A Village Voice Media writer has won the nation's preeminent competition for young journalists.
John Dickerson of Phoenix New Times has won the 2008 Livingston Award for Young Journalists in the local reporting category. His victory marks the fourth time in the past decade that a writer from these papers has won a prestigious Livingston — more than any other American media organization.
This year’s judges also recognized Elizabeth Dwoskin of the Village Voice as a finalist for her story, “The Fall of the House of Rubashkin,” which traced the decline and fall of the nation’s preeminent kosher meat-packer.
In addition to posting more winners than any other American media company, VVM also has had more Livingston finalists: 23 since 1999, compared to 17 apiece for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Dallas Morning News.
Young writers interested in the craft of story telling have clearly found a home in alternative newsweeklies.
The Livingston Awards honor excellence in writing and reporting for journalists under the age of 35. They are widely considered the nation’s most prestigious recognition for young reporters because unlike most contests, journalists from all media — print, broadcast or online — compete against each other.
Judges for this year’s Livingstons included Ken Auletta of the New Yorker, Christiane Amanpour of CNN, Tom Brokaw of NBC News and Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen.
With Dickerson’s win, VVM has now produced twice as many Livingston winners as any other news gathering organization in the past ten years.
Since 1999, the Associated Press, the New York Times and the Dallas Morning News have each had two winners.
Dickerson joins Julie Jargon of Westword (2003, for stories exposing sexual abuse at the Air Force Academy), Bob Norman of New Times Broward-Palm Beach (2001, for stories revealing how federal immigration authorities unwittingly allowed 9/11 terrorists into the country), and Jennifer Gonnerman of the Village Voice (2000, for articles about a New York mother sentenced to 20 years to life on drug charges).
Dickerson took this year’s prize in Local Reporting for his series “Prescription for Disaster,” which exposed numerous holes in the State of Arizona’s safety net for medical patients. Thanks to lax oversight, Dickerson reported, even prestigious hospitals such as the Mayo Clinic were “diagnosing” patients using employees who were neither doctors nor nurses, and were allowing doctors with drug addictions to continue practicing.
Dickerson himself was a finalist in last year’s contest. His story “Inhumanity Has a Price,” which ran as part of New Times‘ ongoing coverage of controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, revealed that Arpaio’s inhumane jails and the resulting lawsuits had cost Arizona taxpayers an astonishing $41.4 million in legal settlements and fees.
Winners of the Livingston Awards receive a $10,000 prize and are honored at a gathering with former winners.
Dickerson, who left journalism to become a minister in a Prescott, Arizona church, recently expressed interest in freelance writing. Of his tenure at New Times, Dickerson says, “Working at New Times, and Village Voice Media, affords writers the time that’s needed to produce quality long-form journalism. And it rewards them for doing that. At a time when newspapers are increasingly driven by profits and money, New Times continues to seek out and foster writers who are passionate about the truth.”
Village Voice Media looks forward to publishing the parson as well as encouraging other young writers to strive for their own Livingston Award.