75th George Polk Awards honor coverage of Middle East and Ukraine wars, Supreme Court and Elon Musk

Feb 19, 2024, 7:02 AM | Updated: Feb 20, 2024, 1:48 am

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Times was honored Monday with George Polk Awards for Foreign Reporting and Photojournalism for its coverage of the war between Israel and Hamas.

Photographers Samar Abu Elouf and Yousef Masoud captured “gripping and unforgettable images” as they chronicled the conflict from its opening hours on Oct. 7 until they escaped from Gaza two months later, said Long island University, which presents the annual prizes, in a statement. The Times also relied on longtime freelance journalists in Gaza and imagery developed by its visual investigations team to document the extent of the Israeli bombardment and its impact on civilians.

They were among Polk Awards winners announced Monday in 13 categories. In all, five of the prestigious journalism prizes were for coverage of the Israel-Gaza and Russia-Ukraine wars. The winners will be honored in April as the university marks the 75th anniversary of the awards.

“Given the significance of this year’s program we sensed a special imperative to honor work in the tradition of George Polk,” said John Darnton, curator of the awards, which were created in 1949 in honor of the CBS reporter who was killed while covering the Greek civil war. “As horrific as the outbreak of war in the Middle East and the ongoing fighting in Ukraine were, they provided us with no shortage of magnificent reporting, done at great peril, from which to choose.”

Awards also went to journalists who delved into the business practices of Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the ethics of U.S. Supreme Court justices and New York City’s black market for temporary license plates.

Chis Osher and Julia Cardi of the The Gazette of Colorado Springs won the State Reporting award for their exposure of a family court system that relied on unqualified parental evaluators and returned young children to abusive fathers, leading to four deaths in a two-month period. The reporting led to changes in state law and an ongoing criminal investigation.

Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott, Alex Mierjeski, Brett Murphy and the staff of ProPublica won the National Reporting award for revealing questionable gifts to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from wealthy donors and the court’s lack of a meaningful approach to policing ethics.

The 2023 Sydney Schanberg Prize went to Rolling Stone’s Jason Motlagh, who embedded himself with rival gang lords in Haiti. That prize was established by journalist Jane Freiman Schanberg to honor long-form investigative or enterprise journalism and comes with a $25,000 award.

Other winners included the staff of Reuters for reports on Musk-owned companies including SpaceX, Neuralink and Tesla, and Luke Mogelson of the New Yorker for reporting from Ukraine. In the medical reporting category, Anna Werner of CBS News and the KFF Health News team of Brett Kelman, Fred Schulte, Holly K. Hacker and Daniel Chang won for two entries focused on the Food & Drug Administration’s regulation of medical devices. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and ProPublica were co-winners in that category for an investigative series on contaminants in breathing machines and an ensuing cover-up.

As part of the 75th anniversary celebration, Long Island University is inviting all previous recipients to an April 12 luncheon in Manhattan where 16 journalists will be honored as “George Polk laureates.”

An evening symposium, “Journalism in an Age of Disinformation, Digital Media and AI,” will feature Associated Press executive editor Julie Pace, Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward, CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour and former New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet as panelists.

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75th George Polk Awards honor coverage of Middle East and Ukraine wars, Supreme Court and Elon Musk