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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The on-the-ground complexities of the ongoing civil war in Yemen, supported and exacerbated by outside powers, are nearly impossible for outsiders to follow. Stepping back, we all know this: one of the great humanitarian tragedies of our time is unfolding before our eyes, abetted and worsened by the intervention of actors who shoulder none of the consequences. Confronting continual threats from all sides, reporter Maggie Michael, photographer Nariman Ayman El-Mofty, and video journalist Maad al-Zikry, filed stories for The Associated Press that consistently broke new ground, brought the nature of the conflict vividly alive, and exposed the ruthless cynicism of those perpetuating the conflict.

2019 Michael Kelly Award Finalists

Connor Sheets

Alabama Media Group

Sheets followed and exposed police corruption in Alabama.

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Christine Kenneally

BuzzFeed News

Kenneally exposed horrific child abuse at a Catholic orphanage in Vermont.

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Hannah Dreier


Dreier depicted the plight of Latino teenagers trapped between the MS-13 gang and the government.

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Past Michael Kelly Award Winners

2018 Winner

Dionne Searcey

The New York Times

As West Africa bureau chief for 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 who were supposed to protect them. She revealed how the Nigerian military, in its zeal to eradicate Boko Haram, has massacred scores of innocent civilians. Her coverage has caused her to be detained and threatened by Nigerian authorities, but it has also won her widespread praise. Said Mausi Segun, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, “Dionne’s reporting on Nigeria’s Boko Haram conflict has been nothing but phenomenal.”

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.

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