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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2018 Winner: Dionne Searcey

The New York Times

Dionne Searcey’s coverage of the havoc wreaked by the terrorist group Boko Haram has been compelling, enterprising, and brave. Searcey told the stories of girls sent by Boko Haram on suicide missions with explosives strapped to their chests. She described how rape victims of Boko Haram escaped captivity only to be violated by Nigerian soldiers. Her coverage has caused her to be detained and threatened by Nigerian authorities.

2018 Michael Kelly Award Finalists

Kristen Gelineau, Todd Pitman, Esther Htusan

The Associated Press

Three AP reporters chronicled the systematic and brutal persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

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Carol Marbin Miller, Audra D.S. Burch

Miami Herald

Marbin Miller and Burch exposed brutality, incompetence, and negligence in Florida’s juvenile justice system.

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John Woodrow Cox

Cox examined the impact of gun violence on children and teenagers in the United States.

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Past Michael Kelly Award Winners

2017 Winner

Shane Bauer

Mother Jones

Determined to chronicle the everyday realities inside a private prison, Shane Bauer spent four months as a corrections officer at a prison in Louisiana. His article depicted a facility barely able to function under cost-cutting pressures. Bauer’s article showed how insufficient staffing increased danger for guards and prisoners alike and how he struggled to maintain his humanity in a setting where physical and emotional assault was all too commonplace. Bauer’s article had immediate impact: after its publication, the Department of Justice announced it would end its use of private prisons. As The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum wrote, Bauer’s investigation “is literally why journalism exists and why we have to pay for it.”

2016 Winner

Alissa J. Rubin

The New York Times

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.

2015 Winner

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.”

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