The Washington Post team of Cenziper and Cohen noted in an interview that, at their paper, gender has become largely irrelevant as more and more women have risen to power—including new managing editor Elizabeth Spayd (in January, she became the first woman in that post in the paper’s history) and publisher Katharine Weymouth, granddaughter of the Post’s legendary leader, the late Katharine Graham. The Post’s investigative journalism ranks, once largely male (think Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward), have increasingly included women reporters in recent years. Veteran national security reporter Dana Priest won Pulitzers in 2006 and 2008 for her investigative work, and was also a Goldsmith finalist in both years. Jo Becker, who was at the Post for about seven years before joining The New York Times, shared last year’s Pulitzer for national reporting with Barton Gellman for a Post investigative series on former Vice-President Dick Cheney. The duo earlier won the 2008 Goldsmith investigative reporting prize for that series. And Susan Schmidt, now at The Wall Street Journal, won the 2006 Pulitzer for investigative reporting (and was a Goldsmith finalist as well) as part of a Washington Post team that unearthed congressional corruption involving Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
So keep an eye out for the Cenziper/Cohen series, “Forced Out,” whose Goldsmith win certainly makes it a strong contender for this year’s Pulitzer Prizes, which will be announced on April 20 (Shorenstein director Jones has said that the Goldsmith Prize is often “the Golden Globe to the Pulitzers’ Oscars”). The seven main pieces and twenty follow-ups demonstrated how D.C. landlords forced tenants out of rent-controlled apartments—often by refusing to make repairs or turning off the heat—apparently to make way for more lucrative new housing. The Shorenstein Center said that, as a result of the investigation, the Washington D.C. attorney general sued twenty-three landlords, the city fired half of its housing inspection force, and “The Tenant Protection Act of 2008” was introduced.
The Goldsmith awards provide a snapshot of the progress of women in investigative and public affairs journalism over the past two decades. Overall, since 1992, there have been sixteen women among the more than fifty journalists on the winning investigative reporting teams, and six of the eighteen career journalism awards have gone to women. The Goldsmith journalism book awards, however, have overwhelmingly gone to men, with only three women—including Mayer this year—among the thirty-three award-winning authors and co-authors.
Mayer noted that women had increasingly moved into covering national security issues that were once the domain of male reporters. Things have come a long way for her personally since 1984, when she became the first female White House correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. She recalls being told by one editor that the male reporters would be doing the national security stories, but she would be the one that would have to cover Nancy Reagan’s designer wardrobe if need be.
“Women at the top have made a big difference,” said Mayer, who was hired at The New Yorker by then-editor Tina Brown, and co-authored an earlier book with Jill Abramson, now the managing editor at The New York Times.
The latest Goldsmith awards “show how far women have come in the important jobs in journalism,” said longtime journalist Ellen Hume, a former Washington reporter with Mayer at the Journal and, earlier, a reporter at the Los Angeles Times’s Washington bureau. Hume is now the research director at the cutting-edge Center for Future Civic Media at MIT.
The Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, administered by the Shorenstein Center, honors journalism that “best promotes more effective and ethical conduct of government, the making of public policy, or the practice of politics.” The Goldsmith awards are funded by an annual grant from the Goldsmith Fund of the Greenfield Foundation. The winner among the six previously announced finalists was kept secret until the Tuesday night ceremony.