Five Finalists Announced for the Inaugural Morley Safer Award

The Briscoe Center has announced five finalists for the first Morley Safer Award for Outstanding Reporting. The award, created in partnership with the family of the late CBS News correspondent Morley Safer, recognizes a story or series of stories that reflects Safer’s journalistic legacy.

“We are delighted to have such an exceptionally worthy group of finalists for the inaugural Morley Safer Award,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “Our jury panel faced a difficult challenge in selecting these five finalists from the many excellent submissions.”

The Safer Award winner will be honored at a lunch in Manhattan on October 18.

“The Morley Safer Award honors reporting that changes how we understand the world,” said former CBS News journalist and Safer colleague Bob Schieffer, one of the award judges. “As Morley did during his legendary career, the award honors journalists who challenge conventional thinking through stories graced by precise and eloquent language.”

The panel of journalists and media leaders that selected the finalists also included Margery Riker, Terry McDonell, Kathleen McElroy, Tom Johnson, and Tracy Dahlby. The panel, along with representatives of the Briscoe Center and the Safer family, reviewed submissions from journalists across the United States and Canada to choose the finalists for this year’s award.  

“Morley would be impressed by the powerful reporting in the work of these finalists,” says Jane Safer. “An important part of Morley’s legacy was his influence on younger journalists, especially those he nurtured, encouraged, and inspired to maintain the highest standards of news reporting.”

The five finalists include:

Madeleine Baran: “In the Dark,” Season 2, American Public Media 

The 11 episodes of “In the Dark” spell out in exhaustive, meticulous detail the case of Curtis Flowers, a black man from a small town in Mississippi who has spent the past twenty-one years fighting for his life, and a white prosecutor who spent that time trying just as hard to execute him. Flowers has been tried six times for the same crime, winning multiple appeals. But each time the prosecutor has found a way to try the case again. The power of “In the Dark” comes from its focus on justice, rather than crime. It tells a story that is making a difference.

Julie Brown: “Perversion of Justice,” The Miami Herald

This is a story of how Jeffrey Epstein, bolstered by unlimited funds and represented by a powerhouse legal team, was able to manipulate the criminal justice system and how his accusers, still traumatized by their pasts, believe they were betrayed by the very prosecutors who pledged to protect them. Brown’s exhaustive reporting added new and deeper meaning to a story that had been in and out of the headlines. Her enterprise honors the best traditions of in-depth reporting.

Hannah Dreier: “Trapped in Gangland,” ProPublica

Dreier’s series on the Central American gang MS-13 in Long Island, New York, was jointly published with New York Magazine, Newsday, and the New York Times Magazine. The series exposes a pattern of law enforcement bias and negligence and shows how the government’s bungled crackdown on MS-13 tore apart the lives of Latino immigrants who fled their violent Central American homelands. This in-depth investigation brings a fresh perspective to a much-discussed subject. It is an exceptional example of compelling storytelling about a complex issue.

James Jacoby and Anya Bourg: “The Facebook Dilemma,” Frontline

This two-part documentary examines the role that Facebook has played in the emergence of disinformation campaigns that have undermined democracies and incited violence around the world. With dozens of original interviews and rare archival footage, it exposes how for years Facebook ignored warnings from inside and outside the company about problems that are now front-page news: fake news, Russian meddling, and online extremism. “The Facebook Dilemma” covers a notoriously complex and difficult subject, underlining its sense of history in the making.

Naveena Sadasivam and Zoe Schlanger: “Shallow Waters,” The Texas Observer

As tension grows over immigration along the Rio Grande, which separates Texas and Mexico, the authors focus on a part of the story seldom reported: the importance of the river itself to the 6 million people who depend on it for drinking and irrigation water. Sadasivam sounds an alarm about the increasing threats of both devastating floods and megadroughts resulting from global warming, now heightened by plans for the border wall.