Eugene, Oregon (15 April 2014) – The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC), announced today the winners of the 2013 Ancil Payne Awards for Ethics in Journalism for outstanding ethical decisions or work published in 2013.

A hallmark for excellence in journalism ethics, the annual award recognizes journalists and news organizations that act with integrity and character, restore public trust in the media, and inspire people to do good work.

Michael Phillips of the Wall Street Journal was honored for his series “The Lobotomy Files,” an in-depth investigation into the roughly 2,000 soldiers lobotomized during and after World War II by the Veterans Administration.

“The judges this year were impressed with each of the winners’ commitment to not simply getting the story but the decision-making process behind that pursuit,” said Mike Fancher, interim executive director of SOJC’s Center for Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement.

“We are particularly impressed with the ethical consciousness that surrounded Phillips’ determination to do the story right, to do it for the families and for the man who was still alive,” Fancher said.

Editor Abbey Crain, magazine editor Matt Ford and editor-in-chief Mazie Bryant of the University of Alabama’s Crimson White newspaper were chosen for an Ancil Payne Award for their work on “The Final Barrier,” which reported allegations that black students were passed over for bids at traditionally white UA sororities because of their race.

“The Ancil Payne Award recognizes journalists who demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to ethical conduct, even when faced with economic, personal, or political pressure,” said Julianne Newton, Edwin L. Artzt Interim Dean. “Certainly these three journalists, as members of the university and Greek communities, faced each of these in pressure from administrators, the fraternity system, sources and friends to ‘leave it alone.’”

The judging panel also honored Reuters for its decision to publish the three-part series “Assets of the Ayatollah.” Although warned by sources within Iran that publishing the series might endanger the news organization’s attempts to reopen its Tehran bureau and faced with mounting costs in securing the safety of their employees in the region, Reuters persisted in supporting their reporters in getting the story.

“We recognize Reuters’ commitment as an extraordinary effort when the forces of the business would push many news organizations away from the story,” said Tom Bivins, SOJC professor & John L. Hulteng Chair in Media Ethics. “Though Reuters easily could have ignored the story, the willingness to put their ability to function in Iran on the line is commendable.”

The 2013 Ancil Payne Award winner was Robert “Alex” Green, a student journalist from Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, who was recognized for his story about the arrest and resignation of a Bible professor at the conservative Christian college. Green pursued and published the story despite the president of the college forbidding it.

Past winners include D’Anne Hamilton and Nellie Moore of “Native Voice Communications”; Kurt Eichenwald, former New York times reporter, now contributing editor with Vanity Fair; and Jay Harris, former publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, who holds the Wallis Annenberg chair in Journalism and Democracy and serves as director of The Center for the Study of Journalism and Democracy at USC Annenberg.

The awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 15, 2014, on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, Oregon.

About the Ancil Payne Awards for Ethics in Journalism

Established in 1999 at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication by Seattle broadcasting legend Ancil Payne (1921-2004), the Ancil Payne Awards for Ethics in Journalism honor journalists and news organizations that demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to ethical conduct, even when faced with economic, personal, or political pressure. 

Ancil Payne, a leader in Northwest broadcasting and lifelong contributor to the arts, politics, and education, was CEO of KING broadcasting and helped establish its reputation for and commitment to ethical journalism. In creating the award, Payne envisioned a program that would reward journalists acting with integrity and character, restore public trust in the media, and inspire people to do good work.