Journalists from Mexico, Nicaragua, U.S. and Venezuela bring home Cabot Prizes from Columbia University

In honoring work that has “contributed to Inter-American understanding,” the 2019 Maria Moors Cabot Prizes recognized journalists from Mexico, Nicaragua, the United States and Venezuela.

The prizes, given by the Columbia Journalism School in New York City, went to Marcela Turati, Mexican journalist and author; Pedro Xavier Molina, Nicaraguan political cartoonist; Angela Kocherga, reporter for the Albuquerque Journal in the U.S.; and Boris Muñoz, Venezuelan opinion editor of The New York Times en Español. Venezuelan investigative news site Armando.Info was honored with a special citation.

2019 Maria Moors Cabot Prizes winners

Clockwise from top L: Angela Kocherga, Boris Muñoz, Marcela Turati, Armando.Info, Pedro Xavier Molina.

Turati, founder of investigative site Quinto Elemento Lab and co-founder of Periodistas de a Pie, has covered the effects of the drug war in Mexico, often focusing on victims and their fight for justice, as noted by the Columbia Journalism School. She “is a formidable force in Mexican journalism: brave, determined, and talented. She has chronicled the most important and often dangerous issues in Mexico, with ramifications throughout the region,” reads the awards release.

It also noted Turati’s work as a “promoter and leader of collaborative projects,” highlighting an investigation of the execution of 72 migrants by drug traffickers and police in Tamaulipas.

Molina, whose work appears in various publications in Nicaragua and around the world, targets public figures both at home and abroad. He “has been one of Nicaragua’s sharpest observers and has offered a critical view of the relationship between the United States and Latin America,” as observed by the Columbia Journalism School.

“As a communicator, receiving the Cabot Prize is of course a huge honor for its long track record and prestige, it is enough to review the names of the winners in its 80 years of existence to understand why,” Molina told the Knight Center. “As part of the critical and independent journalism of Nicaragua it is a recognition not only at the personal level, but to all colleagues who even under threat, persecution and even the physical confiscation of our newsrooms by the dictatorship (as has happened with Confidencial.com.ni, the media outlet where I work) have had the courage and dedication to chronicle one of the darkest moments in our history as a country.”

“As a cartoonist, I thank and congratulate the Cabot Prize jury for the recognition of the validity and importance of the cartoon as a journalistic vehicle for analysis, criticism, denunciation and humor, essential elements for understanding, coping with and improving the current world,” he added.

Kocherga, whose career has spanned print, radio and television, “has made it her mission to tell the story of the borderlands where the United States and Mexico meet, a line that both unites and divides,” according to Columbia Journalism School. She has covered immigration to the U.S, as well as drug wars in Mexico.

“I'm deeply honored to be among such a distinguished group of journalists awarded the Maria Moors Cabot prize. Now more than ever, this legendary award for courageous and exceptional reporting in the Americas is critical,” Kocherga told the Knight Center. “It is especially significant for me as a journalist who has dedicated my career to covering both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border on the ground, bearing witness to history, working to reveal truth amid the increasingly heated political rhetoric. My goal is to build bridges of understanding about the impact of policies on the lives of people and to put a human face on complex issues. And I am grateful to those who have entrusted me to share their stories.”

Muñoz, who is also a reporter and writer, was noted by the Columbia Journalism School for bringing diversity and variety in sources and subject matter to The New York Times in both the English and Spanish versions. “The richness and depth of these editorial pages have set a gold standard for opinion writing in Spanish and provide models for a region which is now only beginning to experiment with the genre,” the award release said.

“It is a very significant gratification on a personal level and an award for the work of the opinion section of The New York Times en Español, which I helped to found three years ago,” Muñoz told the Knight Center. “It is a recognition of the dedication of the NYT en Español editorial team and the writers that have contributed perspectives that cut through the incessant noise of information to help Spanish-speaking readers understand the changing reality that surrounds them. This is all a great stimulus to keep a fresh look, the sharp rigor and the alert mind, because these are the cornerstones of a dynamic and current report of opinion.”

Armando.Info was honored with the special citation in recognition of their perseverance and coverage of the Venezuelan sociopolitical crisis. “With their colleagues, they continue covering the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela exposing corruption, human rights violations and environmental crimes, among others,” the Columbia Journalism School wrote.

Four of the site’s journalists left Venezuela in 2018 after being criminally sued for continued aggravated defamation and aggravated injury. The complaint followed their investigative reporting on alleged links between a businessman and the Venezuelan government in the importation of food as part of a state program. They have continued their investigations from abroad.

“It is an honor that the site has been recognized and it is the recognition of teamwork that has not been easy,” Joseph Poliszuk, editor-in-chief of Armando.Info, told the Knight Center. “It is also a commitment to move forward in the midst of challenges to continue since these days they have tried to censor us and threaten us.”

During a ceremony on Oct. 16 at Columbia University, the recognized journalists will receive a gold medal and a $5,000 honorarium. The citation winner will get a certificate.

The Cabot Prizes were established in 1938 and are the oldest international awards in journalism, according to Columbia Journalism School. While acknowledging careers that contribute to understanding within the Americas, the awards also consider contributions to promoting press freedom in the region.

Editor’s note: Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, is on the Cabot Prize Board.

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