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Meet the Winners of the 2020 Washington Women in Journalism Awards

Each spring, the Washington Women in Journalism Awards honor distinguished reporters and editors—across platforms and at different stages of their careers. Washingtonian helps sponsor the awards, which are usually presented during the weekend of events coinciding with the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. This year, of course, something else coincided with that weekend: a global pandemic. So instead of being honored at an April reception, the winners were to be feted at a September Zoom gathering.

Outstanding Journalist in Print:
Molly Ball
National Political Correspondent, Time

After working for newspapers in Cambodia and Las Vegas, Molly Ball moved to covering Washington for outlets including Politico and the Atlantic. She joined Time in 2017 and is the author of “Pelosi,” a bestselling biography of the House speaker that was published earlier this year.

Born in . . . Boise, Idaho.

First byline . . . Walnut Hills Quartet, 1989. “I started a newspaper in my neighborhood in Denver when I was in fifth grade and sold it door to door. . . . My first ‘real’ byline was in the Toledo Blade, where I was a summer intern in 1999. They always sent an intern to cover the annual Polish Festival, and the publisher told me mine was the best Polish Festival story ever!”

First big story . . . “The administrators at my high school threatened to shut down the paper over an investigation I wrote into why a beloved music teacher had been suddenly fired. We published it anyway.”

Favorite story . . . “Hard to choose, but my 2012 Atlantic feature about the political campaign to legalize same-sex marriage—which is still taught in college classes as a case study in political persuasion—is definitely up there.”

Wisest advice a boss or mentor ever gave you about your career . . . “Sometimes the best stories are hiding in plain sight.”

Dumbest advice anyone ever gave you about your career . . . “Are you sure you’re ready for this opportunity? Maybe you should spend a few more years paying your dues first.”

What you’d say to a woman starting in journalism today . . . “Grow a thick skin and ignore the haters. Also, your work is more important than your job.”

Star to Watch:
Anna Palmer
Senior Washington Correspondent, Politico

North Dakotan Anna Palmer’s Washington career has encompassed stints at insider publications including Roll Call and Legal Times. In 2016, she took over one of the highest-profile spots in political journalism: Politico’s daily Playbook newsletter. She’s coauthor of “The Hill to Die On,” a bestselling book about the 2018 midterm elections, and is editorial director for Politico’s “Women Rule” platform.

Born in . . . Le Sueur, Minnesota.

First byline . . . Manitou Messenger,St. Olaf College, 2000.

First big story . . .“I started off covering lobbying in Washington. At that time, not many of the big daily newspapers focused on money and politics. I was working for Legal Times when one of the biggest characters downtown—Jack Abramoff—all of a sudden was in the cross hairs for bilking Native Americans out of millions of dollars. Covering that story was my first peek into how records and data can often fuel some of the most interesting and dominant stories.”

Favorite story . . . “A series I did about military sexual assault—real-life impact that led to more congressional oversight.”

Best advice a boss or mentor ever gave you . . . “Don’t apologize or minimize your success.”

Dumbest advice someone ever gave you . . . “Wait your turn.”

Advice for young women journalists . . . “You don’t have to be the most connected or go to the best school. Outwork your competition and you’ll be amazed at the doors that will open for you.”

Hall of Fame Award:
Rita Braver
National Correspondent, CBS News

A veteran investigative reporter, Rita Braver joined CBS as a news-desk editor in 1972 and became an on-air reporter in 1983. She has served as the network’s chief legal reporter and its White House correspondent.

Born in . . . Washington, DC. “I grew up on Rittenhouse Street, Northwest.”

First bylines . . . 1964–1966, Bethesda–Chevy Chase High School Tattler.

First big story . . . The Walker-family spy ring, 1985. “On May 20, the FBI arrested John Walker, a former naval warrant officer who had spent years selling secrets to the Soviet Union. Shortly afterward, his son Michael was picked up aboard the USS Nimitz, where he had been stealing classified documents at the direction of his father. It turned out that John Walker had also convinced his brother and a close friend to join his operation. The existence of Walker’s deception was revealed, in part, because he had also tried to recruit one of his daughters to become a spy.”

Advice for women starting out in journalism . . . “Pursue the job only because you love it and can’t imagine yourself doing anything else, not be­cause you think it is glamorous. It is not. But it can be fascinating, thrilling, and meaningful work. You will never be bored, and you will have lots of great stories to tell your children and grandchildren. And don’t forget to have fun!”

Outstanding Journalist in Broadcast Television:
Kristen Welker
White House Correspondent, NBC News

After covering local news for a station in her native Philadelphia, Welker joined NBC News, landing in Washington as a White House correspondent in 2011. She was recently named to be moderator for the third of this year’s presidential debates, scheduled for October 22 in Nashville.

Born in . . . Philadelphia.

First byline . . . Harvard Crimson, 1994.

Most important story . . . “One of the most important stories I have ever covered is about the disproportionately high maternal mortality rates among Black women. A year ago, I interviewed father of two Chris Johnson, whose wife, Kira, died soon after delivering their second son. The fact that Black women are dying at higher rates than their white counterparts during childbirth has not gotten enough attention.”

Advice you didn’t take . . . “As a college senior, I was awarded a Rotary Scholarship to study in Madrid. One news producer suggested I go straight into journalism, worried that the year abroad would make it harder for me to break in. Studying abroad was the best decision because it exposed me to a world beyond anything I’d ever seen.”

Advice for young women journalists . . .“Be brave. Raise your hand for every assignment that comes your way. Be prepared to work harder than you have ever imagined, and seek out constructive criticism.”

Past Winners

2019

Andrea Mitchell, NBC, Lifetime Achievement
Ashley Parker, Washington Post, Outstanding Journalist in Print
Abby Phillip, CNN, Outstanding Journalist in Broadcast Television
Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post, Rising Star

2018

Amanda Bennett, Voice of America, Hall of Fame Achievement Award
Amy Walter, Cook Political Report, Outstanding Journalist in Broadcast Television
Audie Cornish, NPR, Outstanding Journalist in Broadcast Radio
Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times, Outstanding Journalist in Print

2017

Cokie Roberts, Distinguished Female Journalist of the Year
Jane Mayer, New Yorker, Outstanding Journalist in Print
Mary Louise Kelly, NPR, Outstanding Journalist in Broadcasting
Mary Katharine Ham, CNN, Rising Star

2016

Susan Page, USA Today, Hall of Fame Achievement Award
Dana Bash, CNN, Outstanding Journalist in Broadcast
Kathryn Lopez, National Review, Outstanding Journalist in Periodicals
Carolyn Ryan, New York Times, Outstanding Newspaper/Wire Journalist

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