Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism

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The Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism was created at the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communications in 1999. The award was created "to honor the journalist of integrity and character who reports with insight and clarity in the face of political or economic pressures and to reward performance that inspires public trust in the media." The award was established by Seattle broadcasting legend Ancil Payne, former president and CEO of KING-TV. Past award winners have included freelancers, broadcasters and print reporters from media organizations large and small. Award winners receive a $10,000 prize.



A hallmark for excellence in journalism ethics, the annual award recognized three diverse journalists that acted with integrity and character in hopes restore public trust in the media, and inspire others to do good work. Congratulations to the 2013 Ancil Payne Award winners.

Michael Phillips of the Wall Street Journal was honored for his series “The Lobotomy Files,” an in-depth investigation into the roughly 2,000 soldiers lobotomized during and after World War II by the Veterans Administration.

Editor Abbey Crain, magazine editor Matt Ford and editor-in-chief Mazie Bryant of the University of Alabama’s Crimson White newspaper, were chosen for their work on “The Final Barrier” examining segregation in Greek life at the University of Alabama.

The selection committee also honored Thomson Reuters news organization for its decision to publish the three-part series “Assets of the Ayatollah.” Although warned by sources within Iran that publishing the series might endanger the news organization’s attempts to reopen its Tehran bureau and faced with mounting costs in securing the safety of their employees in the region, Reuters persisted in supporting their reporters in getting the story. Watch the panel discussion with Think Out Loud host, David Miller at the University of Oregon - Portland on May 14, 2014.


The 2012 Ancil Payne Award Winner is Robert “Alex” Green, a student journalist from Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee who published a story about the arrest and resignation of a Bible professor at the conservative Christian college despite the president of the college forbidding it. Click here to read more.

Listen to the podcast with Alex Green.


  • Staff of the New York Times received the award for its handling of controversial material released by Julian Assange on the whistle-blowing WikiLeaks website in 2010, including classified government documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as U.S. State Department diplomatic cables. The judges cited Executive Editor Bill Keller and The Times for the paper’s deliberate and thoughtful process in treating Assange as a source, rather than a partner; in maintaining the paper’s journalistic independence while consulting with the U.S. Government before publishing sensitive information; and in explaining its process to the public.

“We cannot overestimate the political pressures from all sides,” the Payne judges’ statement said. “ The Times took the time and resources to do a magnificent job with their investigation and reporting. It would have been very easy, considering what was already being published online at that time, to take shortcuts or limit the scope. The Times made thoughtful, carefully calculated, and line-by-line decisions on what they would print and why.”

  • Stanley Nelson of Concorida Sentinel a weekly in Ferriday, Louisiana, received the Payne Award for his investigation into the murder of Frank Morris, a black Ferriday businessman, in 1964. The murder had been ignored by law enforcement for more than 40 years. The Sentinel investigated the murder as well as another cold case—both allegedly the work of the Ku Klux Klan—for three years, publishing nearly 200 stories. The final story named Morris’ alleged murderer and was ready for publication in December 2010. It was held until January 12, 2011 at the request of Justice Department officials while the FBI completed interviews in its own investigations, which were officially reopened as a result of Nelson’s work. A grand jury was convened in February.

In making the award, the judges recognized “the huge social, economic, and political pressures on a small-town paper in the south to keep a racially motivated killing in the past. There was great personal risk—even death threats. There was no doubt a direct economic impact, both lost subscriptions and personal expense. This is as pure a definition of journalistic courage as one could craft in 2011. For Stanley Nelson to start down the tunnel and follow it for three years required a degree of ethical fortitude that is rare and should be celebrated.”

  • Special Citation: Damon Winter, a photographer of the New York Times, for his work documenting the devastation and death in the aftermath of the January 2010 Haiti earthquake.
  • Special Citation: Staff of the student Yale Daily News for its coverage of a Yale student’s high-profile suicide in March 2010.



  • News Organization: The Seattle Times
  • Individual Journalist: Glen Mabie
  • Collegiate Media: None awarded


  • News Organization—The Phoenix New Times and The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review
  • Individual Journalist—None awarded
  • Collegiate Media—Ashley Gough, editor of The Mount Observer at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Mass.


  • News Organization: The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times
  • Individual Journalist: Staff, the Santa Barbara News-Press
  • Collegiate Media: None awarded
  • Special Citation: The (Raleigh) News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer
  • Special Citation: Josh Wolf




  • Virginia Gerst, for her management of a conflict with the Pioneer Press regarding a negative restaurant review.
  • Bakersfield Californian for its reporting on the stabbing death of a government attorney.
  • Joel Elliott of Toccoa Falls College, for his role in exposing dishonesty in the resume of the college's president.




  • David Offer, editor of Stars and Stripes, for resigning to protest publisher censorship.
  • D'Anne Hamilton and Nellie Moore, for protesting an editorial decision.
  • The Jackson Sun for its historical coverage of voting rights demonstrations in 1960, including an examination of why the paper did not cover the events at the time.


See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Payne Awards School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon