Knight Center director among winners of 2016 Maria Moors Cabot Prize for coverage of the Americas

Professor Rosental Calmon Alves, founder and director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, is a recipient of the 2016 Maria Moors Cabot Prize, which recognizes outstanding reporting in the Americas “that has contributed to Inter­-American understanding.”

“Alves is a truly innovative leader in a changing media landscape who has made significant contributions to a new generation of journalists in the Americas and beyond,” said Columbia University on the official announcement of the 2016 awards.

The Graduate School of Journalism at New York’s Columbia University, which awards the Cabot (and also the Pulizer prizes), announced the winners on July 20. The Maria Moors Cabot prizes are the oldest international journalism awards in the world, having been founded in 1938.

The other winners this year are Rodrigo Abd of the Associated Press, Colombian filmmaker Margarita Martínez and Óscar Martínez of online digital news site El Faro in El Salvador. A special citation was given to Argentine journalist Marina Walker Guevara, deputy director of The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and the team that helped her to coordinate the Panama Papers investigations.

Click here to read a post about the other winners of the 2016 Cabot Prize.

"The journalistic excellence displayed by the four 2016 Cabot Medalists -- and by the recipient of this year's special citation for reporting on the Panama Papers -- reminds us just how much we rely on courageous reporting beyond our borders to be well-informed members of a global society," said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. "The work of these honorees has made largely hidden events visible to the world. The Maria Moors Cabot Prize is both the oldest award in international journalism and one of the most relevant to current day challenges of democratic governance."

"I am humbled and honored by this recognition of my almost half a century career dedicated to journalism. I've never done anything else in my professional life other than practicing or teaching journalism," said professor Alves. "The honor is even bigger when I realize that I will be among so many distinguished colleagues and friends from the U.S. and Latin America who have also won these awards."

Alves said he thought his chances to win the Cabot had ended when he left a newspaper in Brazil after 27 years in journalism in his hometown.

"Since I moved from the newsroom in Rio de Janeiro to the classroom in Austin 20 years ago, I've done my best to contribute to improving the quality of journalism in the Western Hemisphere. It's wonderful to see now this effort recognized, so I thank the Cabot board and Columbia University for that," Alves said.

Rosental Alves started his journalism career at the age of 16 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1968. During his 23 years working for Jornal do Brasil, he was a reporter and editor and managed the creation of the newspaper's online edition, the first in Brazil. For more than ten years, Alves was a foreign correspondent for the newspaper working in Argentina, Mexico, the United States and Spain. He also worked as a journalism professor for seven years in Brazil and was awarded the Nieman Fellowship from Harvard University, the first Brazilian to receive the honor.

In 1996, Alves started as a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, selected among almost 200 candidates for the position of full professor with tenure and first holder of the Knight Chair in International Journalism. In 2002, he founded the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, which has trained thousands of journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean, and has helped to create several organizations of journalists in the region.

At the Knight Center, Alves has also been the editor and publisher of the trilingual blog Journalism in the Americas that since 2003 has published thousands of stories in English, Spanish and Portuguese on journalism trends and press freedom in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In 1999, he started the International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ), an annual conference that brings together journalists, media executives and scholars from around the world. In conjunction with the ISOJ, he also hosts the Ibero-American Colloquium on Digital Journalism to spotlight the efforts of online journalism in Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Another conference, the Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas, is periodically held as a way to foster collaboration among organizations focusing on media development and journalism training in the Western Hemisphere.

Alves holds a Knight Chair in International Journalism and the UNESCO Chair in Communication. He has served as a mentor to students, journalists, freedom of expression organizations and media outlets across the continent.

"Rosental works tirelessly and with keen strategic vision to support and advance the cause of freedom of the press in Latin America, as well as to train journalists in the digital tools and strategies that they need to thrive in times of rapid transformation," said R.B. Brenner, director of the School of Journalism at UT Austin. "He does this through his superb leadership of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and its annual International Symposium on Online Journalism, all based here at the University of Texas at Austin. And he does this through his teaching and mentorship of our undergraduate and graduate students, who marvel at Rosental's passion, energy and knowledge."

Another professor at the University of Texas at Austin was recognized with the prize in recent years. Photojournalist and documentarian Donna DeCesare received the Cabot Award in 2013 for her work on gangs in El Salvador.

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.