Esserman-Knight Journalism Awards

Nominations for the Esserman-Knight Journalism Awards, honoring the best public service reporting in South Florida, are closed for 2021. The recipients will be announced in May.

The Esserman family and Knight Foundation created these awards to highlight the local journalists whose work has demonstrated the power to change laws and lives. 

The awards are by nomination. Anyone, anywhere can nominate a journalist or team of journalists, whether they are a newsroom colleague, someone deeply impacted by a story, or anyone who knows how important local journalism is to our community.

Nominated work should serve the public by exposing wrongdoing, shining a light on a pervasive or underreported community problem, or adding significantly to public debate. Encompassing investigative, beat, explanatory, and opinion reporting, work will be judged by the rigor of newsgathering, inclusion of community voices, and contribution to public understanding or policy action. 

Journalists or teams of journalists who published or broadcasted stories in 2020 that include original reporting from or about Miami-Dade, Broward or Monroe counties are eligible.

The awards include a $10,000 first prize, a $5,000 second prize, and honorable mentions of $1,000. 

A partnership between the Esserman family and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, we encourage nominations from all mediums. Past winners include print, TV and radio journalists.

Nominations were accepted through 5 p.m. ET Feb. 17, 2021

Have a question? Contact us at [email protected]

Virtual Information Sessions

Learn more about what’s new in 2021 at an information session:

The Miami Foundation is the fiscal agent for the awards, which are part of the Esserman Family Fund for Investigative Journalism. Learn more about the fund.

Congratulations to the 2020 winners!

Watch the first celebration of the Esserman-Knight Journalism Award winners, which took place June 18, 2020.


Winner ($10,000)

Julie K. Brown

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”:

Emily Michot

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.


Runner-up ($5,000)

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.

Megan O’Matz, Brittany Wallman and Aric Chokey

Honorable Mentions ($1,000)

Erika Carrillo

Erika Carrillo and Maria Alesia Sosa of WLTV Univision Miami and USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, for “Paradise of Beauty and Death:

Maria Alesia Sosa

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. 


Chartered, WLRN

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.

Jessica Bakeman, Alicia Zuckerman and Teresa Frontado

Fabiola Santiago

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.)