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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Azam Ahmed

The New York Times

The horrifying cycle of violence that afflicts so many Latin American countries is rendered with deeply felt humanity in Azam Ahmed’s five-part New York Times series, “Kill, or Be Killed: Latin America’s Homicide Crisis.” Ahmed explores the root causes of the many thousands of killings in the region every year. He moves beyond the numbers to paint memorable portraits: a brave Honduran pastor, a remorseful Mexican killer, a teenage Guatemalan mother. “Underpinning nearly every killing is a climate of impunity that, in some countries, leaves more than 95 percent of homicides unsolved,” Ahmed writes. “And the state is a guarantor of the phenomenon—governments hollowed out by corruption are either incapable or unwilling to apply the rule of law, enabling criminal networks to dictate the lives of millions.”

2020 Michael Kelly Award Finalists

Craig Whitlock

The Washington Post

With his five-part series, “The Afghanistan Papers,” Craig Whitlock has produced what already feels like a definitive survey of the U.S. government’s deceptive and complicit role in America’s longest armed conflict.

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Tom Warren and Katie J.M. Baker

BuzzFeed News

In an exposé spanning six countries and supported by thousands of pages of documents and more than 100 interviews, Warren and Baker reveal the human cost of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s war on poaching.

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Kyle Hopkins

Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica

In “Lawless,” Hopkins investigates local policing in a vast state that is also a “news desert”—a region that has little in the way of reliable local-news coverage.

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Past Michael Kelly Award Winners

2019 Winner

Maggie Michael, Nariman Ayman El-Mofty, and Maad al-Zikry

The Associated Press

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.

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.”

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