Congratulations to the 2020 winners of the Esserman-Knight Journalism Prize!
Watch the first celebration of the Esserman-Knight Journalism Prize winners, which took place June 18, 2020.
The Esserman-Knight Journalism Prize celebrates a journalist whose accountability reporting highlights issues, for example, of social justice, equality and intellectual freedom — values of critical importance to Ron and Charlene Esserman. This year, $18,000 is being awarded to the best South Florida reporting that holds the powerful to account. Learn more.
Reporter Julie K. Brown and Visual Journalist Emily Michot of the Miami Herald for their groundbreaking reporting on the case of sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, “Perversion of Justice”:
Brown and Michot revived a dormant, 10-year-old case against Epstein by exposing the cover-up of his crimes and the secret plea deal that helped him escape a lifetime in prison. By earning the trust of his survivors, they were able to finally give voice to the dozens of young women who were abused by Epstein and betrayed a broken criminal justice system. As a result of their reporting, Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges; Alexander Acosta, the U.S. Attorney who blessed Epstein’s plea deal, resigned as President Trump’s labor secretary; federal investigations were launched into the case; and Epstein’s victims finally got their day in court.
Megan O’Matz, Brittany Wallman and Aric Chokey of the Sun Sentinel for “Teenage Time Bombs: A Generation in Danger”:
How many other emotionally disturbed students like the Parkland shooter are in Florida schools? The Sun Sentinel reviewed risk protection orders around the state and found more than 100 students, many of whom are “mentally disturbed, armed with guns and inspired by 20 years of school shooters.” The series concluded that well-meaning mainstreaming laws have given school districts little room to remove potentially dangerous children from regular classrooms.
Honorable Mentions ($1,000)
Erika Carrillo and Maria Alesia Sosa of WLTV Univision Miami and USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, for “Paradise of Beauty and Death”:
Their investigation exposed the lack of regulations for Florida’s cosmetic surgery centers, where they found 14 women from around the country and the Americas had died during botched surgeries. They also revealed that the state Department of Health kept no records of the deaths associated with cosmetic surgeries. Because of their reporting, the Florida Legislature passed a law that now requires these centers to register with the Department of Health, have a doctor’s license associated with it, have insurance for both the center and the doctor, and more.
Reporter Jessica Bakeman and editors Alicia Zuckerman and Teresa Frontado of WLRN for “Chartered: Florida’s First Private Takeover Of a Public School System”:
The hour-long audio documentary and multimedia series examined the potential benefits — and risks — of Florida’s new “schools of hope” policy, which offers millions of dollars to attract charter schools to the state’s poorest communities. The project explored Florida’s first all-charter school district in Jefferson County, before Miami’s first “schools of hope” opened in Liberty City.
Fabiola Santiago of The Miami Herald for “Perspectives on South Florida”:
Santiago writes weekly columns for both the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. Through her original reporting, she raises often ignored issues such as racial, ethnic, economic and gender disparity; heavy-handed political processes and people; and unfairness to people with little or no access to those in power. (Image above: Daniel Varela for the Herald.)
Esserman Investigative Journalism Fellowship:
This fellowship, funded by the Essermans, provides $50,000 per year for an investigative journalism position for an early-career reporter. The first Esserman Fellow, Christina Saint Louis, is a recent graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.
She has reported for City & State New York, a politics and policy magazine, and covered the community of Morningside Heights for campus radio. Saint Louis is a native of Stuart, Fla., is fluent in Haitian Creole, and begins her one-year fellowship in the summer of 2020.