The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma of the Columbia Journalism School Announces Winners of the 2013 Dart Awards

By: Press Release | Columbia Journalism School

New York, April 3, 2013 – The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of the Columbia Journalism School, today announced the winners of the 2013 Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma. This year’s winners are: the Los Angeles Times; and the collaborative team of Pro Publica, Fundación MEPI and This American Life. Honorable mentions go to The York Daily Record, The New York Times ‘At War’ Blog and The New York Times Magazine.  

The annual Dart Awards recognize outstanding reporting in all media that portrays traumatic events with accuracy, insight and sensitivity while illuminating the effects of violence and tragedy on victims’ lives.  

The Los Angeles Times received the Dart Award for “Standing Up: Davien’s Story” (Molly Hennessey-Fiske, reporter; Barbara Davidson, photographer; Drex Heikes, editor; Arkasha Stevenson and Don Kelsen, videographers; Albert Lee, producer, Mary Cooney, visuals editor). This powerful and poignant multimedia series tells the story of Davien Graham, who at 16-years old was shot and left paralyzed by a Latino gang member merely for being black. With dignity, insight and compassion, the series documents Davien’s life over the course of five years – from his hospital bed to his home and school, through the trial and conviction of his shooter and beyond.
Judges called “Standing Up” a “tour de force” “resonating at the highest level of journalistic excellence.” They praised Hennessey-Fiske for her “foresight” and “tenacity,” and for producing a “textured, nuanced narrative” that explains the randomness of violence and “tapestry of different impacts.” They called Davidson’s photographs “transporting,” and the multimedia component “tremendous.” Judges also recognized the “sheer commitment individuals at all levels of the newspaper displayed despite on-going turmoil in the industry.”  

The collaborative team of Pro Publica, Fundación MEPI and This American Life received the Dart Award for “Finding Oscar: Massacre, Memory and Justice in Guatemala” and “What Happened at Dos Erres” (For ProPublica: Sebastian Rotella, reporter; Krista Kjellman Schmidt, editor; For Fundación MEPI, Ana Arana, reporter; For This American Life: Brian Reed, reporter and producer; Habiba Nosheen, reporter and producer). This comprehensive, multi-platform project centers on Oscar Ramírez Castañeda, a Guatemalan immigrant who, at 32, learns he is not the son of a heroic military officer, but was abducted at age three by an officer whose commando unit massacred 250 people in the jungle village of Dos Erres. While Oscar’s mother and eight siblings died, his real father had survived and was still alive. Weaving together perspectives of witnesses, survivors and perpetrators with vast amounts of historical documentation, “Finding Oscar” and “What Happened at Dos Erres” uncover the truth surrounding one of the worst crimes in Guatemala’s bloody civil war, and portray the shadow of historic atrocity with exceptional depth and psychological nuance.  

Judges called “Finding Oscar” and “What Happened at Dos Erres” “wonderfully gripping” and “utterly remarkable” in its level of complexity, engagement and impact. They praised the variety of “delicately-balanced storytelling techniques,” “astute interviewing” and “range of voices and perspectives” that created a “riveting” and “revealing” narrative about perpetrators, victims and justice.  They commented on the “unusual strength” of the online, radio and multimedia components, and commended the “transnational and transcultural collaboration” between ProPublica, Fundación MEPI and This American Life, calling it a model for innovative reporting on human rights.  

Each winning team will receive a $5,000 cash prize.  

Honorable mentions, carrying no cash award, went to The York Daily Record, The New York Times ‘At War’ Blog and The New York Times Magazine.  

The York Daily Record received an Honorable Mention for “The Story Behind these Hands: Finding Their Way Out” (Bill Landauer, reporter; Scott Blanchard, editor; Jason Plotkin, visual journalist; Samantha Dellinger, graphic artist). The story weaves together the experiences of students and teachers, and explores the lasting impact of trauma on one community nine years after the 2003 shooting at Red Lion Junior High that left the principle and shooter dead. Judges called it “moving,” “compassionate” and “eloquent.” They remarked on “innovative” online presentation, the “respectful engagement with readers,” and the “significant community service” it provided.  

The New York Times ‘At War’ Blog received an Honorable Mention for the writing of Thomas J. Brennan (James Dao, editor). Brennan, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan and was diagnosed with PTSD upon returning home, offers a uniquely personal and clear-eyed account of military culture and life as a veteran.  Judges called Brennan’s blogging “fresh,” “powerful” and “profound.” They recognized the “wide-ranging” and “far-reaching” impact his work has had on a generation of soldiers and their families. The New York Times Magazine received an Honorable Mention for “Did You Think About the Six People You Executed” (Robert Worth, reporter and writer; Jehad Nga, photographer; Joel Lovell, editor; David Vecsey, copy editor). This extraordinary report offers an intimate portrait of the effects of torture, trauma and survivor guilt on both victims and perpetrators in post-war Libya. Judges called it “uniquely balanced” and “sophisticated” in examining the “ambiguity between victors and victims” in the chaos of war.  

The Dart Awards, established in 1995, are administered by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, based at the Columbia Journalism School. The Dart Awards are a team prize, recognizing that presenting in-depth journalism on these challenging subjects requires a newsroom-wide commitment. Begun as a newspaper-only competition, the Dart Awards now consider entries from across the media spectrum.  

The 2013 winners and honorable mentions will be recognized at a public ceremony the evening of May 1 at the Columbia Journalism School.  


The Boston Globe, “68 Blocks: Life, Death, Hope”; Center for Investigative Reporting/ California Watch, “Broken Shield”; Mother Jones, “No Way Out”; Rolling Stone, “School of Hate”; Tampa Bay Times, “In God’s Name”; Vox Tablet/New England Public Radio, “Never Forget: Aging Survivors Face Delayed PTSD”; and The Wall Street Journal, “For Wounded Vet, Love Pierces the Fog of War.”  

The jury combines journalists, mental health professionals and victim advocates.  

Final judges: Kevin Cullen, columnist, The Boston Globe and 2011 Dart Award winner; Kenny Irby, senior faculty, The Poynter Institute; Dale Maharidge, Associate Professor, Columbia Journalism School; Stefanie Friedhoff, Director of Special Projects, Niemen Foundation at Harvard; Nancy Kassam-Adams, Ph.D., Associate Director for Behavioral Research, Center for Injury Research and Prevention, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and President-Elect, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS); and Susanne Reber, Senior Coordinating Editor for Multiplatform Projects and Investigations, Center for Investigative Reporting and 2011 Dart Award winner.   

First round judges: Rachel Dissell, reporter, The Plain Dealer and 2008 Dart Award Winner; Paul Dolan, Executive Director, ABC News; Kathie Klarreich, freelance journalist and 2011 Ochberg Fellow; Teru Kuwayama, photographer and 2010 Ochberg Fellow; Michel Marizco, Senior Field Correspondent, KJZZ Tucson; Rob Perez, reporter, Honolulu Star-Advertiser and 2009 Dart Award winner; Elaine Rivera, Lecturer, Lehman College; Julian Rubinstein, Website Editor, Dart Center.  

About the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma  

The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma is dedicated to improving media coverage of trauma, conflict and tragedy, and also addresses the consequences of such coverage for those working in journalism. The Dart Center develops educational resources for use in journalism schools and news organizations, provides training and conducts research about news coverage of violence and trauma. It also hosts the Ochberg Fellowships in Journalism and Trauma, a seminar program for mid-career journalists named in honor of psychiatrist Frank Ochberg, M.D., a pioneer in trauma studies. For more information, visit  

For a century, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has prepared journalists with instruction and training that stresses academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry, and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer, the School opened in 1912 and offers master of science, master of arts, and doctor of philosophy degrees. For more information, visit

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