New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute has named Seth Freed Wessler, an award-winning reporter for Colorlines.com, the recipient of its 2013 Reporting Award and Liza Gross, a freelance journalist and part-time editor at the journal PLOS Biology, this year’s runner-up.
The award supports a work of journalism in any medium on significant underreported subjects in the public interest.
As the 2013 Reporting Award recipient, Wessler will report on mental health issues that affect families, focusing on the treatment by social services of mothers and fathers with psychiatric diagnoses. The project will build upon Wessler’s previous reporting on child welfare and the social safety net.
As the 2013 Reporting Award runner-up, Gross will continue her reporting on the social, economic, and health inequities endured by California farm workers living amid some of the richest farmland in the country. Researchers have known that people living in these communities routinely encounter a broad range of environmental hazards—not just in the fields where they harvest fruits and vegetables, but also in their homes, where nitrates, pesticides, and other contaminants foul their tap water. Gross will combine data-driven reporting techniques with in-depth community interviews to investigate the impact of these environmental stresses on the people living in these communities.
In establishing the award in 2009, the Carter Journalism Institute’s faculty cited the need for encouraging enterprise journalism during a time of extensive layoffs and budget cuts throughout the journalism industry.
Wessler will receive a stipend of $2,500 upon his selection as the competition winner and an additional $10,000 upon successful completion of the work. In addition, the program funds up to $6,000 in NYU journalism graduate student assistance to support his work. Gross will receive a stipend of $2,500 upon her selection as the competition runner-up and an additional $4,000 upon successful completion of the work. As visiting scholars at NYU, both Wessler and Gross will have use of the Institute’s facilities as well as NYU’s libraries and other scholarly resources. The completed articles are expected to be published in a major media outlet either alone or in conjunction with the Institute.
Wessler, a freelance writer, has reported from across the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean on immigration, criminal justice, economic inequality, and the social safety net. As a reporter for Colorlines.com, Wessler won a Sidney Hillman Prize and other honors for his investigative stories that revealed there are thousands of U.S. citizen children in local foster care whose immigrant parent has been deported. He was the recipient of the 2009 USC Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism fellowship and has written for Good Magazine, the Texas Observer, NPR’s Latino USA, and other outlets. For five years, Wessler was a senior researcher at the Applied Research Center where he authored reports on racial and economic inequality.
Gross is a freelance journalist and part-time editor at PLOS Biology, a contributor to Environmental Health News (EHN), and blogger for KQED Science, Northern California’s public media outlet. She’s also a contributor to The Science Writers’ Handbook. Her work, which focuses mostly on conservation, environment, and health issues, has appeared in diverse outlets, including the Washington Post, Scientific American, High Country News, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her story “No beba el agua,” which showed how decades of nitrate contamination from California’s $37 billion farming industry disproportionately affects poor Latino farm workers, is part of EHN’s Pollution, Poverty, People of Color series, which received Honorable Mention in the Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism.
Sarah Stillman, the inaugural recipient of the Reporting Award, traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan to report on the abuse of third-world service workers on U.S. military bases there. Her piece, “The Invisible Army,” which appeared in the June 6, 2011 issue of the New Yorker, won several of journalism’s top prizes in 2012: the National Magazine Award in the category of “Public Interest”; the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism; the Overseas Press Club’s Joe and Laurie Dine Award for International Human Rights Reporting; and the Michael Kelly Award for the “fearless pursuit and expression of truth.”
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