The Overseas Press Club of America last night held its annual awards dinner at the Mandarin Oriental to recognize exceptional journalism on stories outside the U.S.
“I’d rather be sneaking into Syria again than talking before a crowd,” said Raja Abdulrahim of the Los Angeles Times, who won the Hal Boyle Award for stories focusing on ordinary people in the conflict zone.
To get to Syria, she made her way through Turkey and Lebanon. “The barbed wire was right in front of me when I was caught by a Jordanian soldier,” Abdulrahim said.
She spent that night in a Jordanian jail. “The brothel madam who shared my cell tried to take me under her wing,” she said.
The Edward R. Murrow Award went to the CBS News program “60 Minutes” for its episode-long story “Killing Bin Laden.” Since the raid of Osama Bin Laden’s compound two years ago, producer Henry Schuster said, 20 members of SEAL Team Six have died on duty, most of them in Afghanistan.
“When you think that SEAL Team Six has fewer than 300 people, you can begin to appreciate the sacrifice,” Schuster said.
Oded Balilty of the Associated Press’s Jerusalem office won for his photography of an ultra-Orthodox wedding in Israel.
“This is the first time that I’m winning shooting something that actually is happy,” Balilty said.
Cartoonist Rob Rogers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette won the Thomas Nast Award. In his remarks he used visuals to describe the difference between a cartoonist’s and an editor’s brain.
The biggest piece of the cartoonist’s brain is devoted to “toilet humor, followed by winning a Pulitzer -- I guess that could be winning the OPC award -- keeping his or her job, and that tiny, tiny part of the cartoonist’s brain, that is taste,” Rodgers said.
An editor’s brain meanwhile “thinks of things like not offending readers, winning a Pulitzer, kissing up to advertisers, the bottom line and that tiny, tiny part of the editor’s brain, that is a sense of humor,” he said.
Alberto Arce, who won the Robert Spiers Benjamin Award, said that to report from Honduras for AP was “to bring light to the dark room.” It is so dark in Honduras that “politicians are giving away coffins to the poor people because they don’t have enough money to die and have a decent burial,” he said.
Tony Maddox, managing director of CNN International, accepting an award for an anonymous correspondent and photojournalist reporting from Damascus, praised the fixers who helped them. “We get to come to dinners and collect awards, they stay on and live there,” Maddox said. “The work we do honors them.”
Tom Brokaw, who received the President’s Award for lifetime achievement, described the act of coming together for the awards as a form of renewal for the profession.
Bloomberg reporters won two awards for reporting on China: the Morton Frank Award for best international business news reporting in magazines, and the Best Investigative Reporting award.
Companies supporting the dinner included Google Inc., BlackRock Inc., BNY Mellon Corp., Itochu International Inc., FedEx and Ford Motor Co. Lenovo Group Ltd. gave each winner a convertible laptop/tablet.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Jeffrey Burke on books, Jeremy Gerard on theater.