The fearless pursuit & expression of truth

The Michael Kelly Award honors a writer or editor whose work
exemplifies the quality that animated Michael Kelly’s career.

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NYTCREDIT: Earl Wilson/The New York Times2/10/2015

With grit and grace, New York Times reporter Alissa J. Rubin wrote about the struggle of women in Afghanistan for dignity, equality, and respect. Intrigued by a report of an Afghan woman set afire after being accused of burning a Quran, Rubin disclosed how the woman was falsely charged and how the Afghan judicial system ineptly handled the case. She revealed how efforts to integrate women into the Afghan police force were backfiring, telling the story of a young mother who was murdered for becoming a policewoman. Rubin reported the articles at considerable personal risk, sometimes sleeping in her clothes so she could flee at a moment’s notice. That she undertook the assignments just months after being severely injured in a helicopter crash in Iraq speaks to Rubin’s commitment to bear witness.

2016 Michael Kelly Award Finalists

Mendoza square

Martha Mendoza, Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Esther Htusan

The Associated Press

AP reporters revealed seafood slavery.

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Ian Urbina

The New York Times

Urbina showed how the rule of law often does not apply to international waters.

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James Verini

The Atavist Magazine

Verini profiled an American who is the only doctor in a hospital in a war-torn region of Sudan.

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Past Michael Kelly Award Winners

2015 Winner

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Rania Abouzeid

Politico Magazine

Reported at great personal risk during three extended trips into Syria, “The Jihad Next Door” is the definitive account of the terrifying rise of jihadists in Syria. Winning unprecedented access to senior members of al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, as well as ISIS fighters, Rania Abouzeid discloses how al-Qaeda gained a foothold in Syria and ISIS used the Syrian conflict as an incubator to hatch its regional ambitions. “It’s a mammoth understatement to say that this was a hard task, especially for a freelancer,” Rania Abouzeid wrote in a letter accompanying the entry. “I work undercover and alone in Syria. I do my own fixing, translating, logistics and security… I am just a girl with a notepad and pen who has to figure out everything on my own.”

2014 Winner


Rukmini Callimachi

The Associated Press

As the West Africa bureau chief for The Associated Press, Rukmini Callimachi consistently displayed a passion for the truth, reportorial ingenuity, and a commitment to the highest standards of journalism. At great risk to her own safety, Callimachi discovered a large trove of internal documents from al-Qaida that illuminated the internal workings of the terrorist organization and its strategy for the region. Reporting from Mali—again at great personal risk–she tracked down the bodies of six victims shot by the military, forcing the Malian government to initiate an investigation.

2013 Winner

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Brian Mockenhaupt

A former infantryman in Iraq, Brian Mockenhaupt wanted to write about what happens when someone in the military has to assume his dead boss’s job, and those under him have to adjust to new leadership during the most stressful time of their lives. It’s a situation unfathomable to most of the civilian world, but one the military takes for granted. Mockenhaupt’s reporting stretched over 18 months, taking him from a platoon in Afghanistan that went on daily—and deadly—foot patrols in Afghanistan to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where Marines from the platoon struggled to reintegrate into the world they had left behind.

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