Cabot 2014 Winners
New York, NY, August 14, 2014 — Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism announced the 2014 winners of the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes for outstanding reporting on Latin America and the Caribbean; Frank Bajak, Associated Press, United States; Tracy Wilkinson, The Los Angeles Times, United States; Paco Calderón, Grupo Reforma, Mexico; Giannina Segnini, La Nación, Costa Rica. The Maria Moors Cabot Special Citation is awarded to Tamoa Calzadilla and Laura Weffer, Últimas Noticias, Venezuela.
"From war reporting to data journalism and political cartoons, this year's Cabot winners bring us the news on diverse platforms, and they are the best in the profession," said Steve Coll, Dean and Henry R. Luce Professor of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. "The depth and insight of their reporting keeps the world informed about this critical region and make us proud to honor their work at Columbia."
The Cabot Prizes honor journalists who have covered the Western Hemisphere and furthered inter-American understanding through their reporting and editorial work. Founded in 1938, they are the oldest international journalism awards.
Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger will present gold medals and a $5,000 honorarium to each winner, and a certificate to the citation honorees at a dinner and ceremony on Wednesday, October 15th, at Low Library on the university's Morningside Heights campus.
2014 Cabot Medalists
Frank Bajak, Associated Press, United States
As chief of the Andean region for the Associated Press, Frank Bajak has both reported and edited vivid stories that illuminate the news and often anticipate it. Starting in 1996 with a tour as bureau chief in Bogotá, Bajak is a master of his métier: fast on the keys when news is breaking, then quick to provide insightful background to the events. Drawing on a deep roster of sources who have confidence in his precision and his fairness, Bajak has broken a number of game-changing stories.
He also knows when to step back to write about unseen victims and unsung heroes, like the lowly civil servant in a riverside town in Colombia who retrieved bodies of victims of political violence from the waters, and helped anguished relatives to identify them. In his writing, Bajak turns the AP's efficient prose style into elegance.
His range is broad. He covers military intrigue in Venezuela; environmental abuse in Peru; anonymous computer hacking across the continent. As an editor working in a time of reduced resources, Bajak has kept the AP strong in his five-country region by advancing the work of his Spanish-speaking reporters. Under his leadership, the AP continues to hold national leaders accountable, while explaining how their deeds and misdeeds affect the United States.
Tracy Wilkinson, The Los Angeles Times, United States
As the Los Angeles Times' Mexico Bureau chief, Tracy Wilkinson has used her exceptional reporting skills to explain the complexities and nuances of the drug war in Mexico -- one of the world's most dangerous countries for the press -- to readers in the United States.
After covering wars and conflicts in two different continents, she returned to Latin America in 2008 showing her deep commitment to the region. Throughout her career she has reported from most of the Spanish-speaking countries in Latin American, and from the majority of the Caribbean nations.
Wilkinson's in-depth analysis and compelling insights have turned her into one of the best and most prolific interpreters of Latin America for readers in the United States. Creative and versatile, Wilkinson is capable of producing perceptive coverage of Pope Francis's visit to Brazil, while describing life in the border city of Reynosa, controlled by drug traffickers.
Paco Calderón, Grupo Reforma, Mexico
For almost four decades, Francisco Calderón, or Paco, as he is known to his many fans, has worked as a professional cartoonist. Calderon started working at El Heraldo in 1977. From there, he moved to Grupo Reforma where for more than 30 years he has drawn daily cartoons. On Sundays his multi-frame cartoons are a kind of illustrated editorial column, often deflating the hypocrisies and pompous platitudes of Mexico's public life.
At El Heraldo, Calderón famously drew then President José López Portillo as a Mexican version of Snoopy after the president vowed to defend Mexico's peso "like a dog" only to see the currency plummet. The president, who was not pleased, had Calderón fired. The cartoonist was reinstated a few months later after Lopez Portillo left office.
Calderón loves to lampoon many of Mexico's national character traits which he believes hold back the country. He mercilessly attacks what he sees as Mexico's profound sense of victimization, its low regard for the rule of law, its continuing romance with populism and its tolerance for corruption. Calderón's work combines great erudition, trenchant analysis and comedic brilliance. Simply put, he is one of the world's best cartoonists.
Giannina Segnini, La Nación, Costa Rica
As a leading investigative journalist in Central America for almost two decades, Giannina Segnini has been both a fearless reporter, and an innovator. She has taught investigative journalism at the Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica, and was until recently the editor of the investigative unit at La Nación, Costa Rica's most influential newspaper.
Segnini has earned many honors, including a 2005 Special Citation from the Cabot Prizes for her courageous investigative stories unveiling corruption and bribery scandals that led to the arrest of two former Costa Rican presidents. She studied mass communications at the University of Costa Rica, and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University from 2001-02.
Her work has also inspired a new generation of Latin American investigative journalists. Since 2000, she has trained hundreds of journalists on investigative skills and computer-assisted reporting. She pioneered database investigations, and shares her knowledge throughout Latin America and around the world. Segnini is the James Madison Visiting Assistant Professor at Columbia Journalism School for the 2014-2015 academic year.
Special Citation: Tamoa Calzadilla and Laura Weffer, Últimas Noticias, Venezuela
Tamoa Calzadilla and Laura Weffer, together with the investigative unit of Últimas Noticias, have done outstanding independent, nonpartisan journalism in the midst of extreme polarization in Venezuela. The country has been wracked by violence and protests for much of the past year. International organizations have criticized the government for its heavy-handed repression of the protests and for its ongoing campaign against news organizations that criticize its actions. The government has used media laws to deny broadcast licenses to Venezuelan and international channels and threats of sanctions to restrict coverage of protest activity. In the midst of this environment, the journalists in the investigative unit continued to tell the story behind the violence, investigate and identify those responsible, while eschewing polarization and partisanship.
In a series of stories under Calzadilla's supervision, the unit combined video analysis and house-to-house reporting to expose the responsibility of government security forces in the killings of two men during street clashes in February. In a second, elegantly balanced story, "Behind the Barricades," Weffer described the daily street protests from the point of view of the young soldiers on one side and the young protesters on the other side. Yet the newspaper's top editor spiked the story after a dispute over its content with Calzadilla, leading to her resignation. Ultimately published online and on Twitter, the "Barricades" story went viral, with over one million hits.
Members of the board in 2014 are: María Teresa Ronderos, Director of VerdadAbierta.com, an online media publication focused on Colombia's armed conflict; Abi Wright, Executive Director of Professional Prizes, Columbia Journalism School; José de Córdoba, senior special writer for The Wall Street Journal; Juan Enríquez Cabot, chairman and CEO of Biotechonomy, LLC; Carlos Dada, founder and director of the news website El Faro; John Dinges, the Godfrey Lowell Cabot Professor of Journalism at Columbia University; June Carolyn Erlick, editor-in-chief of ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies; Gustavo Gorriti, journalist and founder of IDL Reporteros, a non-profit, investigative journalism site; Carlos Lauría, Senior Americas Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists; Julia Preston, national correspondent for The New York Times; Paulo Sotero, Director, Brazil Institute, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Six of the nine members of the Cabot Prize Board received Cabot medals.