Excellence In Journalism Awards

The New York Times and Newsday
Win Top Honors In The 77th Annual
Excellence In Journalism Awards

Fortune Magazine, ESPN, WABC-TV, Type Investigations, THE CITY, WINS 1010 Radio, The New Yorker, Gothamist/WNYC, The Record/northjersey.com, News 12 Network, City Limits, USA Today Network, Foreign Policy Magazine And CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Also Win Awards

A powerful 18-month long investigation by Newsday into policing on Long Island that uncovered abusive treatment of detainees by law enforcement and discrimination against black applicants for police jobs and an incisive New York Times series that reported how the pandemic has devastated the New York City economy were both awarded the President’s Choice Medallion, the top prize in the Silurian Press Club’s 77th annual Excellence in Journalism Awards. 

The Times led this year’s winners with six first place Medallions winning the President’s Choice Award and awards for Breaking News Reporting, Investigative Reporting, Arts and Culture Reporting, Editorials, Commentary and Public Service, People Profiles and Feature Photography. Newsday was close behind with five winning Medallions, capturing the President’s Choice Award, and awards for Business and Financial Reporting , Breaking News Photography, Sports Photography and TV Feature News.

But far smaller and younger news outlets performed nimbly in the Silurians contest as well. Type Investigations, a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to independent investigative journalism, won two Medallions, one for Feature News Reporting, the other for Science and Health Reporting. THE CITY, another  online nonprofit news site, won the Medallion for Minority Affairs Reporting. In the remaining categories, Fortune magazine won for Environmental Reporting, ESPN for Sports Reporting and Commentary,WABC-TV for TV Breaking News and 1010 WINS Radio for Radio Breaking News.

Runners-up in each of the prize categories were honored with Merit awards. The Times won five, Newsday and THE CITY won three each and Streetblogs NYC, a nonprofit news website, won two.  The New Yorker, The Record/northjersey.com, Type Investigations, Gothamist/WNYC, Foreign Policy,  CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, the USA Today network,  City Limits and the News 12 Network each won a Merit award.

The Medallion and Merit awards will be presented at a dinner Wednesday, June 15 at the National Arts Club in Manhattan. Silurian Press Club president Michael Serrill announced that for the first time since 2019, when the Covid-19 pandemic emerged, the awards ceremony would be held live in-person rather than streamed virtually by Zoom. 

The Silurians Press Club, established in 1924 as The Society of the Silurians, is an organization of more than 300 veteran and retired 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 host monthly luncheons featuring prominent speakers and also provide educational grants for local journalism students and relief for journalists in financial trouble.  

    The full list of Medallion winners and Merit Award winners follows:

President’s Choice Awards
Medallion: “The Future of the New York City Economy”
By Nicole Hong, Matthew Haag and Patrick McGeehan
The New York Times
Medallion: “Policing Long Island”
By James Baumbach, Paul LaRocca, Sandra Peddie, David Schwartz and Jeffrey Basinger

Breaking News Reporting
Medallion: Coverage of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Resignation
By Metro Staff Reporters            
The New York Times 
Merit: “Coverage of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Resignation”
By Staff Reporters                   

Feature News Reporting
Medallion: “Bridging the Divide Between the Police and the Policed” 
By Saki Knafo
Type Investigations (With The New Yorker)
Merit:  “Pandemic Worsens Hard Road to Housing for Homeless New Yorkers With Health Needs” 
By David Brand 
City Limits   

Investigative Reporting
Medallion:  “Profiting Off the Homeless”
By Amy Julia Harris          
The New York Times
Merit: “Ignored, Dismissed.”
By Jesse Coburn   
Streetsblog NYC

Business and Financial Reporting
Medallion: “Fraud Costing Billions”
By James T. Madore
Merit: “The Precarious Financial Situations of New Jersey’s Colleges and Universities”
By Jean Rimbach, Albert Koloff and Scott Fallon
The Record/northjersey.com                                                                      
Merit: “The Dangers of Working While Black on Wall Street”
By Susan Antilla
Type Investigations      (With The Nation)

Science & Health Reporting
Medallion: “Low Pay, Loneliness and a Booming Industry”
By Liz Donovan and Muriel Alarcón         
Type Investigations  (With The New York Times and The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism)
Merit: “Back Inside the Red Zone”
By Faith Jessie, Reporter;                
with Alejandra Villa Loarca, Photographer; Jeffrey Basinger, Video Editor; Newsday

Environmental Reporting 
Medallion: “Nuclear Drawdown”
By Jeffrey Rothfeder and Christopher Maag 
Merit: “Can the Nation Solve its Nuclear Waste Problem?”
By Adrian Hedden and Thomas C. Zambito      
The USA Today Network / Westchester Rockland Journal-News/lohud.com
Merit:  “Why One Queens Block Has Flooded for Decades”
By Elizabeth Kim   
Gothamist and WNYC Radio

Arts & Culture Reporting
Medallion: “The Road Back To Broadway” 
By Michael Paulson               
The New York Times
Merit:  “Josephine Baker: First American to Enter France’s Pantheon” 
By J. Alex Tarquinio       
Foreign Policy
Merit: “The Challenge of Making an Archive of the Climate Crisis” 
By Sophie Haigney    
The New Yorker

Sports Reporting & Commentary
Medallion: “A Handshake from a White Teammate Signaled Jackie Robinson’s Arrival in America’s Game”
By William Weinbaum   
ESPN (Undefeated, an ESPN media platform )
Merit : “Defying A Shock To The System”
By Amanda M. Fairbanks   
The New York Times
Merit : “Kevin Durant and (Possibly) the Greatest Basketball Team of All Time,”
By Sam Anderson  
The New York Times Magazine

Editorials, Commentary & Public Service
Medallion: “Dysfunction at Rikers Island”
By Jan Ransom and Jonah Bromwich          
The New York Times
Merit: “The Toll of the NYC Housing Authority’s Lead Lies”
By Greg B. Smith                 

People Profiles
Medallion: “He Bombed the Nazis, Outwitted the Soviets and Modernized Christmas” 
Laurie Gwen Shapiro      
The New York Times
Merit: “Lives of New York”
Alex Vadukul
The New York Times 
Merit: “The Ultimate Obit: The Real Unabridged Authorized Warts-and-All Saga of Brooklyn Trolley King Bob Diamond”
By Simi Horwitz      
Streetsblog NYC

Minority Affairs Reporting
Medallion: “No Fair Shot at Vaccinations”
By Josefa Velazquez, Ann Choi, Will Welch and Claudia Irizarry Aponte
THE CITY        
Merit: “On the Waterfront”
By Student Reporters of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY
New York City News Service at CUNY                 

Breaking News Photography
Medallion:   “A Father and Son Reunion”     
Steve Pfost  
Merit :  “A Hero’s Farewell”
J. Conrad Williams, Jr.  

Feature News Photography
Medallion :  “It’s Not Enough: Living Through a Pandemic on $100 a Week.” 
Desiree Rios   
The New York Times Magazine
Merit: “N.Y.C. Wakes Up”
15 Freelance  Photographers                  
The New York Times Magazine
Merit: “These 115 Workers Helped Keep New York Alive During Its Darkest Months”
Photos By Todd Heisler / Text by David Gonzalez 
The New York Times Magazine

Sports Photography
Medallion: “Using His Head”
Thomas A. Ferrara   
Merit:  “Wave Runners”
J. Conrad Williams, Jr. 

TV Breaking News
Medallion: “The Cuomo Resignation”
WABC-TV Eyewitness News Team  

TV Feature News
Medallion: “He’s going to kill me” – Jo‘Anna Bird’s Story
Newsday Video Documentary and News Staffs. 
Producer, Writer, Reporter: Pat Dolan; Investigative Reporter, Producer: Sandra Peddie; Producers: Robert Cassidy, John Keating. Reporter: Jim Baumbach. Anchor: Faith Jessie. 
Merit: “Justice Denied”
Walt Kane / Karin Attonito/ Anthony Coco  
News 12 Networks

Radio Breaking News
Medallion: “Coverage of Storm Ida”   
WINS 1010 Radio Broadcast and Reporting Staff
Anchors: Lane Bajardi, Sonia Rincon Editors: Beth Reardon, Jim Maloney, Sara Mille Reporter: Carol D’Auria Producer: Matt Blezow, Dempsey Pillot.
WINS 1010 Radio

Exactly Who Gets a Coveted Times Obit

by David A. Andelman

Bill McDonald – photo Fred R. Conrad/NYT

For 16 years, Bill McDonald has served as a gatekeeper for the powerful, the famous, the quirky or the just plain interesting as they exit the world where they plied their trade or exercised their talents. He is the obituary editor of The New York Times. And for our first in-person lunch at the National Arts Club in nearly two years, he regaled our membership with yarns of life and immortality beyond the grave.

Take the fellow who was the (hardly competent) lookout for the Watergate burglars. “We would always write about Watergate people,” McDonald said. “They’re just catnip for our readers.” Even if, as was the case for this one, he’d been dead for two years. There have been a few other notable cases among the long-dead. Like Donald W. Duncan, green beret turned anti-war leader and editor of Ramparts, a leftist magazine of the Vietnam war era, who Jeff Roth, Silurian and custodian of The Times morgue, uncovered. When fellow Silurian, Robert McFadden, the paper’s leading obituary writer, began to research this obit, he discovered that Duncan, too, had been long dead. “We did the obit,” McDonald observed. “It was a great story and no one else had done it. So, we got a lot of good reaction.”

A Silurian board member David Margolick, himself the author of a not inconsiderable number of obits for McDonald, observed that “Bill’s pages are the primest real estate for journalists in the world. There are few assignments that are better than writing for him and telling peoples’ stories. He keeps coming up with Hasidic rabbis who were 103 years old and there seems to be an endless supply of them.” (Joe Berger, who cohosted the questioning with Margolick, seems to have made a specialty of these rabbis.) Continue reading



By Ben Patrusky

Joseph Berger, a consummate New York Times reporter, columnist and editor for more than three decades and the prolific author of several celebrated books, was elected the 73rd president of the Silurian Press Club on May 18 at the final lunch of the 2021 -2022 season, and the first to be held in-person since the onset of the Covid pandemic.

Joseph Berger

In assuming the presidency, Berger will relinquish editorship of Silurian News and pass the mantle to his newly elected successor as first vice president, Aileen Jacobson, an accomplished, now-retired Newsday reporter. Rounding out the officer roster are Carol Lawson, re-elected as secretary, and Karen Bedrosian Richardson as treasurer.

All current members of the board of governors were also re-elected to renewable one-year terms, along with one notable new addition, Chester Higgins Jr., the recipient of the Silurians 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award, and the first photojournalist to grace the Silurian board roster.

Berger, as president, succeeds Michael Serrill, who won plaudits for the skill and resourcefulness with which he continued to lead the organization through such unprecedented times. Though Silurian monthly “lunches” went virtual as the pandemic raged, Serrill, with the help of colleagues, delivered an outstanding procession of speakers – including (one small silver lining of the pandemic) several preeminent out-of-towners who normally would not have been available to appear but for Zoom. Among the illustrious presenters were: Marty Baron, recently retired editor of the Washington Post; Michael Wolff, author of “Fire and Fury,” a best-selling inside look at the Trump administration; Mikhail Zygar, a Russian writer and filmmaker, in conversation with former New York Times correspondent James Brooke, sharing their expertise on Ukraine from remote locations; Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst; and iconic caricaturist Ed Sorel.. Serrill also presided over the twice-postponed 2022 awards dinner honoring Higgins, the first in-person event of his presidential term.

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Tim Weiner, Intelligence and National Security Expert, Discussed the War in Ukraine and Explained Political Warfare at Our April 20 Meeting

By Aileen Jacobson

Tim Weiner

The war in Ukraine represents “the resurrection of political warfare by the United States,” said Tim Weiner, our speaker at the April 20 Zoom meeting, our second program on that ongoing war instigated by Russia.

Weiner, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is a former intelligence and national security reporter for the New York Times. He is also the author of several books, including a history of the CIA and a history of the FBI. His most recent is The Folly and the Glory: America, Russia and Political Warfare, 1945-2020. He also hosts a podcast.

Political warfare, Weiner explained to the fifty members who attended, is the use of a nation’s powers “short of war,” including diplomacy, economic warfare, intelligence operations and support for resistance actions.

The intelligence gathered by the CIA about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions “to wipe Ukraine off the face of the earth” became overwhelming by January, he said, leading to a decision to make the evidence public. Putin had used the same kind of “blitzkrieg of propaganda” and misinformation (including calling Ukrainians “Nazis”) to justify war in 2014 in the run-up to the war in Crimea.

That time, Weiner said, U.S. officials didn’t understand what was going on, but this time they were prepared and “totally neutralized Putin’s disinformation weapons” by telling the world about them. He called this sharing of intelligence “a remarkable development” with long-lasting impact on the future global struggle “between democracy and autocracy.”

In response to a question posed by Silurians president Michael Serrill, who moderated the discussion, Weiner credited “buzz and taps and moles” as the probable sources of the CIA’s information. He also believes that the U.S. is finding “work arounds” to pierce the “Stalinist crackdown” on a free press in Russia and deliver truthful information.

An In-Person Reunion After Two Years of Zoom and a Glorious Tribute to Photojournalist Chester Higgins Jr., Winner of the Silurians Lifetime Achievement Award

By Aileen Jacobson

Chester Higgins Jr.

For the first time in two years Silurians got to see each other in person, and for the first time ever we honored a photojournalist with our Lifetime Achievement Award during the gala on March 24 at the National Arts Club.

Chester Higgins Jr. spent 39 of his 75 years as a staff photographer for the New York Times and also has published several books of photography, most recently Sacred Nile, a splendid volume. At the gala, he received numerous accolades, many pointing out that he transformed the way that people look at and think about Black people—and every other person.

“Chester has always been a man on a spiritual mission, striving to find the humanity, the dignity and the grace in everyone,” said Joseph Berger, who worked with him at the Times for many years and is now first vice-president of the Silurians.

“He changed the newspaper,” said Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times, the first Black person in that job. Unlike some other journalists who think of themselves that way, Baquet said, Higgins “actually is an artist.” Baquet cited a joyous photo Higgins took of Amiri Baraka jitterbugging with Maya Angelou at an event honoring Langston Hughes at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

A short film about Higgins that was shown to the audience of 99—a near-capacity crowd given Covid restrictions—covered his background back to his start in Alabama included several of his iconic images. His great interest in Africa continues today.

Two people who claimed him as a mentor spoke, too. Sandra Stevenson, who joined the Times in 2005 and became a photo editor, said she felt pressure in the job, “but Chester was so gracious and so kind.” Michelle Agins, who has worked at the Times 33 years (and was only the second Black female photographer hired) said she was told early in her career that she was good “but you’ll be even better when you meet Chester Higgins.” Part of his advice to her, she said, was “Just be cool.”

As president Michael Serrill presented a plaque to Higgins, he said that “he made it his mission to infuse Black life into the world’s consciousness.”

When Higgins spoke, as dessert was being served, he credited a great-uncle with giving him “a sense of direction” when he was 19. He told the young Higgins, “Whatever you do, it has to matter. It’s important that you make a statement in life.” The Times, he added, “gave me a front-row seat to society.”

For more, watch the video of the event on this site

and read this profile by Jon Kalish published a week after the gala that quotes Joe Berger:
and listen here: https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2022/04/01/chester-higgins-africa-photos 

Extra! Extra! Special March 30 Zoom Program on Ukraine Featuring Mikhail Zygar, Russian Writer and James Brooke, American Ukraine Expert

By Michael Serrill

I am pleased to announce that the Silurians Press Club has scheduled a special Zoom program on Wednesday, March 30 to discuss the most important global event in decades—the war between Russia and Ukraine. To lead the discussion, we have invited two men who have intimate knowledge of both combatants and the events that led to the current conflict.

Mikhail Zygar                                                 James Brooke

Mikhail Zygar is a Russian writer and filmmaker and the author of an open letter and petition opposing the invasion.  “We do not believe that an independent Ukraine poses a threat to Russia or any other state,” the letter says. “We do not believe Vladimir Putin’s claims that the Ukrainian people are under the rule of ‘Nazis’ and need to be ‘liberated.’ We demand an end to this war.” The letter had attracted 1 million signatures when Zygar was warned that he was about to be arrested and should take the next flight out of Russia. He will speak to us from Berlin.

James Brooke spent 24 years reporting from a variety of locations for The New York Times. He was Moscow bureau chief for the Voice of America and then Bloomberg News before starting an English-language business newspaper in Ukraine. He returned to the U.S. last year and will speak to us from his home in the Berkshires.

Artist, Caricaturist and Author Edward Sorel Spoke at the February 16 Zoom meeting: A Report and an Appreciation

By David Margolick

Edward Sorel

Early on in his profusely illustrious career, Edward Sorel neatly captured in a semi-autobiographical cartoon — it contains nine separate self-portraits — a brilliant artist’s eternal dilemma.

In the drawing, which ran in the Nation, he ponders why, away from their canvases, so many of the painters he so admires were schmucks. Rembrandt was a deadbeat and embezzled from his own son. Degas was an anti-Semite. Matisse looked sweet but dumped his wife once he hit it big. Picasso abandoned his friends during the Occupation. And on and on.

“Let’s face it…I’ll never be a great artist,” the cartoonist reluctantly concludes. “I’m just too nice a guy.”

Forty years or so have passed since Sorel drew those panels. And throughout it all his work has appeared, and continues to appear, in an astonishing array of publications — everything from the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and the New York Times Book Review to Screw. And in various public places, including the walls of the Waverly Inn.

Asked during his virtual appearance before the Silurians on February 16 where on that spectrum — from master to mensch — he’d position himself, Sorel replied with the twin trademarks of his work: honesty and astringency.

“Well, I certainly don’t place myself very high in the nice guy category,” he said. “I’ve done selfish things in my life. But for the 20th Century and even for the 21st I’d rate myself very highly as a cartoonist, as a caricaturist. I did become the artist I hoped to become.”

Sorel, 92, joked that he was now famous enough to be modest. But leafing through his new book, Profusely Illustrated: A Memoir, and beholding the extraordinary range of figures he’s honored (some) and skewered (far more) in his artworks over the past seven decades, it’s clear that in his case, modesty is simply inapt.

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A Life Well and Truly Lived: With Anecdotes and Loving Words, Steven V. Roberts Paid Tribute to His Wife and Distinguished Fellow Journalist Cokie Roberts at the January Meeting

By David A. Andelman

Steve Roberts

For 53 years, Steve Roberts was Cokie’s biggest fan. He was also her husband and, at times, writing partner and traveling companion. They also became, for each of them, mutual sources of ineffable inspiration.

That’s the message that comes through in the 272 pages of Cokie: A Life Well Lived and that was conveyed across nine time zones by her husband, Steve, to the many friends and colleagues who dialed in on Zoom for January’s luncheon event.

It was a lifelong love affair—from their first meeting at their respective ages of 19 and 18, Steve a budding journalist on The Crimson at Harvard, Cokie at Wellesley. They were only rarely apart for the next five decades, hopscotching through their years together from Washington to California to Greece and back to Washington. Steve outlined the start of Cokie’s career from her earliest iterations as a journalist, stringing for CBS News as tanks rolled through the streets of Athens in a landmark coup d’état (with Steve on Cyprus and unable to return), to Cokie’s first big breaks on NPR, then ABC, dogged in those far-off days by the burden of being a woman in the man’s world of journalism.

“I was her biggest fan,” Steve said, clearly recalling their decades together until her tragic death cut short their lifelong romance in 2019. “I knew from the day I met her what an extraordinary person she was.”

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Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst and Author of The Rise and Fall of Osama Bin Laden, Delivered the Low-Down on Afghanistan at the December Meeting

By David A. Andelman

Peter Bergen is unequivocal about many issues surrounding the world and especially America’s place in it. Above all, he’s pretty clear about what he thinks of Joe Biden’s Afghanistan policy.

He minced no words when he spoke before the Silurians monthly zoom-luncheon on December 15: “It has turned into a total fiasco.”

Peter Bergen

He elaborated: America should never have left, he said, and certainly not in the fashion that it did. Bergen observed that “President Biden, and his approval ratings, never recovered from the poorly executed withdrawal from Afghanistan.” But the fallout has turned out to be even worse and more far-reaching. It “seemed to undercut any kind of narrative about competence in the administration.”

Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, is vice president of the New America think tank and author, most recently of The Rise and Fall of Osama Bin Laden, published in August.

He said the withdrawal from Afghanistan was not simply poorly executed, it was a very poor policy decision on a number of levels. And he believes it could even lead to the possibility of a return to Afghanistan at some point. “First of all, the Taliban could engage in ethnic cleansing which they certainly have done in the past.” The fear of genocide was the trigger for Barack Obama’s decision to send more American troops into Iraq. “It wasn’t the murder of Jim Foley [the American journalist]. All that was important, that precipitated Obama’s change of mind. [But] it was the threat of genocide against the Yazidis. Jim Foley’s murder amplified that decision but didn’t precipitate the decision.”

As for what is happening now and what is likely to take place going forward in Afghanistan, Bergen observed that he had spent some time in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. His conclusion was that they “really had no plans for governance in a real sense. They believe that if you make society pure, that everything else will follow and everything else would get taken care of. Well, that’s not a program for turning on the electricity, or putting water in the pipes. And it’s certainly a program that is probably going to lead to the humanitarian catastrophe that we see unfolding in Afghanistan. Ninety-seven percent of the population may be below the poverty line and millions of people may starve.”

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Will Trump Run Again? Michael Wolff Gave Silurians His Take—After Explaining in Detail How Insane the Ex-Prez Is.

by David Margolick

It sounds more like an ad for a legendary electronics store than an appraisal of a former President of the United States. But according to Michael Wolff, Donald Trump is… insane!

Michael Wolff

And “crazy.” And “off his rocker.” And “occupying a different reality than literally everyone else.” And “incompetent,” spending his time “talking and talking and just spewing forth and saying whatever comes into his mind.” And illiterate (“He doesn’t read”), which is “compounded by the fact that he doesn’t listen, either.”

“I don’t think he has dementia,” Wolff allowed in his very frank and highly entertaining virtual talk before the Silurians on November 17. “I think he is just crazy. I think he has been crazy for a very long time.”

Wolff has followed Trump for years, dating back to his days as a columnist for New York Magazine, when the President-to-be would hock him semimonthly for leaving him out of something he’d just written. And his trilogy of best-selling books on the man could well prove the most enduring chronicle of the bizarre and exhausting and ongoing Trump years.

As Wolff sees it, his work has proceeded on a fundamentally different premise than the one followed by the mainstream press. By instinct and tradition, he believes, most White House reporters approached Trump on the mistaken assumption that he was sane, and that his presidency was within traditional norms. He, by contrast, covered Trump as the nut case he was and is and always will be.

“I don’t think they got close to understanding that this was in every way, shape and form an aberrant presidency,” Wolff said. “Not just a deceitful presidency or corrupt presidency or a wrongheaded presidency or a disorganized presidency, but a presidency that had no relationship to any presidency that has occurred in the past. There was no way for a whole swath of institutional journalists to say the President of the United States is insane. I can say that. They cannot.”

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