WASHINGTON — McClatchy has won a prestigious George Polk Award for war reporting for its coverage of Syria’s civil war.
The award, given by Long Island University, named McClatchy special correspondents David Enders and Austin Tice for their reporting from inside Syria, as well as European Bureau Chief Roy Gutman and Washington correspondents Hannah Allam and Jonathan S. Landay for reporting from outside Syria.
The award’s judges said that Enders, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., who has been under contract to cover Syria for McClatchy for the past year, was the first to report a number of important developments in the conflict, including how rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad had carved out a safe haven in northern Syria and how the Nusra Front, which the United States has designated a branch of al Qaida in Iraq, had become the leading rebel military unit.
Tice, the judges noted, wrote groundbreaking reports for McClatchy on the poor tactical performance of the Syrian military. He was among the first American correspondents to witness Syrian-rebel confrontations at close quarters, the judges said. Among the articles included in the entry was Tice’s first-person account of skirting Syrian security checkpoints to join rebels in Damascus.
Tice, a freelancer whose family lives in Houston, was last heard from on Aug. 13, shortly before he was taken captive, apparently by Assad-allied forces. A short video that was posted on the Internet Sept. 26 showed him blindfolded and being led up a hill by unknown gunmen chanting "God is great" in Arabic. Reports since from U.S. government officials and others have said that Tice is in the custody of the Syrian government.
Tice's parents, Debra and Marc Tice, in a statement Sunday, said the announcement "of this coveted award makes his absence all the more poignant."
"We are immensely proud of this moment for Austin," the statement said. "We profoundly wish he were here to share it with us."
Long Island University confers the Polk awards annually to honor special achievement in journalism. The awards were established in 1949 to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent who was murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek Civil War.
In addition to war reporting, this year’s awards covered 14 other categories and went to a range of news organizations from The New York Times and CBS News to public television’s Frontline and Mother Jones magazine.
The award for international reporting was shared by the staff of Bloomberg News and David Barboza of The New York Times for their reports on the vast wealth accumulated by the families of leading figures in China’s government.
The award for political reporting went to David Corn of Mother Jones magazine for his article revealing Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s declaration at a $50,000-a-plate Florida fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans – those who back President Barack Obama – are “victims” who are “dependent upon government” and “pay no income tax.” The revelation possibly cost Romney the presidency, the judges said.
Other awards categories included local and state reporting and business coverage.
The awards will be presented officially April 11 in New York City.