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April 13, 2010

Five Journalists Win Top Journalism Awards, Press Group Announces

Five reporters have been named winners of three of journalism’s most prestigious awards, and they will be honored at the White House Correspondents’ Association℠ dinner on May 1.

Ben Feller of the Associated Press and Jake Tapper of ABC News will receive the Merriman Smith Award for presidential coverage under deadline pressure in the print and broadcast categories, respectively.

Mark Knoller of CBS News will receive the Aldo Beckman award for sustained excellence in White House coverage.

Suzanne Bohan and Sandy Kleffman of the Contra Costa, California, Times will receive the Edgar A. Poe Award for excellence in coverage of news of national or regional significance.

The awards will be presented during the annual fundraising dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association℠ at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Feller was cited by the Smith award judges for his coverage of President Obama’s surprise, late-night visit to Dover Air Force Base. They said Feller had “little advance notice of President Barack Obama’s trip to Dover Air Force Base on Oct. 28. 2009, but filed a series of middle-of-the-night compelling updates capped by a final story whose style had echoes of Edward R. Murrow in its taut, gripping writing. His story put readers at the scene while giving them context and background.”

Tapper won for his story that revealed former Senator Tom Daschle’s tax problems that derailed his nomination to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. The judges said Tapper’s reporting was a “perfect lesson on getting news no one else has on a beat in which it is hard to do so, getting it out fast and accurately with background and context and using the Web to augment the on-air reporting.”

Each Smith award carries a cash prize of $2,500.

Knoller was cited for his body of work covering the White House for more than 35 years. The judges hailed his “insightful reporting on multiple platforms” including radio, television, blogs and now Twitter. “His meticulous record-keeping as an unofficial archivist of the presidency serves the public and keeps the White House accountable,” the judges said. “Mark Knoller lives and breathes reporting. The public is well-served by his tireless efforts.

The Beckman award carries a $1,000 prize.

Bohan and Kleffman won the Poe Award for their four-part entitled, “Shortened Lives: Where You Live Matters.”

“In the midst of the national health care debate, these exceptionally well-reported stories offer unique and valuable lessons for public health policy,” said the Poe award judges said.

“Through extensive use of county health records, Bohan and Kleffman stand conventional wisdom on its head, providing powerful evidence that variations in disease rates and life expectancies between neighborhoods in Alameda County, Calif., are not–as widely assumed–the result of poor people making bad choices about diet and exercise. Rather the discrepancies stem from multiple forces that deny those living in poor communities access to the basic resources necessary to engage in a healthy lifestyle, however great their desire to do so. These powerful and poignant stories provide an important new lens that snaps the health care debate into sharp focus. While looking closely at these issues at the county level, the stories in this series have profound national and regional implications, providing strong evidence that blaming the victims is not a substitute for dealing seriously with the underlying causes of the health care crisis.”

The Poe award carries a $2,500 prize.

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