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Defying The Odds To Get Out The News

AP’s Jonathan Katz wins 2010 Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism

April 5, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- When the most powerful earthquake in 200 years hit Haiti in January 2010, Associated Press correspondent Jonathan Katz ran outside his collapsing house and begged anyone he saw -- in English, Creole, Spanish and French -- for a cell phone to report the news. Now Katz has been named the recipient of the 2010 Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism.

Awarded by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, the Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism is given annually to the individual or team of journalists working for a U.S.-based media outlet who best displayed moral, ethical or physical courage in the pursuit of a story or series of stories.  

Katz -- the only foreign correspondent working in Haiti when the devastating earthquake hit -- made AP the first news outlet to alert the world of the quake. He remained in Haiti to determine and report why recovery efforts were ineffective and slow.

Katz “defines journalistic courage,” said Richard Stolley, a Medill Medal judge and founding editor of People magazine. “He stayed (in Haiti) during severe aftershocks, a deadly cholera epidemic and dangerous political turmoil. And throughout, he filed brilliant stories to AP.”

In nominating Katz for the honor, John Daniszewski, who leads AP’s international coverage as senior managing editor, wrote: “Katz slept on the bricks outside, where he woke up several times a night as aftershocks pounded his head against the ground. Four of his friends died in the quake.”

Katz reported that squalid, overcrowded conditions at a United Nations camp led to a deadly cholera outbreak -- reports denied by the U.N. until Katz obtained a document from a French scientist confirming the epidemic’s origins. As a result of his reporting, the U.N. later appointed an independent panel to examine the issue.

Katz earned a bachelor’s degree in history and American studies from Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in 2002 and, two years later, a master’s degree in journalism from Medill.

Journalists from newspapers, television stations, online news operations, magazines and radio stations writing on stories local, national or international in scope are eligible for the Medill Medal.

Finalists for the 2010 medal were Joshua Kors for “Disposable Soldiers,” an article in The Nation on the inadequacies in veterans’ health care, and Linda Valdez for a series of Arizona Republic editorials opposing Arizona’s immigration law, the most stringent in the nation. 

Topics: People