BROOKLYN – The George Polk Awards, established in 1949 by Long Island University (LIU) to commemorate George Polk, announced their 66th annual award recipients in a press release on February 15.
Dan Gillmor of PBS famously wrote in 2010, in his rebuke of fluff media awards that are based on cronyism and other questionable criteria, that the Polk is “one of only a couple of journalism prizes that means anything.” Ironically, the Polk winners mentioned herein are far more familiar to the public than the man for whom the award was created in 1948: George Polk.
Polk was an American journalist who worked for CBS New and was in Greece in 1948 covering the Civil War there, which started in 1946 between the conservative Greek government’s army, which was backed by the United States, and the communist rebels. Concluded in 1949 with the government’s forces thwarting the rebellion, the Greek Civil War is widely considered the first significant post-WWII battle that was a portend to the decades-long Cold War that ensued. Polk was found dead – shot at point blank range – on May 16, 1948, and to this day there is great controversy about who killed him.
A few months following Polk’s death, the Polk Award was established in his honor, and 65 years later continues to be presented by the Polk Awards Center of Long Island University.
The National Herald wrote an extensive piece on Polk last year (George Polk Awards: a
Legacy of the Reporter Murdered in Greece,” Feb. 22, 2014).
This year’s awards went to “reporters who risked their lives in 2014 to cover the Ebola epidemic, traced the rise of the Islamic State, and revealed secret ransoms paid for the release of hostages,” the press release stated. “Additional honorees include reporters who uncovered systemic failure in two federal agencies, the Secret Service and the Veterans Administration, as well as journalists who exposed brutal treatment of prison and jail inmates.”
The winners include Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post for National Reporting, Rukmini Callimachi of the New York Times for International Reporting, and Rania Abouzeid for Foreign Reporting on the Islamic State, published in Politico. New York Times journalists Adam Nossiter, Norimitsu Onishi, Ben Solomon, Dr. Sheri Fink, Helene Cooper, and Daniel Berehulak shared the award for Health Reporting, covering the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The Times was also well-represented for Justice Reporting, with two of its journalists, Michael Schwirtz and Michael Winerip, along with the Miami Herald’s Julie K. Brown sharing the award for their exposure of abuse of prison inmates.
The award for Commentary will go to Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic.
The Awards Ceremony will take place at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City on April 10.