Rick Casey of the Houston Chronicle Wins The MOLLY 2009 National Journalism Prize
Honorable Mentions to Nick Turse of The Nation
and Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune
The second annual MOLLY National Journalism Prize was presented yesterday to Rick Casey, metro columnist for the Houston Chronicle, for a series about immigration. The competition recognizes great American journalism and honors the memory of Molly Ivins, the legendary reporter, columnist and former editor of The Texas Observer.
Honorable Mention awards were presented to Nick Turse for “A My Lai a Month” in The Nation and “The Vietnam Exposé That Wasn’t” on TheNation.com, and to Howard Witt for his “Race in America” series in the Chicago Tribune.
All the winning articles can be read here.
The awards are presented annually by The Texas Observer, the non-profit bi-weekly magazine that has covered Texas politics, government, arts and culture for 55 years.
“Molly would have been thrilled at the scores of worthy entries and taken a little amused pride that this year’s winner is a columnist for the Houston Chronicle, the newspaper where she began reporting as a summer intern,” said Observer CEO/Publisher Carlton Carl.
“These terrific reporters exemplify what is good and promising in this trying time of transition and uncertainty for American journalism. They have challenged conventional wisdom and exposed buried truths with style and verve.”
Casey’s winning entry consisted of four related columns offering fresh perspectives on immigration issues. One of those columns, “I Give Thanks for Illegal Immigration,” which demonstrates the wry good humor Molly Ivins was known for, is reprinted in the June 12, 2009, issue of The Texas Observer. His other columns and the winning submissions of Witt and Turse can be read here.
Before moving to the Chronicle in 2003, Casey was a columnist for the San Antonio Express News and San Antonio Light. He previously edited two city magazines and freelanced for a wide range of publications. The 62-year-old St. Louis native, who has spent more than half his life in Texas, twice has been named best general columnist for a major Texas paper by the Associated Press Managing Editors Association.
Under the rubric of “Race in America,” his occasional series for the Chicago Tribune, Witt illuminated the corners of the nation’s soul where racial prejudice and discrimination still lurk. His reporting included pieces on immigration-related law enforcement in Phoenix, “the latest fault line scarring America’s long-troubled racial map.”; the Taser-death of a non-violent handcuffed black suspect in Louisiana; a possible hate-crime murder in Paris, Texas; and racial prejudice among the elderly.
From 2003 to May 2009, Witt was southwest bureau chief of the Chicago Tribune, with which he had a 25-year career as a national correspondent, foreign correspondent and editor, after beginning as a summer intern. He is now senior managing editor of Stars & Stripes, the independent newspaper serving U.S. military deployed overseas. For the Tribune, he covered the Lockerbie bombing, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of apartheid, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Oklahoma City bombing and Hurricane Katrina. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and earned the Nieman Foundation’s Taylor Award for Fairness in Journalism and other awards for his civil rights coverage.
Turse, an award-winning journalist, historian and essayist, is associate editor of the Nation Institute’s Tomdispatch.com. Author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, he has also written for the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, In These Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, The Village Voice, and other publications. He has a Guggenheim Fellowship for his in-progress history, Kill Anything That Moves. A fellow at New York University’s Center for the United States and the Cold War, he received a Ridenhour Prize and a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism from Hunter College for his coverage of U.S. atrocities in Vietnam.
“A My Lai a Month” and “The Vietnam Exposé That Wasn’t,” resulted from Turse’s years-long investigation of mass civilian slaughter by U.S. troops during Operation Speedy Express, 1968-1969, in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. The stories not only revealed the killings of thousands of innocent Vietnamese and the destruction of villages to enhance “body counts,” but exposed a Pentagon-level cover-up abetted by a major news magazine.
The MOLLY National Journalism Prize
The MOLLY prizes were presented at a June 11 dinner in Austin, Texas, at which Ellen Goodman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author, was the keynote speaker. Texas State Senator Kirk Watson, former Austin mayor and raconteur, was the emcee. Bill and Judith Davidson Moyers were honorary co-chairs of the event.
Prize presentations were made by Diane Suchetka, whose series, “Bernard’s Story,” in The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) won the inaugural MOLLY competition in 2008. Suchetka was a finalist this year for a Pulitzer Prize.
The MOLLY Board of Advisors, composed of prominent journalists and scholars, reviewed the entries and selected the winners.
The MOLLY National Journalism Prize, including a $5,000 cash award, was established by The Texas Observer to recognize print or online journalism of exceptional merit that focuses on civil liberties and social justice, and embodies the intelligence, deep thinking and passionate wit that marked the work of the late Molly Ivins. The honorable mention prizes include $1,000 cash awards.
The prizes themselves are beer steins engraved with the name of the recipient, the publisher of the entry, and The MOLLY prize logo, which features a drawing of Molly Ivins as the Statue of Liberty holding the Bill of Rights by Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Ben Sargent of Austin, a Texas Observer contributor.
Ken Bunting, Molly Ivins’ friend and one-time editor, and recovering former Associate Publisher of the now-closed Seattle Post-Intelligencer, also participated in the program. Jimmie Dale Gilmore of the Flatlanders provided musical entertainment.