Brazilian columnist, publisher and documentarian Dorrit Harazim, and Argentine journalist and author Martin Caparrós are among the winners of the 2017 Maria Moors Cabot Award, announced on July 21 by the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York. Nick Miroff of The Washington Post and Mimi Whitefield of the Miami Herald were also presented awards.
The prize honors journalists for excellent careers and coverage of the Western Hemisphere that fosters "inter-American understanding." This year, in addition to announcing the winners, the jury made a special decision to condemn the brutal violence against journalists in Mexico.
Caparrós has for decades been "one of the main voices of literary journalism of Latin America,” according to the jury. Considered a prolific reporter, Caparrós is a columnist and publisher and his works are featured in various publications across the region, like El País Semanal and the Argentine magazine Anfibia. His chronicles are considered classic and are widely studied. He has directed publications such as El Porteño, Babel, Página / 30 and Cuisine & Vins.
He is the author of novels and 15 nonfiction books; his most recent book "The Hunger” (El Hambre) is the product of a multi-year trip during which the author interviewed the richest and best-fed people worldwide as well as the poorest and most hungry in "an effort to understand how and why hunger persists in today’s world," according to the official announcement for the prize.
Caparrós is also considered an intellectual who is "outspoken about what he regards as right and wrong," the press release added. He was vocal during the dictatorship until he was forced to go into exile for several years, and again during Kirchner's presidency, always retaining "his reputation" because "he is, first and foremost, a journalist who is famously honest, balanced and rigorous,” the official statement reads.
He has received several awards, including the King of Spain Prize, the Konex Prize and the Guggenheim Scholarship.
"For his years of achievement and an outstanding body of work, Martín Caparrós will be awarded the 2017 Maria Moors Cabot Award," the jury stated.
"I am very happy that a prize that is usually awarded to the genres of 'hard journalism' — breaking news, investigation — this time recognizes someone who works more in so-called 'literary journalism'... And I'm glad one of the great journalism schools has decided to reward someone who was never in a journalism school. And, of course, I'm very happy that that someone is me," Caparrós told the Knight Center.
For the Cabot jury, Dorrit Harazim's extensive contribution to journalism in the Americas is "surpassed only by the superior quality of the stories, commentary, and television documentaries she continues to produce." Dorrit, as she is known in Brazilian journalism, is not only a "gifted journalist and storyteller," but also a news innovator, as she is part of the groups that founded the magazines Veja and Piauí.
She has worked as an international correspondent and editor and covered important events such as the Vietnam War, apartheid in South Africa, the coup d'état against Salvador Allende in Chile and the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York. Dorrit, therefore, covered both September 11’s that marked the contemporary history of the Americas: 1973 in Chile and 2001 in the United States. She is a columnist for O Globo from where she "continues to be a keen analyst of the American scene," added the official statement.
During the dictatorship in Brazil, she exposed human rights violations and continues to cover issues such as racism and social injustice from a gender perspective.
In 2015, Dorrit won the Recognition of Excellence Award from the García Márquez Journalism Award.
"For her commitment to important stories over the course of long and distinguished career, Dorrit Harazim’s work embodies the essence of the Maria Moors Cabot Award," stated the official announcement.
Miroff, of The Washington Post, has covered Latin America from Mexico City and Havana. In this position he has covered stories of indigenous tribes in Ecuador, the migration of Central Americans to the United States, as well as the peace process with the FARC guerrillas in Colombia, among other topics.
Whitefield of the Miami Herald, meanwhile, has spent decades covering the "most important" stories in Latin America, ranging from the war on drugs to the economic and social transformation of the continent. However, for the jury, her greatest contribution to inter-American understanding is her coverage of Cuba "with depth, balance, and an eye for detail.”
The tribute to the journalists will take place on October 10 at the Low Library on the Morningside Heights campus of Columbia University.
A bittersweet celebration
This year, in addition to electing its honorees, the jury decided to make a special announcement on violence against journalists in Mexico. The organization condemned the "brutal attacks" against journalists working in the country and called for an end to the impunity in journalists’ murders.
“Every year, the Cabot Prizes honor journalists of great courage, conviction, and skill who risk their lives to report stories that must be told if transparency and accountability are to survive across the Americas,” Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger said in the official announcement. “We are announcing this year’s Cabot Prize winners at a time when events in Mexico have raised fresh alarms about the danger intrinsic to independent, investigative journalism, reminding us once again of the vulnerability of reporters and the need to stand with them.”
For this reason, during the award ceremony, the jury will remember the more than 145 cases of murders, disappearances and attempted murders of journalists in Mexico since 2000.
“Tragically, one of the 2011 Cabot Prize honorees is among those murdered in Mexico this year in retaliation for his work as a journalist,” stated the announcement, referring to Mexican investigative reporter Javier Valdez Cárdenas.
Valdez was gunned down near his office on May 15 this year. He had received the Cabot Award in 2011 for his work at Ríodoce — a newspaper he co-founded — as well as for his publications in El Diario de Juárez. He stood out for his coverage of issues of corruption, drug trafficking and organized crime.
The jury's announcement, for the first time, also includes a call to Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto, to “conduct an exhaustive and credible investigation into this crime, and to put an end to the vicious cycle of violence and impunity that is decimating the Mexican media.”
Related: Knight Center director among winners of 2016 Maria Moors Cabot Prize for coverage of the Americas
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.