The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press today announced the recipients of this year’s Freedom of the Press Awards, which recognize the accomplishments of leaders in the news media and legal fields whose work embodies the values of the First Amendment.
The 2023 honorees are:
- Rachel Aston, Photographer, Las Vegas Review-Journal;
- Glenn Cook, Executive Editor, Las Vegas Review-Journal;
- Lizzie Johnson, Local Enterprise Reporter, The Washington Post;
- Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, Executive Director, Native American Journalists Association;
- Ashton R. Lattimore, Editor-in-Chief, Prism;
- Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor, Harvard University; and
- Pierre G. Thomas, Chief Justice Correspondent, ABC News.
“The Freedom of the Press Awards represent the important roles of both journalism and the law in fostering an informed democracy. We’re proud to recognize these leaders in both fields; they deeply understand how essential it is to work together — whether it’s across newsrooms or across industries — to uphold the values of a free press,” said Stephen J. Adler, chair of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
The 2023 Freedom of the Press Awards will be held on October 11, 2023, at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City. The awards dinner is co-chaired by Apple Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kate Adams; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Partner Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr.; and Boston Globe Media CEO Linda Henry.
“This year’s Freedom of the Press Award winners are truly incredible. They’re tenacious and committed, and their work demonstrates how important the First Amendment is in action,” said Bruce D. Brown, executive director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Their extraordinary contributions to journalism and media law ensure that stories that might otherwise go untold are brought to light — and our democracy is better for it.”
Minow and Thomas will each be recognized with the Freedom of the Press Career Achievement Award, which honors an individual with a long history of upholding the value of freedom of the press throughout their career.
Minow has taught since 1981 at Harvard Law School where she served as dean for eight years. An expert in human rights and advocacy for members of racial and religious minorities and for women, children, and persons with disabilities, she also writes and teaches about media and technology, democracy, privatization, military justice, and ethnic and religious conflict. She is the author of several books, the most recent of which — “Saving the News: Why the Constitution Calls for Government Action to Preserve the Freedom of Speech” — was published in 2021. Minow serves on numerous boards, including as board chair of the MacArthur Foundation, co-chair of the access to justice project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the board of trustees of public media GBH.
Thomas is the chief justice correspondent for ABC News, where he reports for “World News Tonight with David Muir,” “Good Morning America,” “Nightline,” “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” and across programs and platforms including ABC News Radio and digital. He joined the network in November 2000 after having started his career at The Washington Post, and later moving to CNN as a Justice Department correspondent. He is one of the most recognized and honored correspondents at ABC News, helping the network win numerous Edward R. Murrow Awards, Emmy Awards, and Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards. In addition to individual Murrow Awards and National Association of Black Journalists Awards, Thomas has received the RTDNA John F. Hogan Distinguished Service Award, has been named the Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists and Journalist of the Year by the News Literacy Project, and was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Washington, D.C., Professional Chapter for the Society of Professional Journalists. Thomas has also served as a longtime Steering Committee member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Johnson, Aston, and Cook will be recognized with the Freedom of the Press Catalyst Award, which honors journalists or organizations whose reporting has had a significant impact. After Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German was stabbed to death in September 2022, the Review-Journal and The Washington Post collaborated to complete an investigation into a Las Vegas-based Ponzi scheme that German had planned to pursue before his death. The resulting story reported by Johnson and photographed by Aston — “An alleged $500 million Ponzi scheme preyed on Mormons. It ended with FBI gunfire.” — both honored German’s legacy and demonstrated that attacks on the First Amendment and those who live by its values cannot prevent truth from coming to light.
Johnson joined The Washington Post as a staff writer in 2021. She previously worked at The San Francisco Chronicle as an enterprise and investigative reporter, among other publications. Her first book, “Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire,” is about the blaze that leveled the Northern California town of Paradise.
Aston is a photographer and videographer at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She frequently partners with the newspaper’s investigative team, producing long-term projects and short documentaries. The intent behind all of her work is to expand the narrative of Las Vegas beyond the Strip by reporting on the people and issues that reflect the true community.
Cook is executive editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Under his leadership, the newspaper has filed and won multiple public records lawsuits, including a nearly four-year battle that ended a decades-long local practice of keeping autopsy reports confidential. He created the newspaper’s popular “What Are They Hiding?” column to educate Nevadans about transparency laws, highlight bureaucracies that block journalism, and shame public officials who wrongly deny access to public records. A 27-year employee of the Review-Journal, he previously served as managing editor, senior editorial writer and columnist, and assistant city editor. He is president of the Nevada Press Foundation board and previously served as president of the Nevada Press Association.
Landsberry-Baker will be recognized with the Freedom of the Press Local Champion Award, which honors a journalist, attorney, or organization whose work has had a significant impact locally. She is an enrolled citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the executive director of the Native American Journalists Association, and a recipient of the 2018 NCAIED “Native American 40 Under 40” award. Landsberry-Baker made her directorial debut with the documentary feature film, “Bad Press,” which chronicles the long fight for a free press on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation in Oklahoma. “Bad Press” premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, where it received the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Freedom of Expression, and was supported by the Sundance Institute, Ford Foundation JustFilms, NBC, and The Gotham. The film was also recognized with the One in a Million Award from the 2023 Sun Valley Film Festival. Through “Bad Press,” her work as a journalist, and her leadership of the Native American Journalists Association, Landsberry-Baker has contributed to a media landscape that is more representative of Indian Country and stronger within it.
Lattimore will be recognized with the Reporters Committee’s Rising Star Award, which honors an up and coming journalist, media lawyer, or organization that has already made great strides in defending freedom of the press or who has conquered significant roadblocks in the course of telling an important story. Lattimore is the editor-in-chief of Prism, a nonprofit news outlet led by journalists of color and dedicated to producing journalism by and for the communities most impacted by injustice. In 2022, her widely-circulated reporting on draft anti-abortion legislation that had the potential to criminalize news reporting on abortion was the foundation for an open letter to the Department of Justice advocating for press freedom, signed by a coalition of more than two dozen news organizations. Her reporting at the intersection of race, culture, and law has been published in The Washington Post, Slate, CNN, Essence, DAME Magazine, Scalawag Magazine, Poynter, and elsewhere. Before joining Prism, she practiced law for several years and was the senior writer and managing editor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In 2021, she was selected for the Maynard 200 Fellowship by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, as well as the cohort of Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media.