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Associated Press reporting on Russian attack on Mariupol wins 2023 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics

Graphic showing the head shots of the 2023 winners of the Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics. The Associated Press team includes: Mystyslav Chernov, Lori Hinnant, Evgeniy Maloletka and Vasilisa Stepanenko.

A team of Associated Press reporters has won the 2023 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics for their work documenting the Russian attack on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol in March of 2022

For almost three weeks, video journalist Mystyslav Chernov, photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and video producer Vasilisa Stepanenko were the last international journalists on the ground documenting the atrocities committed as Russian forces closed in on Mariupol. With AP journalist Lori Hinnant, the team brought the shocking new realities of the war in Ukraine to an international audience and put pressure on Russia to open humanitarian corridors. 

The Center for Journalism Ethics will present the award on May 17 in a ceremony at the University Club in New York City.

The event will also feature a moderated conversation on journalism ethics with investigative reporter and senior writer at ESPN, Steve Fainaru and award-winning journalist and author David Maraniss. 

Registration for the ceremony is now open. 

Named for UW–Madison alum and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Anthony Shadid, the award honors the difficult ethical decisions journalists make when telling high-impact stories. Shadid, who died in 2012 while on assignment covering Syria, was a member of the Center for Journalism Ethics advisory board and worked to encourage integrity in reporting. 

The Shadid Award judging committee lauded the extraordinary care, quick thinking and courage the Associated Press team demonstrated while covering the earliest stages of the war. 

Lucas Graves, associate professor in the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication and chair of the committee, said this year’s winner edged out a strong pool of finalists.

“Reporting from Mariupol weeks into the Russian siege, the AP team faced a string of difficult choices,” Graves said. “Like previous generations of journalists on the front lines, they had to weigh their duties as reporters and as human beings. This meant not just protecting sources but helping victims of the war — and accepting their help to avoid capture and get the story out.”

“Anthony Shadid’s legacy indeed burns bright reading the work of this year’s winners,” said Kathleen Bartzen Culver, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics. “The courage and integrity they showed is surpassed only by the humanity they brought in sharing this vital reporting with all the rest of us.”

Fainaru is an investigative reporter at ESPN and co-author of the award-winning, New York Times best seller “League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth.” He won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his coverage of the Iraq war and was a friend and colleague to Shadid. Conversation moderator David Maraniss is a New York Times bestselling author and associate editor at the Post. He is a three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and won a Pulitzer for National Reporting in 1992.

Registration for the ceremony is now open. 

The Center for Journalism Ethics, housed in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW-Madison, provides an international hub to examine the role of professional and personal ethics in the pursuit of fair, accurate and principled journalism. Founded in 2008, the Center offers resources for journalists, educators, students and the public, including internationally recognized annual conferences exploring key issues in journalism.

For information, contact Krista Eastman, Center for Journalism Ethics administrator, at krista.eastman@wisc.edu.

Announcing our spring conference, “Ethics, Urgency & Climate Journalism”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Center for Journalism Ethics hosting its spring conference, “Ethics, Urgency & Climate Journalism,” with support from craig newmark philanthropies and the Evjue Foundation

Madison, Wisconsin – The Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will host its 14th annual journalism ethics conference at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on Friday, April 28, 2023, in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference is free, open to the public and made possible by generous sponsorships from craig newmark philanthropies and the Evjue Foundation. 

Called “Ethics, Urgency & Climate Journalism,” the conference will bring together news media professionals, non-profit news leaders, media innovators, academics, climate change communicators, students and the public to address the ethical dimensions of covering climate change for our local, state, national and global communities. 

Some argue that journalism still isn’t effectively communicating the scope and scale of the climate change problem. And some barriers to conveying climate change urgency  lie within the field and practices of journalism itself, leaving journalists to question hard-baked professional practices and reimagine their position within existing ethical codes and value systems. 

As media organizations and thought leaders continue to call for new, different and improved coverage, the conference will foster important discussions around three areas of ethical concern: who gets heard on climate change?; what are the structural barriers to conveying scope and urgency?; and what are the many ways forward for journalists and other climate change communicators?  

“In this moment, climate questions feel relentless,” said Kathleen Bartzen Culver, James E. Burgess Chair in Journalism Ethics and director of the Center. “The public needs effective and ethical journalism to aid in the search for answers to those critical questions. I’m proud this conference will advance those efforts.”

Expert panelists will take on subjects such as climate reporting, equity and justice, how traditional media structures affect what gets covered and how, the contentious role of advocacy in journalism and more. TIME Magazine climate change reporter Justin Worland will provide a keynote address titled, “Justice and Journalism’s Climate Challenge.” 

The Center for Journalism Ethics, housed in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW-Madison, provides an international hub for the examination of the role of professional and personal ethics in the pursuit of fair, accurate and principled journalism. The Center offers resources for journalists, educators, students and the public, including internationally recognized annual conferences exploring key issues in journalism.

The Evjue Foundation is the charitable arm of The Capital Times newspaper. Since its founding in the 1960s, the Foundation has made grants totaling more than $70 million to worthy educational, cultural and charitable organizations in the newspaper’s circulation area. 

craig newmark philanthropies supports groups that seek to defend values such as fairness, opportunity and respect and strengthen American democracy. The organization drives broad civic engagement by working to advance organizations focused on trustworthy journalism and the information ecosystem, voter protection, women in tech, and veterans and military families. Craig Newmark is the founder of craigslist. 

Registration is open and available here.

For more information, see the conference web page and/or contact Krista Eastman, administrator at the Center for Journalism Ethics, at krista.eastman@wisc.edu

Recently retired NBC News reporter Pete Williams talked ethics and covering the Supreme Court

NBC News’ Pete Williams talks with Kathleen Culver, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, during a public event hosted at the Play Circle Theater at the Memorial Union on Dec. 7, 2022. The event was open to the public and centered around questions about journalism ethics and Williams’ experience covering the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW–Madison)

Blake McCoy is a 2022-23 fellow at the Center for Journalism Ethics and a graduate student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

On December 7, award winning journalist and retired NBC News correspondent Pete Williams sat down with UW–Madison Center for Journalism Ethics Director Kathleen Bartzen Culver to discuss his path into journalism and the ethics of reporting on crime and the U.S. Supreme Court. 

“I am puzzled by people who say they don’t know what they’re going to do when they grow up because I’ve always known I wanted to do this,” Williams said.

At just 9 years old, Williams started his own neighborhood newspaper. In high school and while earning his degree at Stanford University, Williams worked in radio. After graduation, he returned to his hometown of Casper, Wyoming. There, he worked as a reporter and news director at KTWO-TV and Radio. 

In 1986, Williams joined congressman Dick Cheney’s staff as press secretary and legislative assistant. Two years later, Cheney became Secretary of Defense, and Williams took on the role of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. 

After his time as Assistant Secretary of Defense, Williams transitioned back to journalism. Based in Washington D.C., he covered the U.S. Supreme Court and the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security for almost 30 years. 

“Maybe it’s just because I’m somebody who likes rules,” Williams said. “But I think the law is fascinating.” 

When asked about his transition from a political appointee at the Department of Defense to working as a reporter for NBC, Williams said he didn’t face ethical obstacles. 

Williams described his role at the Pentagon as an “institutional spokesman” more than a political figure. “When I came to NBC, I had worked at the Department of Defense, so I clearly was not going to cover defense issues,” he said. “It would have been inappropriate for many reasons.” 

“When I went to NBC News,” Williams said, “my job was to be loyal to the National Broadcasting Company, and I didn’t find that a difficult transition to make.” 

L.A.W. 

During his career, Williams reported on many events including the Boston Marathon bombing, the 9/11 attack investigation and the Centennial Olympic Park bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics, as well as major Supreme Court rulings. 

“I started covering the law when I was still in Wyoming, and I always found it fascinating,” Williams said. “My legal name is Louis Alan Williams. Now think about those initials. So maybe it was predestination, I don’t know.” 

To the audience in the Play Circle at Memorial Union, Williams described the journalistic ethics of reporting on the Supreme Court. He said that the goal of a Supreme Court reporter is to be neutral. 

“Nobody should be able to watch your story on Nightly News or read it on the web and say ‘Aha! He wants that side to win,” Williams said. 

“It’s not hard to maintain that neutrality because the court is built to have two sides,” he said. “You don’t have to go searching for the other point of view. It’s right there.” 

Pete Williams speaks with Katy Culver while both are seated in red chairs.
(Photo by Bryce Richter / UW–Madison)

Williams said the reason cases come to the Supreme Court is because they are difficult cases and questions to answer. When covering the court, he said his job was to give equal coverage to both sides of cases without indicating his personal point of view. 

Politicization of the Court

“The Supreme Court does not view its mission as the judicial injustice corrector,” Williams said. “It views its mission as harmonizing the law.” 

When asked if we should be covering more of the Supreme Court and their process, Williams said the selection of what is covered comes at milestones in the cases and depends on the specific issue. For example, Williams said sometimes stories will air when the court grants a case, when the briefs are submitted and when a decision is made. 

When it comes to reporting on the court as an institution in a climate of ever present politicization, Williams said it’s “worth noting” that supreme court justices tend to vote in ways aligned with the president they were appointed by, however that didn’t used to be the case. 

“[Prior to 1985,] it wasn’t true that the people who tended to vote conservatively were all appointed by Republican presidents. Now it is true,” Williams said. 

For those keeping an eye on the Supreme Court term, Williams spoke about the coverage of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis and Moore v. Harper

Williams said the 303 Creative case is difficult to cover because the Supreme Court has twice passed on the issues and because it is not clear yet what legal reasoning for the decision will be. 

He said the question before the court is this: “Can a business owner refuse to serve a same-sex wedding, either because of religious views or free speech views?” and “Is a website design speech?”

(Photo by Bryce Richter / UW–Madison)

In regard to Moore v. Harper, Williams said the case is huge and it’s complicated, but he doesn’t think the court will rule in favor of Moore and the “independent state legislature” theory.

“The extension of that argument is beyond just redistricting, Williams said. “If there’s any dispute over an election, the legislature gets the last word and the state courts have no role here.” 

“I don’t think [the Supreme Court] is going to go for the theory. It didn’t seem to have enough takers,” he said. 

A Career in Stories 

When taking questions from the audience, Williams said some of the most memorable stories he reported on included the 2000 presidential election, historic Supreme Court decisions including the 2008 decision about the Second Amendment, and a story about an FBI agent accused of being a Russian spy. 

When reflecting on the many ethical decisions he’s made throughout his tenure, Williams said he doesn’t think he would change any reporting choices he made. 

“There were mistakes I made, I mean, I’m a human being,” Williams said. “Those are small and, I hope, forgotten.” 

“[Ethical decisions] are the sorts of decisions that, as you know, journalists make all the time,” he said. 

Watch the whole livestream here.

The Center for Journalism Ethics encourages the highest standards in journalism ethics worldwide. We foster vigorous debate about ethical practices in journalism and provide a resource for producers, consumers and students of journalism. Sign up for our quarterly newsletter here.