Where the Old Meets the New in the Realm of Journalism Awards

In an age of listicles, bloggers, aggregation, and 140 characters, the Scripps Howard Foundation's awards program, now entering its 63rd year, recognizes the timeless values of journalism excellence. 

As we often report, a number of funders have entered the journalism space in the past decade or so, compensating for the declining resources, or closures, of many media outlets. What's interesting here is how long this operation has been around, and how it's adapting to a changing world. 

The competition acknowledges cutting-edge print, broadcast, and online journalism across 15 categories ranging from "public service reporting" to "human interest storytelling." Not to be outdone, two additional categories honor college journalism and mass communication educators for excellence in administration and teaching.

The Cincinnati-based grantmaker, which strives to advance the cause of a free press while also supporting educational, social services, arts and culture, and civic causes, recently announced the winners of its 2015 Scripps Howard Awards. Recipients will share $180,000 in cash prizes.

You can check out the full roster here along with the judges' rationale for selecting these organizations. In fact, we strongly encourage you to get an understanding of the judges' logic, as it provides a useful window into how one of the nation's leading journalism grantmakers sees the field evolving across the coming decade.

For example, Buzzfeed scored the Ursula and Gilbert Farfel Prize for Investigative Reporting and $20,000 for Fostering Profits, an investigation that identified deaths, sex abuse, and errors in screening, training, and overseeing foster parents at the nation's largest for-profit foster care company.

Now, Buzzfeed doesn't immediately spring to mind as a paragon of journalistic excellence. And yet they uncovered egregious abuses in the foster care industry and, to quote, the judges, created "investigative prose built for the mobile reader." And so Buzzfeed's work represents an elegant amalgamation of the old-school with the new. It also suggests that the awards, which have been around since the Eisenhower administration, have no problem cutting a check to an outlet best known for its "listicles."

The awards also recognize the pure art of storytelling, stripped of technological bells and whistles. The Ernie Pyle Award for Human Interest Storytelling award, pegged at $10,000, went to the New York Times' N. R. Kleinfield for Dying Alone, heartbreaking look at a man who died alone in his apartment. According to the judges, "The writing was beautiful and powerful and economical. The writer took a topic that is on many levels mundane."

One last tangential point. The foundation also advances its journalistic aims through support to Hampton University’s Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications. The foundation's commitment includes support for professional and scholarly development of faculty, the endowments for student scholarships, the Scripps Howard Visiting Professionals program, curriculum development and program activities.

And so we encourage you to check out our recent take on a $500,000 challenge grant from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox to support the school’s new Center for Innovation in Digital Media here.