WASHINGTON, D.C., April 23, 2018–The Military Reporters & Editors association, the preeminent organization for U.S. media professionals specializing in national security, announced the winners of its annual defense journalism award competition. The contest covered work produced in 2017 in several categories.
MRE’s mission is to foster networking among media professionals on the national security beat, to advocate for their rights and to educate them and the public about the U.S. military.
The winners of this year’s competition will be formally recognized at MRE’s annual conference, scheduled for Oct. 26 at the Navy League of the United States headquarters in Arlington, Va.
The judges of the MRE competition were faculty members at the Medill School of Journalism of Northwestern University and Howard University. They said the following about this year’s winners:
Joe Galloway Award – James Rosen of McClatchy Newspapers for a story titled, “Families of 9/11 Victims Might Soon Get Day in Court Against Saudi Officials.” The piece portrayed the agony and anger of families of 9/11 victims who had tried for years to sue the Saudi government for alleged complicity in the attacks. His work was the result of a lengthy reporting effort that included dozens of interviews with family members, lawmakers and experts. The story provided context and details on the efforts of the families to fight against two presidents and a legal system that they believed was more intent on protecting a key U.S. ally than on allowing the victims of one of the worst tragedies in American history to seek legal justice.
James Crawley Award — Lara Seligman of Aviation Week for four stories that skillfully delved into one of military fighter pilot’s biggest nightmares – losing control or even consciousness in the cockpit because of lack of oxygen. Across the military fleets, pilots increasingly have reported incidents of hypoxia – or serious shortages of oxygen – that are impairing judgement or even leading to blackouts. Seligman handled a complicated topic with aplomb and provided a riveting narrative.
Student – Wen-Yee Lee of the Medill School of Journalism, for a student project published in Military Times. In the piece, World War II vet Terry Shima, a Japanese American who served in the Army during World War II, opened up to Lee about the struggles of segregation and discrimination during that era.
Television – Top Market: “War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend ,” by Deborah Scranton for Clover and Bee Films LLC and HBO Documentary Films. From the opening scene, it was clear that this film would be pushing a lot of emotional buttons. Viewers see the dogs’ personalities and appreciate the relationships between the soldiers and their dogs in a strong way. The use of night vision footage, what appears to be satellite imagery and archival photos shows amazing access and adds incredible realism to the stories that the soldiers tell. It was also interesting to hear the simpler stories about what it is like to work with a K9 in the field and to live together after the war.
Television — Small Market: Reporter Dave D’Marko and photojournalist Jon Haiduk of Fox 4 News Kansas City produced a compelling story on how hometown heroes serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower described life at sea away from family . The story’s weaving together of footage and interviews from Missouri with clips from the “Ike” carrier dramatized the reality of an important member of the family “over there” while something important is happening here. At the end, viewers have a better understanding of why officers like Kathryn Pierre are passionate about the jobs they do.
Radio — Jay Price and Dorian Merina of “American Homefront Project,” a project of six public radio stations, for stories on American veterans, the POW/MIA movement and the changing soundscape of war. The stories were beautifully produced, had a good balance of reporting and interviews, and showed that it’s possible to tell interesting and emotional stories in a clean and concise way. If one were to hear any one of these stories independent of a larger radio show, or of a written article, they would still be just as good.
Print – Domestic-Small Circulation: Barrie Barber of the Dayton Daily News for two very detailed and well reported pieces–one on the Air Force’s growing pilot-shortage crisis and the other a look at the Air Force’s efforts to combat cyber attacks.
Print – Domestic-Large Circulation: Donovan Slack and Michael Sallah of USA Today disclosed in four stories how the Department of Veterans Affairs for years had concealed mistakes and misdeeds by doctors and other medical workers entrusted with caring for veterans. The VA had also knowingly hired clinicians with bad records.
Print – Overseas-Large Circulation: – Geoff Ziezulewicz of the Military Times uncovered in a three-part series a profoundly disturbing situation when he investigated life aboard the Japan-based cruiser Shiloh. He found suicidal sailors, broken crew members and fears that the missile defense ship couldn’t shoot down a North Korean ICBM if needed. Ziezulewicz shed light on sailor and ship readiness problems that later came to the fore after the fatal collisions of two Navy ships in the West Pacific last summer.
Online – James LaPorta and Brandy Zadronzny of the Daily Beast produced a pair of stories that reported in riveting detail the last hours of the life of West Point cadet and starting defensive back Brandon Jackson, who got drunk after a game with a group of officers and fellow cadets, then drove a car into a guardrail. He died in the crash. The two reporters, using a copy of an unreleased Army report and internal records that exposed what one official called the academy’s “special treatment” of cadets on the football team.
Commentary – J. Ford Huffman of the Military Times is one of the few regular sources of helpful commentary about contemporary military-related fiction and nonfiction, and his reviews in 2017 exemplified that. His more than 300 reviews over the years include his annual must-read lists that provide a great service to all of those interested in the military.