated coverage of the conflict from the very beginning.

The Georgia War also produced another winner, Gleb Garanich, who was named Photo Journalist of the Year, for his haunting and dramatic photographs, which captured the scale of the conflict and the devastating toll it took on the thousands of people killed, maimed or rendered homeless. Gleb’s photos appeared on the front pages of hundreds of newspapers and magazines around the world.

In a year of so many big stories, the historic U.S. presidential election was surely one of the most far-reaching. Across the U.S., Reuters journalists seized the opportunity to showcase their multimedia storytelling skills in covering the campaign. They produced a vibrant and compelling package of content that won huge online play and told a story in words, photos, videos and blogs in a heartening illustration of our ongoing push for innovation. For their work, the members of the elections team won the Multimedia Storytelling of the Year award.

A new award this year was the Editor’s Choice, chosen by Schlesinger. He honored Mike Stepanovich, the recently named managing editor of Reuters Project Insider, our next-generation, multimedia information service for financial professionals, which was recently unveiled and will launch later this year. Again, this was a real team effort, but Mike’s tenacity was crucial to making it happen. He was a tireless champion from the time Insider was little more than a PowerPoint presentation.

There will be times when I will write about mistakes we’ve made and address issues with our coverage, as I’ve done in the past. But this is not one of those times.

So congratulations, not only to these winners, but also to the other nominees, and to the many other winners in their respective coverage areas. Just looking at the list of winners and examples of their work reminds me why I’m so excited to come to work every morning.

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