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News Lewis wins I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence

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UD alum a linchpin in the 'new journalism ecosystem' of nonprofit news
Charles Lewis

​Charles Lewis receives the I.F. Stone Medial for Journalistic Independence at the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University Thursday, May 3.
Photo/Lisa Abitbol, Nieman Foundation for Journalism

Charles Lewis, a UD alumni and founder of the Center for Public Integrity, received one of journalism's highest honors on Thursday: the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence.

Lewis founded the Center for Public Integrity in 1989 after an illustrious career as an ABC News and CBS "60 Minutes" producer. The center has produced hundreds of investigative reports, published 14 books and won two Pulitzer Prizes.

In 2014, the center won the Pulitzer for investigative reporting for "Breathless and Burdened," which documented how some lawyers and doctors rigged a system to deny benefits to coal miners with black lung disease.

In 2017, the center's international arm, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, won for its explanatory reporting of the Panama Papers, which exposed offshore tax havens.

In its announcement of the award, the selection committee noted Lewis' "leadership role in developing what he calls the 'new journalism ecosystem.'" That leadership includes co-founding the Institute for Nonprofit News, a collective of more than 100 nonprofit news organizations. Lewis is also the founding executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, where he is a professor of journalism.

Charles Lewis addresses gathering.

​A "pioneer in nonprofit news," Charles Lewis addresses the gathering at the award ceremony at the Nieman Foundation. Photo/Lisa Abitbol, Nieman Foundation for Journalism

Florence Graves, committee chair and founding director of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, said: "For nearly four decades, Chuck Lewis has led the reporting of groundbreaking journalism to uncover government corruption, cronyism cover-ups and crimes. A pioneer in nonprofit news, he has worked tirelessly to raise funds to help others do the same and to protect the independence of their work, free from the constraints of news organizations beholden to special interests. His important work carries on the proud tradition of I.F. Stone, speaking truth to power, and prompting fact-finding hearings and vital reforms."

In an email after learning he was this year's recipient of the I.F. Stone medal, Lewis said that he was "deeply honored and excited." In his characteristic candor, he added: "That's a bland and predictable observation, I suppose, but it is my true sentiment."

In 2001, Lewis was featured in the UD Messenger's Alumni Spotlight, and he talked about growing up has a "townie":

"I grew up in Newark, and when I walked or rode my bicycle on UD's campus, I passed large, attractive buildings, physical structures filled with history and mystery. But, they also seemed a bit remote and distant to this 'townie.' No one in my family had ever graduated with a college degree or even attended the University of Delaware.

Charles Lewis with other honorees.

From left, Jason Grotto, reporter for ProPublica Illinois and winner of the Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Journalism; Chuck Lewis; Carol Marbin Miller, senior investigative reporter at the Miami Herald and winner of the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism; and moderator: Michael Rezendes, investigative reporter for The Boston Globe's Spotlight Team. Photo/Lisa Abitbol, Nieman Foundation for Journalism

"I came of age studying political science at the University under such terrific professors as Jim Soles, Jim Oliver and John Deiner. It was there that I first came to understand that the marvelous high school civics image of a government 'of the people, by the people and for the people' does not always comport well with political reality. It was there that I first realized that people of color face much longer odds in our criminal justice process. My teachers set my mind on fire to the outrageous indignities and the inspiring opportunities in the world today, and how politics are a means to both. I went from being merely a wide-eyed idealist to an 'idealist without illusions,' to paraphrase John F. Kennedy."

The award is named for I.F. Stone, who published I.F. Stone's Weekly from 1953 to 1971 and who once wrote, "I believe that no society is good and can be healthy without freedom for dissent and for creative independence."

Lewis is also helping to build the future of journalism through his support of young journalists. He established the James R. Soles Fellowship in honor of his mentor, who taught in the Department of Political Science and International Relations from 1968 until his retirement in 2002. Soles died in 2010. The yearlong fellowship is awarded to a graduating UD senior. The 2017-18 fellow is Ryan Barwick; the 2018-19 fellow is Madeline Buiano.

In advice to students in his alumni profile on the Journalism Program website, Lewis said, "Follow your passion and follow your heart. Your instinct matters."

Lewis' career is a testament that his advice works.

Story published on 4/20/2018 ; last modified on
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UD alumnus Charles Lewis received one of journalism's highest honors: the  I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence. Lewis founded the Center for Public Integrity.

4/20/2018
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Lewis wins I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence
 
  • The Journalism Program
  • 207 Memorial Hall
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • 302-831-3870
  • journalism@udel.edu