Newhouse announces winners in 2021 Toner Prizes competition

Winners of the 2021 Toner Prizes for Excellence in Political Reporting were announced Friday by the Newhouse School.

David A. Graham of The Atlantic is the winner of the Toner Prize for Excellence in National Political Reporting, and a team from LehighValleyLive.com is the winner of the Toner Prize for Excellence in Local Political Reporting. Jennifer Medina of The New York Times earned an Honorable Mention in the national category.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker offered keynote remarks. “I know from personal experience that journalists can change destinies in profound ways and I believe they will help to change the destiny of America,” he said.

Toner Prize for Excellence in National Political Reporting

David A. Graham
David A. Graham

Graham won for his coverage of the 2020 presidential election. His reporting focused particularly on undecided voters in swing states and election integrity.

Judge Maralee Schwartz commented, “This is superb work—he basically explains the 2020 election. And he detailed painfully how Trump’s misinformation strategy would work.”

Judge Ann Compton noted, “Elegantly written… I got chills reading his August warning on the absentee vote counting and his forecast  that ‘Trump is unlikely to take defeat snatched from the jaws of victory graciously… and might urge followers to take to the streets and pressure legislatures to invalidate results.“

Jennifer Medina
Jennifer Medina

Medina was recognized for her reporting on “Latinos and the 2020 Presidential Election.” She examined this largest non-white voting group through intensive, on-the-ground reporting across the country.

Judge Christina Bellantoni said Medina “clearly had a command of an important group of people, long before the rest of the press realized it was an important voting bloc. Interesting and engaging, scene-setting.”

Said judge Herbert Lowe, “For those of us who were shocked Donald Trump won South Florida in November, we should have paid more attention to Jennifer Medina’s reporting throughout the campaign. This series of articles and definitely notable audio reports shows why it’s important to do this excellent ground- and church-level journalism.”

Other finalists for the 2021 Toner Prize for Excellence in National Political Reporting were:

Toner Prize for Excellence in Local Political Reporting

The winning LehighValleyLive.com team included Sara K. Satullo, local government and data reporter; Steve Novak, general assignment reporter; Saed Hindash, photojournalist and multimedia specialist; and Jonathan D. Salant, Washington correspondent for NJ Advance Media, which publishes LehighValleyLive.com and The Express-Times.

They won the Toner Prize for Excellence in Local Political Reporting for “Swing County, Swing State.” The collaborative project sought to distill the political complexities of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, and outline the importance of local voters to national elections.

Said judge Joseph B. Treaster, “LehighValleyLive took on the task of telling the story of the 2020 presidential elections and the valley’s electoral history. It did it through conversations with the people of the valley, political leaders and analysts.”

Compton said, “Elegant writing, before we even get to the tough-minded journalism. Small enterprise with big payoffs for the voters of the ‘Swing County, Swing State’ and for history.”

Other Finalists for the Toner Prize for Excellence in Local Political Reporting were:

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Toner Prize, which is named in honor of late alumna Robin Toner ’76, the first woman to serve as national political correspondent for The New York Times. This year’s competition drew nearly 120 entries.

The winners were announced online in a ceremony featuring keynote remarks from U.S. Sen. Cory Booker. Alumna Melanie Hicken ’09, senior writer with CNN Investigates, was master of ceremonies. Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud and Newhouse School Dean Mark J. Lodato also offered remarks. Toner’s children, Jacob and Nora Gosselin, presented the awards.

Judges were Christina Bellantoni, professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and a former political reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times; Ann Compton, retired White House correspondent for ABC News; Maralee Schwartz, retired political editor of The Washington Post; Joseph B. Treaster, professor at the University of Miami’s School of Communication and a former New York Times correspondent; and Herbert Lowe, a former reporter for Newsday and The Philadelphia Inquirer, now a lecturer at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.

To view the award ceremony, visit newhouse.syr.edu/tonerprize.