At the 2018 Ippies Awards: ‘The Good News Happens to Be in This Room’

Errol Louis speaking at the Ippies Awards on June 21, 2018. (Photo by Marco Poggio)

The 16th annual Ippies Awards, sponsored by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, were held June 21 at the J-School and drew a crowd of more than 120 journalists and friends to honor the work of the community and ethnic media reporters in the New York City metropolitan area. Cash awards totaling $8,250 were given in nine categories, from Best Video and Best Social Issues Story to Best Investigative/In-Depth Story, for work written in 2017.

Errol Louis, political anchor of NY1 and adjunct at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, who got his start in community journalism, gave the crowd a rousing speech endorsing, supporting and celebrating the hard work of community journalists. Noting that local news has fallen on hard times, with skeleton crews expected to cover the “sprawling apparatus” of city government, Louis said that “we’re barely meeting minimum standards of coverage, and it leaves government officials and unscrupulous politicians with an open playing field that they do not deserve.” The problem is nationwide, he noted. Over the last 20 years, the newspaper workforce has fallen about 40 percent, circulation is down about 30 percent, and between 2004 and 2014 the number of daily papers in the U.S. dropped by 126. In 1990 there were 455,000 people working in the news business, and by early 2017 the number had been more than halved.

“That’s the bad news,” Louis said. “The good news happens to be in this room. There are models that are growing and thriving.” Online sites like ProPublica and The Marshall Project publish award-winning investigative pieces, and philanthropic donations are supporting an array of new journalistic efforts. Taking the long view of journalism, over hundreds of years, he said, it’s important to recognize that people developed and spread news through community outlets – through church sermons, public gatherings, pamphlets, books, and other small scale means, very much like community and ethnic media. Don’t get too discouraged, Louis suggested, by the collapse of the more recent new distribution models that have failed. Focus, instead, on the possibilities that various platforms offer for the production and dissemination of news.

Attendees at the Ippies Awards on June 21. (Photo by Marco Poggio)

“You are the solution that has been waiting in the wings all along,” he told the group. “You are the ones who knew about the immigration crisis and told stories that the rest of the country is only waking up to now. You are the ones who consistently rang the bell on the city’s racially segregated schools and the deepening inequality that is eating at the heart of our communities…the need for what you do is urgent. It is very much needed. It is very much in demand. Although the week-to-week and year-to-year challenges may seem daunting financially, as long as you have what everybody needs, the solutions can be found.”

The winning Ippies entries were judged by nine separate panels of judges, and second and third place winners were announced at the ceremony as well. Taking the prize for Best Investigative/In-Depth story was Ke “April” Xu of Sing Tao Daily, for her story “The Blessing Scam: A Con Returns to Haunt Chinese Community” (English translation), about scam artists who preyed on women in Chinese communities using fear, superstition and a well-practiced con to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from their victims. The judges noted that some time after the story’s publication, The New Yorker magazine ran its own lengthy account of the scheme.

Norwood News, edited by David Cruz, took the prize for the Best Small Circulation publication, and Mariela Lombard of El Diario won the prize for best photograph with her image “Immigration: Broken Family.” For a complete list of winners announced on June 21, click here.

Also on Thursday night, Sarah Bartlett, dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, told the attendees at the 2018 Ippies Awards that the Center for Community and Ethnic Media will begin to “broaden its reach and focus on the national horizon,” and she said a new West Coast executive director, Daniela Gerson, assistant professor of journalism at California State University, Northridge, had been named and a new New York-based executive director would soon be appointed.

Randall Pinkston, an award-winning journalist who has worked for Al Jazeera and CBS, was master of ceremonies for the event and presented some of the awards. He told the journalists in attendance that “I applaud all of you who do your jobs with integrity, and purpose, and always, in the pursuit of truth.” Tom Robbins, investigative journalist in resident at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, also presented a number of the awards, including the one for Best Investigative/In-Depth Story. Robbins was chief judge of the panel that reviewed those submissions.

To view a video of the Ippies 2018 event, click here.


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