Freelance writer Scott Carney and Wall Street Journal bureau chief Farnaz Fassihi are the 2010 winners of the Payne Awards for Ethics in Journalism, both in the individual category.
In “Meet the Parents,” which was published in Mother Jones in March of 2009, Carney followed the story of a child who was kidnapped from his parents in India and sold through intermediaries and corrupt adoption agencies to an American family. Because police cases in the USA and India ground to a halt, Carney was the first person to make contact with the family in the U.S.. The Payne Awards judges applauded not only Carney’s exhaustive research but his willingness to engage in the story in a personal way and to reveal that in his writing. “He consciously recognized that he was part of the story—in fact, his participation was part of the story,” the judges’ statement reads. “The story included a number of ethical crossroads—and it is clear that these decisions were carefully considered.”
Fassihi, the Wall Street Journal’s deputy bureau chief in the Middle East and Africa, was nominated by Senior Deputy Managing Editor Michael Miller for reportage in Iran, specifically for “her skill in navigating an emotionally charged news environment” and illuminating the complex situation there—even as her work put her personally at risk. The Payne Judges applauded Fassihi for her “thorough, fair, honest and courageous reporting in producing a body of work that puts a human face on the crisis in Iran.”
“Although the stories are different, both of these journalists immersed themselves in complex, difficult situations in order to find the truth and serve the public interest,” Tim Gleason, Edwin L. Artzt Dean and chair of the Payne Awards judging panel, said on behalf of the judges. “One of the core elements of great journalism is the reporter’s willingness to struggle with complex stories to make sense of them for their readers. Sometimes that includes putting oneself at risk—physically or emotionally. In either case, you do this because you know that is the right thing to do. That is the definition of an ethical journalist. In these particular cases, the work demonstrates care, not just about getting the story, but about the people in those stories.”
“Journalists don’t do this alone,” Gleason added. “While we’re honoring the individuals, we celebrate the support of their respective news organizations for their work.”
There were no winners chosen in either the news organization or collegiate media categories this year.
Ancil Payne, a legend in Seattle broadcasting, established the Payne Awards at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication in 1999 “to honor the journalist of integrity and character who reports with insight and clarity in the face of political or economic pressures and to reward performance that inspires public trust in the media.” Payne, who died in October 2004, was former CEO of KING Broadcasting; under his leadership, the company developed a national reputation for its commitment to ethical journalism.
Judges for the 2010 Payne Awards were Professor Tom Bivins, John L. Hulteng Chair of Media Ethics, University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication; Peter Bhatia, Executive Editor, The Oregonian; Everette Dennis, Professor/Area Chair for Communications and Media Management and Director for the Center for Communications at Fordham (New York) University’s Graduate School of Business; Joann Byrd, retired Editorial Page Editor, Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Mark Zusman, Editor, Willamette Week; and Tim Gleason, Edwin L. Artzt Dean and Professor, University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.
More information about the Payne Awards, including a list of past winners, is available at journalism.uoregon.edu/payne.