2021 Silurians Journalism Award

Inspiration and Insights Highlight the
76th Annual Excellence in Journalism
Awards Gala.

THE WINNERS OF THIS YEAR’S Excellence in Journalism Awards took their bows virtually once again, in a festive program that debuted on June 16 and is now available at
Our 76th annual celebration was as warm, impressive and informative as ever.

“Sixty Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker delivered a keynote address that was inspiring. He spoke about the importance of a free press, especially in these “unsettling times” and commended the award winners for contributing “to our national conversation.” He urged all journalists to “keep on keeping on,” building on trends in digital and non-profit news gathering. “We’re not dinosaurs,” he said. “We can adapt.”  You can watch Bill’s keynote address here.

Whitaker is well positioned to give us wise advice: During his more than four decades at CBS, he has covered stories ranging from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011 to race relations and policing in Cleveland, Chicago and Tulsa. He was named a correspondent for “60 Minutes” in 2014.

In addition to accepting their awards, our Medallion-winners shared how they got their stories and gave us behind-the-scenes views of what went into their prize-winning entries, how their pieces were developed, and what problems had to be solved to bring those stories to fruition.

In addition to the 19 Medallions and 27 Certificates of Merit earned by print, broadcast and digital media in 15 news categories, there were two President’s Choice awards. One went to The New York Times for its investigation of Donald J. Trump’s tax returns, which included the revelations that Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency, and the same in his first year in office. The other President’s Choice award went to Newsday for its probe into groundwater pollution on Long Island and who was responsible for it.

A special award was made to the family of the late Jim Dwyer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of The New York Times, who died on Oct. 8, 2020. Jack Deacy, the awards committee chairman, said the award was created primarily to acknowledge Dwyer’s efforts on behalf of The Innocence Project, which through the use of DNA technology seeks the exoneration of people who have been wrongly convicted.

Silurian president Michael Serrill moderated the event and Joe Berger, our First Vice President and editor of Silurian News (which includes a full list of award winners and more, and is available on this website), invited guests to become Silurians Press Club members. An application can be found in the “Join Us!” section.

This was our final event until September 22, when we plan to return—at long last—to the National Arts Club for an in-person luncheon. We hope to see you there.

2021 Silurians Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards


A remarkable research and reporting effort by three New York Times journalists which gave the world its first in-depth look at President Trump’s tax returns and a nine-month investigation into a monumental toxic plume on Long Island both captured President‘s Choice awards, the top prizes in the Silurian Press Club’s 76th annual Excellence in Journalism Awards.

President Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns made them a holy grail for prosecutors, congressional Democrats and, of course, reporters. Trump fought subpoena after subpoena but even as he lost and lost again, he won delays that seemed certain to keep his financial secrets hidden through the end of his presidency.But three Times reporters did what others could not, first obtaining and then decoding more than two decades of Trump’s tax records through 2018. In a series of articles titled “The President’s Taxes,” the trio, Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire, spotlighted Trump’s chronic business losses and grand -scale tax avoidance and revealed that he paid just $750 in federal taxes the year he won the presidency, another $750 his first year as president and no taxes for ten of the previous 15 years. The degree of research was painstaking, involving months of technical study even before analysis and reporting could even begin. The judging panel characterized the series as a “masterwork of investigative journalism.”

The other winner, Newsday’s “The Grumman Plume: Decades of Deceit” by Paul LaRocco and David M. Schwartz told the sordid tale of a monumental toxic groundwater plume – four miles long,  two miles wide and at points 900 feet deep – and how it had spread for decades through the South Shore of Long Island , tarnishing the aquifer system that is the sole source of drinking water for millions of Long Islanders. During an intensive, detailed nine-month investigation, the reporters traced the plume’s development back 70 years and placed irrefutable blame on the former Grumman Aerospace Company and a host of government regulators who failed to stop the contamination. This series and Newsday’s prior coverage of the issue helped to forge a $406 million state plan in which Northrup Grumman and the U.S. Navy agreed for the first time in four decades to end the massive groundwater pollution and remove its sources. The remarkable series honors the proud history of  investigative reporting that has uncovered environmental carnage masked by corporate deception.

The Times led this year’s winners with six Medallions and nine Merit (runner-up) awards with Newsday close behind with six Medallions and four Merit awards. The Associated Press, The Record/northjersey.com, Fortune, Politico, WABC TV, News 12  New Jersey and WCBS Radio also won Medallions. Runner up Merit awards were also won by The Record/northjersey.com, Fortune, THE CITY, the Journal News/lohud.com, Chalkbeat, NBC News, WABC TV and WINS Radio.

“We have all been through a terrible year like no other,” said Silurians Press Club President Michael Serrill. “Last March the  offices of media outlets emptied out and the world of journalism went virtual. But journalists did what they always do: they went out and covered the pandemic story. And what came out of this awful time was some great journalism, much of it reflected in the winning entries in this year’s competition.”

The Silurians also awarded a special Excellence in Journalism Medallion to the Times journalist and author Jim Dwyer who died last October at age 63. Over four decades  Dwyer was a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and reporter at The Times, The Daily News and Newsday.  The Silurians described Dwyer as a “crusader against injustice” and paid special tribute to his personal commitment in seeking justice for those men and women who had been wrongfully imprisoned. Dwyer was also the 1999 recipient of the Silurians Peter Kihss Award and had won several Medallions in previous Silurians competitions.

The award winners were honored at a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, June 16 at 7 pm on YouTube.  “Sixty Minutes” correspondent  Bill Whitaker delivered the keynote address. A link to the ceremony is on the Silurians Press Club website here https://youtu.be/QxysOdv0EhU/.

The Silurians Press Club, formed in 1924 as The Society of the Silurians, is an organization of more than 300 veteran New York journalists. Early members included William Randolph Hearst, Lincoln Steffens and Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck. In addition to sponsoring the  Excellence in Journalism awards annually since 1945, the Silurians also provide educational grants for local journalism students, offer relief for journalists in financial trouble, host monthly  luncheons and present The Peter Kihss Award, The Dennis Duggan Prize and a Lifetime Achievement Award annually.

In the Breaking News Reporting category, Times reporters Michael Rothfeld, Somini Sengupta, Joseph Goldstein and Brian M.  Rosenthal won the Medallion for their impressive exploration of 13 coronavirus deaths that took place across 24 hours on March 25th last year at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.

The team of Christopher Maag, Julia Martin, Tom Nobile, Keldy Ortiz, Chris Pedota and Svetlana Shkolnikova at The Record/northjersey.com captured the Medallion for Feature News Reporting for their story of a serial rapist and killer who preyed on young women in North Jersey in 2016 and the women who gathered the evidence to stop him when police refused to investigate. ”It is not only a brilliantly written true crime series, it’s a meticulously reported social justice story which throws a spotlight on police indifference in a case in which the victims were African-American sex workers,” the judging panel wrote.

An Associated Press team of reporters – Bernard Condon, Jim Mustian, Jennifer Peltz, Matthew Sedensky and Meghan Hoyer –  won the Medallion for Investigative Reporting for “Deadly Truth: Probing Nursing Homes In Crisis”. They methodically uncovered the truth about the transfer of elderly Covid-19 hospital patients in New York State to nursing homes following an order from Governor Andrew Cuomo at the height of the pandemic.

Maria Aspan’s investigation for Fortune into the biases that allowed so many high-profile female founders of startups to be pushed out of the businesses they helped create garnered the Medallion for Business and Financial Reporting.

The judging panel in the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting category issued two Medallions. One went to Politico’s Sally Goldenberg and Danielle Muoio for their “Wasted Potential: The Consequences of New York City’s Recycling Failure”, a deeply researched expose detailing New York’s chronic failure to recycle and its exporting of the vast bulk of its garbage to landfills and incinerators outside the city.

The other Medallion went to Newsday’s David Olson for his “Horror, Hope, Courage: Inside the Red Zone at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital”, his report with photographer Jeffrey Basinger on several harrowing days inside a Long Island hospital under severe pandemic siege.

Newsday’s reporting team of Jim Baumbach, Matt Clark, Paul LaRocco, Sandra Peddie and David M. Schwartz captured the Medallionfor Editorials, Commentary and Pubic Service for “Cold Spring Hills”, which began as an investigation of Covid-19 deaths at one of Long Island’s largest nursing home and also told the story of how the nursing home owners parlayed politics and profits and lavish campaign contributions that enabled them to weather critical government and court rulings and avoid criminal liability.

Times cultural reporters Michael Paulson, Graham Bowley, Elizabeth A. Harris and Jessie Wender won the Arts and Culture Reporting Medallion for their “One Lost Weekend”, a meticulously reported and gracefully written chronicle of the cultural events that went missing due to the pandemic shutdown during a single weekend in September last year.

Newsday’s Sandra Peddie, Robert Cassidy, Raychel Brightman and Jeffrey Basinger took home the Medallion for People Profiles for their multimedia four-part documentary, “Sonny”. It focused on the life of notorious mob boss John “Sonny” Franzese who died last year at age 103. Based on numerous interviews with Franzese, his family, friends and enemies, the saga encompassed murder, betrayal, family ties, Marilyn Monroe and other elements that could easily be used in fictional movies. The judging panel agreed that “Sonny is mesmerizing”.

The medallion for Minority Affairs Reporting went to David Gonzalez of The Times for “Forgotten Communities”, a story about how the pandemic affected immigrant street vendors in Queens and disenfranchised city youths because of the cancellation of the city’s summer youth employment program.

In the Sports Reporting and Commentary category, Ali Watkins of The New York Times won the Medallion for “How New York City Lost Boxing”, a tale in which she followed an amateur boxer as he trained in the city’s disappearing gym scene and revealed along the way  why New York City was no longer at the center of the fight game.

Newsday photographers J. Conrad Williams, Jr., Alejandra Villa Laorca, Thomas A. Ferrara, Steve Pfost and Charlies Eckert teamed up to win the Medallion for Breaking News Photography for their coverage of summer demonstrations and marches protesting the murder of George Floyd. Newsday’s J. Conrad Williams, Jr. also took home the Medallion for

Sports Photography for photos of Yankees pitchers at last year’s spring training workout just before the pandemic hit.

Photographer Philip Montgomery was the winner of the Feature News

Photography Medallion for his two extraordinary photo essays for The New York Times Magazine. The first essay included unforgettable images of the chaos inside New York City public hospitals during the pandemic and for his second photo essay, he went inside the Farenga Brothers Funeral Home in the Bronx as it struggled to handle in dignified fashion the growing number of Covid-19 bodies.

For Television Breaking News Reporting, the WABC-TV EyewitnessNews Team walked off with the Medallion for their coverage of last June’s peaceful protests after the murder of George Floyd as well as the looting of stores in lower Manhattan. The judges said that “the comprehensive reporting was distinguished by its effort to draw a clear distinction between the peaceful protesting and the looting.”

News 12 New Jersey’s Walt Kane was the winner of the Medallion for Feature News Television Reporting for his “Outbreak at the Veterans Home”. His pieces included moving interviews with relatives of veterans who died of Covid-19, raising questions about safety and medical care at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home.

The team coverage by WCBS Radio 880 captured the Medallion for Breaking News Radio Reporting for its 24-hour coverage of the peaceful protests following the George Floyd murder and the looting that broke out in Soho. The judging panel described it as “radio journalism at its best.”

Following is the full list of all Medallion and Merit award winners.

PRESIDENT’S CHOICE AWARD: “The President’s Taxes”
The New York Times, Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig & Mike McIntire

PRESIDENT’S CHOICE AWARD: “The Grumman Plume: Decades of Deceit,”
Newsday, Paul LaRocco and David M. Schwartz

Newsday – Daily News – New York Times; “A Crusader Against Injustice”

BREAKING NEWS REPORTING (Newspapers, Wire Services, Online, Magazines)
Medallion: “13 Deaths In A Day; Coronavirus Surge At New York City Hospital,”
New York Times, By Michael Rothfeld, Somini Sengupta, Joseph Goldstein, Brian M. Rosenthal
Merit: “Chalkbeat: New York City Schools Shutdown,” By Alex Zimmerman, Christina Veiga and Reema Amin

FEATURE NEWS REPORTING (Newspapers, Wire Services, Online, Magazines)
Medallion: “How They Stopped A Serial Killer,”
The Record/northjersey.com, By Christopher Maag, Julia Martin, Tom Nobile, Keldy Ortiz, Chris Pedota and Svetlana Shkolnikova.
Merit: “The Epicenter,” New York Times, By Dan Barry and Annie Correal Photos by Todd Heisler

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING (Newspapers, Wire Services, Online, Magazines)
Medallion: “Deadly Truth: Probing Nursing Homes in Crisis,”
Associated Press, By Bernard Condon, Jim Mustian, Jennifer Peltz, Matthew Sedensky and Meghan Hoyer
Merit: “How New York City Bungled the Purchase of Life-Saving Medical Supplies During the Covid-19 Pandemic,” The City,” By Greg B. Smith and Gabriel Sandoval
Merit: “New Jersey Nursing Homes,” The Record/NorthJersey.com, By Scott Fallon and Lindy Washburn

BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL REPORTING (Newspapers, Wire Services, Online, Magazines)
Medallion: “Female Founders Under Fire,”
Fortune, By Maria Aspan
Merit: “PPP Loans on LI: Law, CPA Firms Got More than Other Business Sectors,” Newsday, By James T. Madore
Merit: “Small Businesses Battle for Survival Amid the Pandemic,” THE CITY, By Rachel Holliday Smith, Yoav Goen, Greg David and Ann Choi

SCIENCE, HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTING (Newspapers, Wire Services, Online, Magazines)
Medallion: “Wasted Potential: The Consequences of New York City’s Recycling Failure,”
Politico, By Sally Goldenberg and Danielle Muoio
Medallion: “Horror, Hope and Courage: Inside the Red Zone at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital,” Newsday, by David Olson, Photographs and video by Jeffrey Basinger
Merit: “Fertility Inc.,” Fortune, By Beth Kowitt
Merit: “Breathing Life into Fresh Kills: Landfill’s Long Road to Renewal,” New York Times, By Robert Sullivan

EDITORIALS, COMMENTARY & PUBLIC SERVICE (Newspapers, Wire Services, Online, Magazines)
Medallion: “Cold Spring Hills”
, Newsday, by Jim Baumbach, Matt Clark, Paul LaRocco, Sandra Peddie and David M. Schwartz
Merit: “Lives of New York”, New York Times, By Alex Vadukul

ARTS & CULTURE REPORTING (Newspapers, News Services, Online, Magazines)
Medallion: “One Lost Weekend,”
New York Times, By Michael Paulson, Graham Bowley, Elizabeth A. Harris, Jessie Wender
Merit: “New York Love Story: The Submarine Officer and the Beatles Cover Band,” New York Times, By Alex Vadukul
Merit: “The Strange Lives of Objects in the Coronavirus Era,” New York Times, By Sophie Haigney, Illustrations By Peter Arkle
Merit: ‘I Couldn’t Do Anything’: The Virus and an E.R. Doctor’s Suicide,” New York Times, By Corina Knoll, Ali Watkins and Michael Rothfeld

PEOPLE PROFILES (Newspapers, News Services, Online Media, Magazines)
Medallion: “Sonny,”
Newsday, By Sandra Peddie, Robert Cassidy, Raychel Brightman and Jeffrey Basinger
Merit: “When Black Models Were the Toast of Paris: Shailah Edmonds on a Lost Fashion Era,” New York Times, By Alex Vadukul
Merit: “13 Hours, 22 Bodies: The Long, Lonesome Shift of a Crematory Worker in the Heat of Covid-19,” NBC News, By Rich Schapiro

MINORITY AFFAIRS REPORTING (Newspapers, Wire Services, Online, Magazines)
Medallion: “Forgotten Communities,” New York Times, By David Gonzalez Photos By Juan Arredondo, Gabriela Bhaskar & Benjamin Norman
Merit: “From the African Table,” The Record, northjersey.com./ USA Today Network, By Jim Beckerman and Shaylah Brown
Merit: “Fight or Flee: Black Families Weigh Their Choices While a Once-Proud School District Struggles to Come Back,” Journal News/lohud.com, By Thomas Zambito

SPORTS REPORTING AND COMMENTARY (Newspapers, Wire Services, Online, Magazines)
Medallion: “How New York City Lost Boxing,”
New York Times, By Ali Watkins, Photos by Chris Lee
Merit: “Tom Seaver, 1944-2020: For Generations of Mets Fans, He Was Simply ‘The Franchise,’’” New York Times, By Bruce Weber

BREAKING NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY (Newspapers, Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
Medallion: “Summerlong Coverage of Racial Justice Demonstrations,” Newsday, Conrad Williams, Jr., Alejandra Villa Laorca, Thomas A. Ferrara, Steve Pfost and Charles Eckert
Merit: “Portrait of a Protester in Tears,”  Journal News/ lohud.com, Seth Harrison
Merit: “Racial Justice Demonstrations,” THE CITY, Ben Fractenberg

FEATURE NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY (Newspapers, Wire Services, Online, Magazines)
Medallion: “Photo Essays On The Pandemic,” New York Times Magazine, Philip Montgomery
Merit: “The New York City of Our Imagination,” New York Times, Todd Heisler
Merit: “The Other Side of the Curve,” Newsday, Jeffrey Basinger
Merit: “The Madonna Funeral Home,” The Record/northjersey.com, Amy Newman

SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY (Newspapers, News Wire Services, Online Media, Magazines)
Medallion: “Fleet Footed,”
Newsday, J. Conrad Williams, Jr.
Merit: “Face Off,” Newsday, J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

BROADCAST JOURNALISM ( Television: Breaking News)
Medallion: “Racial Injustice and the Road to Reopening,” WABC TV, Eyewitness News Team
Merit: “Living Through the Pandemic,” WABC TV, Eyewitness News Team

BROADCAST JOURNALISM (Television: Feature News)
Medallion: “Outbreak at the Veterans Home,” News 12 New Jersey, Walt Kane, Produced by Karen Attonito.

Medallion: “Racial Justice Protests and Soho Looting: June 1 & 2,”
WCBS Radio, Newsradio 880 News Team
Merit: “Coverage of Racial Justice Demonstrations and Soho Looting” WINS Radio, 1010 WINS Radio News Team

Silurian Contingency Fund: Help
Is Available for Journalists in Need

For more than 60 years, the Silurian Contingency Fund has been providing grants to New York metropolitan area journalists facing financial hardship. All present and former New York City journalists who can demonstrate need are eligible for grants from the fund. Members of the Silurians Press Club will be given priority.

All transactions — including the identities of the recipients — are strictly confidential and known only to the directors of the fund, which operates independently from the Silurians Press Club. The fund, whose formal name is the George E. Sokolsky Silurian Contingency Fund after its first chairman, is administered by a four-person Board of Directors, all members of the Silurians. Steven Marcus is president. The other directors are Mark Liff, Kevin Noblet and Michael Serrill, who as president of the Silurians Press Club serves in an ex-officio capacity. The board members evaluate applications for grants and determine eligibility and the amount of the grants.

Grants have historically ranged up to $1,000. To apply, contact Steven Marcus at steven.b.marcus@gmail.com.

If you want to contribute to the fund, also contact Steve. The fund is certified by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501 (c) (3) charity, so contributions are tax deductible. Contributions should be made payable to the George E. Sokolsky Silurian Contingency Fund and sent to Steve at 160 West 96th St., Apt. 15M, New York, NY 10025.


Michael S. Serrill Named President,
Joseph Berger Editor of Silurian News

Michael Serrill

MICHAEL S. SERRILL, A VETERAN journalist and former foreign editor, has been named the 72nd president of the Silurians Press Club, heading a new lineup of officers for the 2020-21 season. Serrill succeeds David A. Andelman, who returns to the Board of Governors following a sterling two-year term as president.

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