Briscoe Center Announces First Recipient of Morley Safer Award

Hannah Dreier

The Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin announced today the recipient of the first Morley Safer Award for Outstanding Reporting. The journalism award, created in partnership with the family of the late CBS News correspondent Morley Safer, recognizes reporting that changes how we understand the world.

The 2019 Safer Award recipient is Hannah Dreier for “Trapped in Gangland,” a series for ProPublica, jointly published in New York Magazine and the New York Times Magazine, which focused on the federal government’s bungled crackdown on the Central American gang MS-13 last year. The groundbreaking series exposed a pattern of law enforcement bias and negligence that tore apart the lives of Latino immigrants who had fled their violent Central American homelands.

“It’s hugely humbling to be honored alongside some of my absolute favorite accountability reporting from last year, with an award named for such a legendary journalist” said Dreier. “It’s so important for journalists to be able to spend real time digging into areas that have been overlooked, and I hope this award encourages more investment in this kind of project reporting. Recognition should also go to the young immigrants who were the subjects of these stories, many of whom went public with their experiences at great personal risk, and stuck with that choice despite threats from both gang members and law enforcement.”

Dreier’s work was selected by a prestigious panel of journalists and media leaders comprised of Bob Schieffer, Margery Riker, Terry McDonell, Kathleen McElroy, Tom Johnson and Tracy Dahlby. The panel reviewed over 60 submissions from journalists across North America whose work was published in 2018.

“Congratulations to Hannah Dreier,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “Her work echoes Morley’s in two key ways. First, her writing is compelling, eloquent and gets to the heart of a deeply important issue. Second, I am fully confident that historians in the future will make use of her reporting to inform their research—just as historians and documentarians today use Morley’s notes, interviews, transcripts, correspondence and other writings at the Briscoe Center. Reporters must obviously be concerned with the here and now, however—and perhaps somewhat unconsciously—they are also creating the primary sources that historians must have in their effort to understand the past.”

In addition to Dreier’s work, four other reporters were recognized with Citations of Excellence for their work by the Morley Safer Award jury, including Julie Brown’s “Perversion of Justice” for The Miami Herald, which focused on how the now-deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein was able to manipulate the criminal justice system. In the process, Epstein’s accusers were betrayed by the very prosecutors who pledged to protect them. Brown’s exhaustive reporting added new and deeper meaning, as well as greater public and legal scrutiny, to a story that had been in and out of the headlines for years.

The other Safer Award Citation of Excellence honorees were:

Madeleine Baran for season 2 of “In the Dark” (American Public Media), an 11-episode series that spelled out in exhaustive detail the case of Curtis Flowers, an African American 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.

James Jacoby and Anya Bourg for “The Facebook Dilemma,” a two-part documentary on Frontline that examined the role that Facebook has played in the emergence of disinformation campaigns that have undermined democracies and incited violence around the world. 

Naveena Sadasivam and Zoe Schlanger for “Shallow Waters,” a nine-part collaboration between the Texas Observer and Quartz, which examined the importance of the Rio Grande to the 6 million people who depend upon it for drinking and irrigation set against the backdrop of the growing tension of immigration along the river’s border.

Dreier and those who received Citations for Excellence will be honored at an awards lunch in Manhattan on October 18.

Media Contact:

Ben Wright | 512-495-4204 / 512-592-0061,