Alan Rusbridger wins journalism award in US
Guardian's editor is first non-American journalist to be given Goldsmith career award for excellence in journalism
The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, has been awarded the Goldsmith career award for excellence in journalism, one of America's most prestigious accolades.
Rusbridger is the first non-American journalist to be honoured with the award, which is granted by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government as part of its annual prizes for political journalism. The career award recognises "outstanding contributions to the field of journalism, and for work that has enriched our political discourse and our society".
Alex Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Centre on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, which sponsors the awards, said that under Rusbridger's leadership, "the Guardian has grown in influence and prestige and now has a huge following in the United States".
He praised the way that Rusbridger had refused to be cowed in the investigation into the phone-hacking scandal involving News Corporation. By sticking with the story, he had "shaken the Murdoch empire to its shoes. It demonstrated that one news organisation had the courage to report on another about a journalistic enterprise that was breaking the law – that is very rare."
Accepting the award, Rusbridger said that he had enjoyed two important elements of luck – the luck to spend most of his career working for a newspaper that had no proprietor and was owned by a trust; and the luck to work with excellent journalists such as Nick Davies, who led the Guardian's reporting into the phone-hacking scandal.
On phone hacking, he reflected that "journalism is an immensely powerful force in society, and it is precisely because of its power that it merits scrutiny". He said the most important lesson of the ongoing saga was the central role played by the reporter, the worker bees of the information world.
Without reporters like Nick Davies, or Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin – who died in separate incidents recently in Syria – Rusbridger said, "we are in serious trouble". He added that the phone-hacking story had taken "serious reporting to expose journalism at its most reprehensible".
Rusbridger succeeds last year's winner of the career award, Frank Rich, the New York Times's former theatre critic and columnist who now writes for New York magazine. Previous winners include the investigative writer Seymour Hersh; the editor of ProPublica Paul Steiger; TV personalities such as Barbara Walters, Christiane Amanpour and Dan Rather; and Ted Turner, founder of the first 24-hour cable news channel CNN.
The very first career award was presented in 1992 jointly to the creator of 60 Minutes, the late Don Hewitt, and Bob Woodward of Watergate fame.
Rusbridger said that it was "humbling to be bracketed with the distinguished American journalists on the roll call, several of whom were my personal heroes".
In addition to phone hacking, Harvard said that it had granted the award in recognition of Rusbridger's role in leading negotiations with Julian Assange over the publication of the giant trove of WikiLeaks documents.
In a broader sense, the award also marked Rusbridger's leadership in forging the direction of the Guardian's digital-first business strategy and commitment to "open journalism".
"His term at the helm has been filled with surprising turns and revelations, the most recent of which – open journalism – invites the world to participate in the journalistic process," Jones said.
At the same ceremony, the $25,000 Goldsmith prize for investigative reporting was presented to the Associated Press for its groundbreaking probe into the New York police department's secretive and aggressive monitoring of Muslim communities. The AP team was chosen from a pool of six finalists that also included ProPublica and the New York Times.
Two book prizes were awarded for works on politics and press. Evgeny Morozov was granted the Goldsmith book prize for trade publications for his work The Net Delusion: the Dark Side of Internet Freedom, which sounds the alarm on the negative uses to which the internet can be put by dictatorships. The academic books prize went to Jeffrey Cohen for Going Local: Presidential Leadership in the Post-Broadcast Age.
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