Above: David Fahrenthold at the Toner Prize Celebration.
David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post is the winner of the 2017 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting. The $5,000 prize, which is sponsored by Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, honors the late Robin Toner ’76, a summa cum laude graduate who was the first woman to serve as national political correspondent for The New York Times.
The prize was awarded by Toner’s twin children, Nora and Jacob Toner Gosselin, at a celebration dinner March 27 in Washington, D.C. The keynote speaker was Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.
Fahrenthold won for “A Portrait of Donald Trump,” a series of articles highlighting his yearlong reporting on Trump. Fahrenthold wrote about Trump’s many unfulfilled promises to donate to charity, and discovered that the Donald J. Trump Foundation had apparently violated the law by using money meant for charity to buy portraits of Trump, and to pay off his business’s legal obligations. Fahrenthold also revealed the existence of a 2005 video in which Trump bragged on a hot mic about groping women.
Judge Adam Clymer called Fahrenthold’s work, which capitalized on crowd-sourcing and social media, “Brilliant old-school reporting adapted to the electronic age.”
Fahrenthold is the seventh winner of the Toner Prize. Previous winners are Alec MacGillis of ProPublica; Dan Balz and Karen Tumulty, both of The Washington Post; Molly Ball of The Atlantic; Jane Mayer of The New Yorker; and Craig Harris of The Arizona Republic.
Alongside Fahrenthold, three reporters from The New York Times received an honorable mention. David E. Sanger, Scott Shane and Eric Lipton were recognized for “The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.,” which covered the Russian cyber-attacks in the 2016 presidential election. Judge Adam Clymer called it “Great reporting on the most important political story of the year—or perhaps, the century.”
In addition, New York Times national reporter Yamiche Alcindor was honored in a tribute to late “PBS NewsHour” anchor Gwen Ifill, who passed away late last year. Ifill was a longtime colleague and friend of Toner and a founding member of the Toner Program in Political Reporting, which administers the Toner Prize. Her brother, Roberto “Bert” Ifill, presented the award to Alcindor, who was recognized for reflecting qualities that were the hallmark of Gwen Ifill’s career—passion for non-partisan reporting, intelligent and eloquent storytelling and commitment to journalism’s public service mission.
This year’s Toner Prize competition drew 147 entries from across the country and from across media platforms—including local television, digital-only news outlets and broadcast networks, as well as national and community newspapers.
To judge the competition, 39 veteran journalists—most of them now teaching journalism at universities—served on 13 juries to recommend finalists. The Toner Prize was awarded by five finalist judges: Maralee Schwartz, retired political editor of The Washington Post and a contributing editor to Columbia Journalism Review; Clymer, retired political reporter and colleague of Toner at The New York Times; Ann Compton, recently retired White House correspondent for ABC News; Lonnie Isabel, former deputy managing editor of Newsday, now on the faculty of the Columbia Journalism School; and Evelyn Hsu, co-executive director of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
Robin Toner spent 25 years as a reporter for The New York Times. She began her journalism career in West Virginia with the Charleston Daily Mail and reported for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For The New York Times, she covered five presidential campaigns, scores of Congressional and gubernatorial races and most of the nation’s major public policy issues. She died in 2008.
Her family, friends, classmates and Syracuse University have created an endowment for the Robin Toner Program in Political Reporting at the Newhouse School.