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The lights went out at the Institute of Politics’ John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum.
“Why are we here?” Nicco Mele, director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy asked the pitch-black forum Thursday. “To celebrate journalism. Democracy dies in darkness,” he said as the lights turned back on, referencing the Washington Post’s new slogan.
“Grandiose? A little. But it’s a useful reminder about the importance of journalism,” Mele said.
So began the annual Goldsmith Awards, given annually by the Shorenstein Center to investigative journalists and prominent figures in journalism.
This year, Shane Bauer—a reporter for Mother Jones who worked at a private prison for four months and chronicled his experiences and the prison’s mismanagement—won the $25,000 top prize. A few weeks after Bauer’s four-part article came out, the Justice Department decided to end the use of private prisons.
Other finalists for the prize this year—who will each receive $10,000—included journalists from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which reported on doctors who sexually violated vulnerable patients, and The Wall Street Journal, which followed the downfall of Silicon Valley tech company Theranos, among others.
The Shorenstein Center also gave the Career Award for Excellence to Jorge Ramos, a prominent journalist and author who has been publicly critical of Donald Trump since the Trump campaign’s launch in June 2015. Ramos—who has been described as “the Walter Cronkite of Latin America”—is an anchor for Noticiero Univision, has won eight Emmy awards, and has authored 10 books.
After greeting the audience and accepting the award, Ramos paused. “I’m going to have to talk about Trump—is that okay?” Ramos asked, receiving laughter from the packed forum.
Ramos then directed a portion of his speech to Trump. “No, Mr. Trump: I am not your enemy, but honestly, I don’t want to be your friend either,” he said.
In his remarks, Ramos argued that journalists should seek to hold those in power accountable in any administration. He described the role of journalists as one “on the other side of power, regardless of who is in the White House, a Democrat or Republican.”
“There’s a beautiful word in Spanish that defines our role as journalists—contrapoder. Contra means against and poder means power,” Ramos said. “Apparently Trump thinks that only reporters who have a friendly or non-antagonistic relationship with him can accurately report about his government.”
“The last thing an independent and trustworthy reporter should do is to be a friend with the president,” he continued. “I don’t want to be his amigo.”
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