By Mariana Cristancho-Ahn
October 28, 2010
(New York) Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism awarded the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes to four journalists and two media outlets for their outstanding news coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean in a ceremony on Thursday evening at Columbia’s Low Library.
American freelancer Tyler Bridges based in Peru, Nicaraguan TV news director Carlos Fernando Chamorro, American journalist Normal Gall based in Brazil, and Mexico based Spanish-born correspondent and blogger Joaquim Ibarz, received the 2010 gold medals.
The managing director of Haitian based radio station Signal FM, Mario Viau, and the production team of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°, represented by correspondent Gary Tuchman, received special citations for their coverage of January’s earthquake in Haiti.
“This particular event I always find extremely moving,” said Columbia University president Lee Bollinger. “The courage, ingenuity, the dedication of journalists in Latin America is so evident that it makes you feel very proud to be part of it.”
At the opening of the ceremony Bollinger spoke about the “dangerous” decline of the United States coverage of Latin America, and gave detailed statistics of how various U.S. media outlets have been downsizing and even closing their local bureaus. In contrast, he mentioned how several foreign news agencies and new media ventures are expanding their coverage in the region.
The winners shared with the audience of nearly 170 guests -including former Cabot winners, Latin American journalists and Columbia University faculty and students- colorful examples and lessons of their journalistic experiences.
“I have put on a coat and tie to interview a president in the morning and put on blue jeans and scruffy boots to interview slum dwellers in the afternoon,” said Bridges, 50, who has spent the last 10 years in the region. “I’m not sure where else in the world I could be so enriched personally as in Latin America.”
“I’ve been running around this part of the world for 28 years and I can’t complain, I’ve never lacked of news,” said Ibarz, 67, who has been a correspondent for Barcelona’s La Vanguardia newspaper since 1982. “As a reporter, it’s been fascinating for me to witness such historic years of change in the region.”
Chamorro, 54, the director of Nicaraguan TV news shows “Esta Semana” and “Esta Noche” – and the son of former Nicaraguan president Violeta Chamorro and former newspaper editor and Cabot laureate, Pedro Chamorro- reminded the audience that “in Latin America journalism is still a highly risky profession.”
The night ended with an ovation to the 2010 laureates standing next to Bollinger, the dean of Columbia University School of Journalism, Nicholas Lemann and the director of the Cabot Prizes, Josh Friedman.
Bridges made a special dedication of his prize. “I would like to dedicate my Cabot award to those brave journalist in Mexico,” he said. “They are the real heroes in journalism today.”
Founded in 1938, the Maria Moors Cabot is the oldest international award in journalism.
Mariana Cristancho-Ahn is a student at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She was also the first president of the Columbia’s chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalist when it was created in 2009. She has worked at the New York bureaus of Bloomberg News and Associated Press.