Salvadoran journalist Carlos Dada, two Mexican newspapers among winners of 2011 Maria Moors Cabot Prizes

The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, which also administers the Pulitzer Prize -- the top U.S. journalism award -- announced on Wednesday, Sept. 14, the winners of the 2011 Maria Moors Cabot Prizes for outstanding reporting on Latin America and the Caribbean. The 73-year old award is the oldest in international journalism.

This year's Moors Cabot Prize winners are Carlos Dada, founder and director the digital newspaper El Faro (The Lighthouse) in El Salvador; Jean-Michel Leprince, a Canadian broadcast journalist who is the Latin American correspondent for Société Radio-Canada/CBC; the Arizona Daily Star of the United States; and Mexican newspapers El Diario de Juárez in the border city of Ciudad Juárez and Riodoce in Culiacán in the state of Sinaloa.

"More than anything, this year's Cabot Prizes celebrate journalists on the front lines—two small but courageous papers braving drug criminals in Mexico; a breakthrough digital newspaper blazing an independent and ethical trail in Central America; a Canadian broadcast journalist showing us scenes and stories of real life that too often do not appear on U.S. TV; and a medium-sized, regional U.S. paper straining its resources to give its readers deep and nuanced coverage of the U.S-Mexico border," said Columbia Journalism School Dean Nicholas Lemann in a statement.

Dada and El Faro were praised for being a "beacon" in a country still suffering from its decade-long civil war and where many of the media outlets have "strayed from the path of honesty and impartiality," reported the news agency AFP. As the Prize Board noted, "From its inception in 1998, El Faro has shown how digital media can overcome barriers of cost and tradition and offer honest journalism of high quality in a region where press standards are low and much of the media is highly partisan or even corrupt.”

"This is a great recognition for the journalism we do at El Faro," Dada, who also was a 2005 Knight Fellow at Stanford University, told the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. "We practice independent journalism in a complex region with a lot of problems. In the name of all of El Faro, I feel very proud that the Moors Cabot Prizes Committee recognized our efforts to narrate our reality. In a way, this prize also confirms how online journalism has advanced, as just a decade ago it seemed impossible to imagine that we would open the way for being recognized by some of the greatest journalists in the world."

Earlier in September Dada also took second place in the Latin American Investigative Journalism Awards for his reporting on the murder of Monsignor Oscar Romero.

As Mexico is the most dangerous country in the region to practice journalism, the Moors Cabot Prize Board noted, El Diario de Juárez and Riodoce are two small newspapers "heroically" struggling to report the news in the face of increasing violence from organized crime.

In 2010, Diario de Juárez took the unprecedented step of publishing an editorial calling for a truce with drug cartels after one of the newspaper's photographers was shot to death on Sept. 16, 2010.

Ismael Bojóquez, Riodoce editor, told the newspaper Proceso that while they are happy to receive such a prestigious award, "we are sad to receive it when just 15 days ago our colleague Humberto Millán Salazar was killed." On Aug. 25, Millán, a reporter for Radio Fórmula in Sinaloa, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head, one day after being kidnapped. See this Knight Center map for more information about attacks on journalists in Mexico.

The Arizona Daily Star was recognized for its immigration coverage that has "explored the issue in all its complications and human dimensions - not just its sensational aspects," the Prize Board said, as reported by the Arizona newspaper itself. The recognition comes just a week after journalists from throughout the Americas called for more humane and in-depth immigration coverage while gathered for the 9th Austin Forum on Journalism in the America.

Last year, Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro was named a Moors Cabot Prize winner.