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Journalism School Announces 2005 Maria Moors Cabot Prize-Winners

Miriam Leitão, O Globo and Rede Globo reporter and columnist , and Radio CBN, Brazil.

The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has announced the winners of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for outstanding reporting on Latin America. The Cabot Prize honors journalists who have covered the Western Hemisphere and, through their reporting and editorial work, have demonstrated a commitment to freedom of the press and inter-American understanding.

President Lee C. Bollinger will present the prizes at a dinner and ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 20. Each prize-winner receives a Cabot medal and a $5,000 honorarium. News organizations that employ the winners receive bronze plaques.

"This year's winners are wonderful exemplars of the Cabot Prize standard -- the best professional and probing journalism in the pursuit of inter-American understanding," said Nicholas Lemann, dean of the journalism school. "The Graduate School of Journalism is proud of its 67 year history of awarding these prizes, and we are proud of the winners that were selected this year."

This year's recipients are:

  • Miriam Leitão, reporter and columnist, O Globo, Rede Globo , and Radio CBN, Brazil, a multimedia Brazilian journalist whose reporting has been an outstanding example of explanatory journalism.
  • Tim Padgett, Miami and Latin America bureau chief, Time Magazine, who represents the personal and professional commitment to Latin America that the Cabot Prize was intended to honor.
  • Mabel Rehnfeldt, investigative reporter, ABC Color, who has been a relentless journalistic force against corruption and abuse of power in Paraguay.
  • S. Lynne Walker, Mexico City bureau chief, Copley News Service, who, in more than 15 years of reporting from Mexico and Central America, has gone to extraordinary lengths to find original ways of telling the remarkable stories of ordinary people whose voices might otherwise not be heard.
Tim Padgett, Time Magazine Miami and Latin America bureau chief.

A Special Citation will be awarded to La Nación of Costa Rica for outstanding work in investigative journalism that had an impact across the Americas.

Founded in 1938 by the late Godfrey Lowell Cabot of Boston as a memorial to his wife, the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes are the oldest international award in journalism. The prize has been awarded 245 times, and 55 special citations have been conferred on journalists from more than 30 countries. The prizes are administered by the Graduate School of Journalism under the guidance of Josh Friedman, director of international programs at the school.

Detailed information on the 2005 winners

Miriam Leitão, reporter and columnist; O Globo, Rede Globo, and Radio CBN, Brazil, is a truly multimedia Brazilian journalist. She publishes a daily column in one of Brazil's largest papers, O Globo in Rio de Janeiro, and is syndicated throughout the country. She works on a daily basis for Globo TV and Radio CBN (Central Brasileira de Noticias). Globo is ranked as the largest commercial TV network outside the United States. Leitão has been a journalist for more than 30 years, concentrating on economics and business in a country plagued by frequent economic crises, but as she notes in her columns, a country with great potential and a demonstrated role as an emerging global power.

Translating the complexities of her beat into information easily grasped by the general public, Leitão has been an outstanding example of explanatory journalism. She has moved far beyond the boundaries of business reporting to become a leader in investigating social injustice in Brazil, contributing to the national debate searching for solutions. Leitão was instrumental, for example, in raising awareness of the social exclusion of Brazilians of African descent, the depth of urban violence in Rio de Janeiro and the constant struggle between environmental degradation and development.

Tim Padgett, Miami and Latin America bureau chief, Time Magazine, represents the personal and professional commitment to Latin America that the Cabot Prize was intended to honor. Since 1990, first for Newsweek and now for Time, he has doggedly covered the region despite his own news organization's reduction of space for Latin American coverage.

Mabel Rehnfeldt, ABC Color investigative reporter.

Padgett's recent enterprise reportage has covered the migrant smuggling business, the growing use of cocaine in Latin America, the guerrilla stronghold of Cartagena del Chaira in Colombia, the crusade of the Cuban dissident Osvaldo Paya and the rise of the NAFTA generation in Mexico. His work also includes ground-breaking stories on the presidency of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Brazil's landless peasant movement, Haitian child-slavery, Latin rock stars and Latin major league baseball stars. He has written cover stories on education and on criminal mafias in Latin America.

The breadth of Padgett's knowledge and the gracefulness of his prose make him a worthy model for new reporters and a reminder to editors that good coverage is based on deep commitment, long experience and frequent publication.

Mabel Rehnfeldt, investigative reporter, ABC Color, has been a relentless journalistic force against corruption and abuse of power in Paraguay. She began her career during the period of the Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship, when she wrote for the Catholic Church publication Sendero, one of the only independent voices able to maintain critical coverage of the dictatorship. With the arrival of democracy, she has become a key investigative reporter for Paraguay's largest and most important newspaper, ABC Color, allowing the paper to establish itself as a watchdog over the new civilian government. Her tireless reporting and her voluminous writing have been published in scores of front page reports and multipart series. In the tradition of the great muckrakers of the past century, her targets include abuses by police, inhuman prison conditions, juvenile prostitution, theft and corruption in the state petroleum monopoly, and critical analysis of the military budget. Spotlighting abuses outside the government as well, she embarked on a series of front page exposés of abuses in popular religious organizations, called "the business of the sects."

Those stung by her reporting, including former President Juan Carlos Wasmosy, have sued Rehnfeldt and her paper unsuccessfully several times. After a series of stories alleging sexual harassment by a Catholic bishop, unknown assailants tried and failed to kidnap her daughter. Her implacable resistance in the face of intimidation stands as an inspiration to journalists throughout the Americas.

In more than 15 years of reporting from Mexico and Central America, S. Lynne Walker, Mexico City bureau chief, Copley News Service, has gone to extraordinary lengths to find original ways of telling the remarkable stories of ordinary people whose voices might otherwise not be heard.

S. Lynne Walker, Copley News Service Mexico City bureau chief.

Among the many correspondents who cover the uneasy relationship between the United States and the countries south of the border, Walker stands out as one of the very few who manages to fully convey the human side of the story. She has built a comfortable rapport with many immigrants that enabled her, in one memorable series, to travel for three weeks with a young Mexican migrant as he headed to a new and uncertain life in the American Midwest.

Walker introduced her readers to the growing problem of criminal gang activity in Central America months before her journalist colleagues and President George Bush called attention to the threat earlier this year. Traveling from Honduras to California, she followed gang members as they made their way to the gang mecca of Los Angeles. Her stories showed the social and economic dislocations that made gang members aliens in their own countries and undesirables abroad.

With a natural sympathy for the underdog and a keen eye for detail, and by probing the depths of Latin American culture and society, Walker gives readers a full and unblemished view of and greater insight into the region. These talents were evident in a colorful article on the "saint of death" worshipped by increasing number of Mexicans living on the margins of society.

The Special Citation for 2005

La Nación , Costa Rica

This year, the Cabot Prize Board recognized La Nación of Costa Rica for outstanding work in investigative journalism that had an impact across the Americas.

In 2004, La Nación's investigative unit uncovered political corruption at the highest level. As a result, two former presidents, Rafael Angel Calderon and Miguel Angel Rodríguez, were incarcerated as a precautionary judicial measure. Currently under house arrest, they both await trial. Rodríguez was obliged to step down as Secretary General of the Organization of American States, prompting a hemispheric search for new leadership. A third ex-president, Jose Maria Figueres, was forced to resign from his position as executive director of the World Economic Forum in Geneva and has yet to return to Costa Rica.

After decades of setting the standard for independent professional journalism in one of Latin America's smallest democracies, La Nación 's professionalism and commitment to quality journalism provide a shining example for the entire continent.

The members of La Nación's investigative unit are:

Giannina Segnini-Picado

In 2004 La Nación's investigative unit uncovered political corruption at the highest level.

Giannina Segnini is the founder and coordinator of the investigative unit of the daily La Nación, where she has worked since 1994. Born in Costa Rica in 1970, she majored in mass communications at the University of Costa Rica and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2001-2002.

Under her coordination, the investigative unit uncovered the corruption scandals CCSS-Fischel and the ICE-Alcatel case, which led to the opening of the criminal proceedings against and the arrest of two former Presidents of Costa Rica.

For this work, Segnini and her team won the Ortega y Gasset Award, given by the Spanish daily El País, as well as Transparency International and the Press and Society Institute's Award to the best journalistic investigation in a corruption case in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Mauricio Herrera Ulloa

Herrera Ulloa is a member of La Nación's investigative unit and partook in the disclosing of political corruption cases that led to the charges and arrest of two former presidents of the Republic in 2004. Last August, in a decision handed down by the Inter American Human Rights Court, Herrera won a case against the Costa Rican government after an almost decade-long court battle. The decision established a judicial precedent at the Continental level and forced an amendment of Costa Rican law, by declaring that the State had violated the right to freedom of speech and the guarantee of a fair trial.

Herrera has been a staff writer at La Nación since 1992. He majored in mass communications at the University of Costa Rica, where he is currently a professor. He has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Barcelona and is a candidate for a master's in political science at the University of Costa Rica. He has received awards from the Inter American Press Society, the International Red Cross, the ACAN-EFE news agency, and the Association of Journalists of Costa Rica, and shared the Ortega y Gasset award and the Transparency award given to La Nacion's investigative unit.

Ernesto Rivera-Casasola  

Ernesto Rivera has been a member of the investigative unit of La Nación for five years, and regularly collaborates with the daily's Sunday Magazine and the cultural supplement. He has investigated the private business of the Costa Rican Catholic Church; took part in a series of articles on the businesses of New York mafia "families" in Costa Rica; and was a member of the team that revealed a network of illegal funding during the current president of Costa Rica's political campaign, and of the group that investigated the political corruption cases that led to the arrest of two former presidents of Costa Rica. He majored in social communication at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) has been a radio producer, and has published articles in newspapers and magazines in Argentina, Colombia, and Costa Rica. He shared the Ortega y Gasset award and the Transparency award given to La Nacion's investigative unit.

At the individual level, Rivera-Casasola has been honored by the Association of Journalists of Costa Rica and the firm of Firestone for a series of articles on the impunity of white collar criminals. As a writer, he published a collection of essays under the title Ciudad Mundi (1999), and a book of fiction, Animales de la noche [Night Animals] (2000), which won numerous awards.

Alejandro Urbina-Gutiérrez

Alejandro Urbina has directed La Nación since April 2003. After attending the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University for his master's degree during the 1998-1999 academic year, Urbina returned to La Nación as head of investigative reporting and associate editor of the op-ed pages. Previously, Urbina served as editor and publisher of La Nación´s financial weekly El Financiero. Though Urbina has worked at La Nación for more than 15 years in various technical and managerial positions, his incursion into journalism did not start until 1994 when he set up La Nación´s www.nacion.com, one of the first newspaper Web sites in Latin America. Urbina also studied computer science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, where he obtained a B.S. degree in 1978.

Armando González Rodicio

Armando González, managing editor of La Nación, holds a law degree from the University of Costa Rica and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He is a member of the board of directors of the Inter-American Press Association. He has worked as a journalist and editor in publications owned by the Nación Group for the last 18 years. González served as a reporter and assistant editor at the weekly Rumbo and at the daily La Nación, where he specialized in investigative reporting. In 1989, he was awarded the Pío Víquez National Award for Journalism and in 2002 he helped launch Al Día, a second daily published by the Nación Group.

Appointed editor-in-chief of Al Día, he went on to his present position as managing editor after obtaining his master's degree in 2002. As a lawyer and journalist, González has been active in promoting freedom of the press in Costa Rica and is a frequent speaker on the subject in various countries throughout Latin America.

About the Maria Moors Cabot Prize Board

The recommendations for the winners are made with the advice and approval of the board of the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes. Members of Cabot Board in 2005 are: Arlene Morgan, associate dean for programs and prizes and chair; Josh Friedman, director of the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes, and director of international programs at the School of Journalism; David Adams, Latin America correspondent for the St. PetersburgTimes; Rosental Calmon Alves, professor and Knight chair of international journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and former executive editor of the Jornal do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro; Peter Cleaves, a philanthropy consultant and former member of the international Council of AVINA, a foundation that supports sustainable development in Latin America, and former director of the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin; John Dinges, associate professor at the Graduate School of Journalism and former editorial director of National Public Radio; Juan Enriquez-Cabot, great-grandson of Maria Moors Cabot and chair and CEO of Biotechonomy; Claude Erbsen, former vice president and director of world services for the Associated Press; Michèle Montas-Dominique, former editor-in-chief, Radio Haiti-Inter and former spokesperson for the president of the United Nations General Assembly, and now head of French-language radio at the UN; Jorge Ramos, news anchor for Univision Network; Linda Robinson, senior writer at U.S. News & World Report; Edward Schumacher, CEO and editorial director of Meximerica Media; Geri Smith, Mexico bureau chief for BusinessWeek; and Enrique Zileri, director, Caretas magazine (Peru).

Seven of the 13 members of the Cabot Prize Board have previously won the Cabot medal.

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Published: Jun 21, 2005
Last modified: Jun 27, 2005

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