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2011 Award Winners

White House photo/Pete Souza

2011 WHCA JOURNALISM AWARDS

WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS’ ASSOCIATION  ANNOUNCES RECIPIENTS OF THE 2011 AWARDS

Four reporters have been named winners of three of journalism’s most prestigious awards. They were honored at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on April 30 at the Washington Hilton. At the annual dinner, the association also presented more than $100,000 in scholarships for journalism students.

THE MERRIMAN SMITH AWARD

Dan Balz of The Washington Post and Jake Tapper of ABC News have won the Merriman Smith Award for excellence in presidential coverage under deadline pressure in the print and broadcast categories, respectively. The award carries a $2,500 prize.

Dan Balz, The Washington Post 2011 the Merriman Smith Award winner greets President Obama (photo/Brendan Smialowski)
Dan Balz, The Washington Post 2011 the Merriman Smith Award winner greets President Obama (photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Balz was cited by the Smith award judges for “great presidential reporting” for his coverage of the unexpected appearance of President Obama and former President Bill Clinton in the White House briefing room after a meeting in the Oval Office to discuss Democrats’ massive losses in the midterm elections.

The judges declared that Balz “took a skilled look beneath the surface of two U.S. presidents, two men with an uneasy alliance, to examine their mutual need of each other at a moment in time.”

The judges added that Balz’s deadline writing was “informed and informative — a rare glimpse of an aging former president whose legacy is assured and a struggling young president brought together in common political cause.”

Jake Tapper, ABC News, receives congratulations from President Obama for winning the Merriman Smith Award two years in a row. (photo/Brendan Smialowski)
Jake Tapper, ABC News, receives congratulations from President Obama for winning the Merriman Smith Award two years in a row. (photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Tapper won in the broadcast category for the second year in a row, and is being honored this year for his story that revealed that Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair was about to be asked by President Obama to step down.

The judges said that “because he knew the news when the rest of the media sphere was just learning it, Tapper was able to provide details that few others could match” in a richly detailed piece on the Web followed by a full report on television.

“Tapper was clearly ahead of the pack and ABC’s audience benefited from his reporting,” said the judges.

THE ALDO BECKMAN AWARD

Peter Baker of The New York Times has won the Aldo Beckman award, which recognizes a correspondent who personifies the journalistic excellence and personal qualities of Aldo Beckman, a former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and correspondent for the Chicago Tribune.

Peter Baker, New York Times, and 2011 Aldo Beckman award winner pictured with President Barack Obama. (photo (detail)/Brendan Smialowski)
Peter Baker, New York Times, and 2011 Aldo Beckman award winner pictured with President Barack Obama. (photo (detail)/Brendan Smialowski)

 

The Tribune and the association, which established the award in 1981, will give a prize of $1,000.

Baker won for what the judges called a “remarkable run” in 2010 with dozens of stories that his employer dubbed “he education of a president.”

Baker wrote more than 300 articles last year about President Obama’s second year in office, including breaking news, analysis and long-form features and profiles, both in the paper and in the Times’ magazine.

According to the judges, “Baker’s body of work displayed a masterful combination of deeply sourced reporting, incisive analysis and, above all, deep insight about how Obama operations, from his response to the terrorist threat to his struggles to contend with what the president himself called our ‘big, messy democracy.’”

THE EDGAR A POE AWARD

Michael Berens of The Seattle Times won the Edgar A. Poe Award that recognizes excellence in coverage of news of national or regional significance, with a single award for either a print or broadcast journalist.

Michael Berens, The Seattle Times, receives congratulations from President Barack Obama for his 2011 Edgar A. Poe Award. (photo/Brendan Smialowski)
Michael Berens, The Seattle Times, receives congratulations from President Barack Obama for his 2011 Edgar A. Poe Award. (photo/Brendan Smialowski)

 

A prize of $2,500 comes with the award, which was established by the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Newhouse Newspapers in honor of their distinguished correspondent Edgar A. Poe.

Berens, a repeat winner, won this time for a series that uncovered shocking flaws in a health care plan for seniors that was designed to save money and give seniors an alternative to nursing home care but that resulted in neglect, abuse and even death.

The judges were impressed by the depth of reporting and the ability to tell a highly charged story with clarity.

“Michael Berens’ stories not only revealed a systemic failure in the health care system, but led to a shake-up of the agency involved, regulatory changes to improve oversight and accountability and landed some caregivers in jail,” said the judges.

 

Honorable mention was also awarded to Greg Jaffe of The Washington Post. The judges praised Jaffe’s “nuanced portrait of the impact of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on the people fighting them. A memorable montage.”

GUIDELINES AND CONTACT INFO

Click on the individual guidelines links at right for more information about each award.

Julia Whiston, Executive Director WHCA, 202-266-7453 click to send an email message)

Ed Henry, Awards Chair, 202-898-7666, ed.henry@turner.com