In the evening of October 18 at New York City’s Grand Hyatt Hotel, SportsBall 2017, a celebration that honors individuals and organizations that are making significant contributions to urban communities in the areas of health, education, medical research, community service, and philanthropy honored Soledad O’Brien, an award-winning journalist, speaker, author and philanthropist who anchors and produces the Hearst Television political magazine program “Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien.” O’Brien, founder and CEO of Starfish Media Group, also reports for HBO Real Sports, the PBS NewsHour, WebMD and has authored two books. She has anchored and reported for NBC, CNN and others, winning numerous awards, including three Emmys, the George Peabody award, an Alfred I DuPont prize and the Gracie. Newsweek Magazine named her one of the “15 People Who Make America Great.” With her husband, she is founder of the PowHERful Foundation, an organization that helps girls get to, and through, college by providing financial assistance, mentorship, and wraparound services to help its scholars achieve at their highest potential.
Earlier in the day, and directly across the street from the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) honored several outstanding female journalists at the 2017 Courage in Journalism Awards luncheon at Cipriani. The honorees were selected for exhibiting extraordinary bravery and courage as they reported from areas of instability, oppression and conflict.
This year’s honorees included Deborah Amos, Middle East Correspondent for NPR News, who has worked on numerous front lines, covered Syria’s violent and protracted crisis, and was kidnapped in Somalia; Saniya Toiken, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Kazakhstan, who has been harassed, threatened, and scrutinized for her reporting on government corruption and labor issues; and Hadeel al-Yamani, who is the first woman television correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic in Yemen and has covered the civil war. Andrea Mitchell, long-time Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC News and host of MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” received IWMF’s Lifetime Achievement Award for entering her fifth decade of political reporting.
Lifetime Achievement winner Andrea Mitchell opened her remarks noting that one IWMF winner — Hadeel al-Yamani — was not in the room. “Can you tell me why Hadeel – who stood and braved the warzone and all the intimidation and dangers without missing a beat, without losing any of her passion for telling the story of her countrymen — exactly what threat does she pose to the borders of the United States of America? If we cannot give a visa to Hadeel al-Yamani to come to this country and accept the award that she so incredibly deserves, what do we stand for?” Mitchell questioned.
MSNBC’s host Rachel Maddow joined Mitchell on stage following her acceptance to hold a special conversation about the state of our nation and the media’s role in it, specifically as a female journalist. Maddow started the conversation by taking the moment to share what she appreciates most about Andrea and how she has paved the way for female journalists.
“You are the person who made me a feminist at work because you made me realize that I couldn’t do it alone and that the women around me had figured out how to do it in the business that we operate in and that we were not going to be able to get the finish line without each other. And you made room for me in a way that no one else has, and I can never repay you for that,” Maddow said to a room full of roaring applause and appreciation.
At the event, the IWMF also announced American radio journalist Michele Norris as the winner of its inaugural Gwen Ifill Award, which was named in honor of the legendary PBS NewsHour broadcaster and recognizes an outstanding woman journalist of color who carries forward Ifill’s legacy of mentorship, leadership and commitment to diversity in journalism. Norris is a former host of the National Public Radio evening news program, “All Things Considered.” She was the first African-American female host for NPR.
“Today, in New York, we recognized visionaries in our field. Our Courage winners overcome incredible odds to bring us stories of conflict and humanity — that we would likely not hear otherwise. At a time when press freedom is on shaky ground, we honor their commitment to the truth and to women journalists who follow in their footsteps,” Elisa Lee Muñoz, Executive Director of the IWMF, said.
The 2017 award winners also are being recognized in Washington, DC on October 23, 2017 in a ceremony hosted by Judy Woodruff (PBS NewsHour) and in Los Angeles on October 25, 2017 in a ceremony hosted by Willow Bay (USC Annenberg School for Journalism and Communication).