Trailblazing Reporters and Video News Innovator Honored at International Journalism Gala

Nov 132012
  • Afghan broadcaster Sami Mahdi accepted the Knight International Journalism Award for his pioneering news programs.

  • CNN lead political anchor Wolf Blitzer emceed the event.

  • NBC's Ann Curry introduced the 2012 presidential photo collection by Pulitzer Prize winner David Hume Kennerly.

  • YouTube CEO Salar Kamangar - and some special friends - accepted the News Innovation Award on behalf of his company. 

Washington – More than 500 media leaders and luminaries gathered at the International Center for Journalists’ (ICFJ) Awards Dinner in Washington to honor journalists and news innovators who have had tremendous impact.

Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen presented the Knight International Journalism Award to Kassim Mohamed, a Kenyan correspondent with Star FM, who reported extensively on the Somali pirates and to Sami Mahdi, an Afghan television news director at 1TV, who exposed violent abuses against women.

YouTube, the online video platform that is revolutionizing how news is distributed worldwide, received ICFJ’s 2012 News Innovation Award. It is given for pioneering work that promotes the free flow of news and the open exchange of ideas.

Accepting the award, YouTube CEO Salar Kamangar said the video platform has made it possible for people to have “immediate and unfiltered information about what is happening on the ground” and has allowed the world to see events as they unfold in places that were previously inaccessible, like Syria.

He said YouTube is introducing further innovations to help surface the best content – like organizing channels so that people can follow the names they trust, and adding auto-captioning so that videos can be instantly translated into dozens of languages.

But he told the gathering of journalists and media leaders that their work is more important than ever because of the massive new flow of information from citizens. “We need YOU to provide the analysis and context that only people who have dedicated their lives to this craft can bring.”

The evening’s master of ceremonies was CNN’s lead political anchor Wolf Blitzer. The keynote speaker was investigative reporter Bob Woodward, an associate editor at The Washington Post, who said the Knight Award winners confront “barriers and hostilities… that we American journalists never really have to deal with.”

He said the journalists’ courage was in the tradition of legendary Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, who prodded Woodward and colleague Carl Bernstein to get to the truth behind the 1973 Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Woodward said secret government was the greatest worry everywhere because “democracies die in darkness,” but he said international journalists such as the award winners fight against secrecy and corruption “with far fewer tools and greater risk to themselves."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a videotaped address, saluted journalists who “tell stories that need to be told and shed light on issues that cannot afford to be hidden in the shadows.” She also commended “the work of the International Center for Journalists for promoting quality journalism around the world.”

At the gathering, Ibargüen announced two new grants to ICFJ to fund the Knight International Journalism Fellowships: a three-year, $3.15 million grant to promote news innovation worldwide from the Knight Foundation, and a two-year, $2.65 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for helping African journalists produce compelling stories using data on health and development issues.

ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan said 2012 has been the organization’s strongest year in its 28-year history, with more programs reaching a record number of participants. “We are helping news organizations make the best use of new technologies while upholding a commitment to the highest professional standards.”