PALESTINE, Texas - Palestine Herald-Press editor Jeffery Gerritt has won the 2018 Scripps Howard Award for Opinion Writing, the Scripps Howard Foundation announced Tuesday. The award comes with a $10,000 cash prize.
This year's Scripps Howard Awards, among the highest honors in American journalism, recognize the best work in 15 categories, among nearly 1,000 entries.
The Scripps Howard Foundation will present more than $170,000 in prize money to the winning organizations and journalists at its annual awards show on April 18 in Cincinnati.
“Scripps Howard is one of the top two journalism awards in the country,” Herald-Press publisher Jake Mienk said. “This is another indication our paper can compare with some of the nation's best.
“I’m very proud of Jeff and his achievements. His love for journalism shows in his work and throughout our products.”
Donna Barrett, chief executive officer of CNHI, LLC, the parent company of the Herald-Press, called the award “an incredible and well-deserved honor.”
Gerritt won for a collection of editorials and columns, entitled “What are they hiding,” that commented on a range of local and state issues, including the state's rush to execute condemned prisoners, an athletic commission's treatment of a football player, and the secrecy surrounding the death of an Anderson County Jail prisoner.
“In their clarity and detail, the editorials would be worthy of the best efforts of the largest metro newspapers in America,” the Judges wrote. “The fact that they were all published by a small Texas paper...is an example of journalism that speaks truth to power when doing so could invite truly unpleasant consequences.”
Gerritt was named editor of the Herald-Press in 2017, after spending 17 years at the Detroit Free Press as a reporter, editorial writer, and columnist. He was also the deputy editor of The Blade in Toledo for four years, and worked as a reporter for USA Today.
“I'm honored, surprised, and humbled,” Gerritt said Tuesday. “These editorials and columns were not part of a big special project. They were just punchy, daily editorials that, somehow, managed to hold their own against some extremely impressive work. I was very fortunate.”
Unlike some journalism contests, Scripps Howard is not subscription-based: The smallest newspapers and media outlets in the United States compete against the biggest, including the New York Times, which won for Human Interest writing.
“Some of these editorials were controversial, especially in a small town,” Gerritt said. “I give (Herald-Press Publisher) Jake (Mienk) a lot of credit for standing behind them and leading us to excellence.
“Grinding out a newspaper – digital or print – is always a team effort. This reflects the hard work and high standards of our entire newsroom, including City Editor PennyLynn Webb, reporters William Patrick and Michael Maresh, Sports Editor Eric Vicarro, page designer and reporter Lisa Tang, and graphic artist Mary Jones.”
The Dallas Morning News won the Distinguished Service to the First Amendment award for “Pain and Profit,” an investigation into the failures in Texas' privatized Medicaid system.
The awards show next month will stream live on YouTube and Facebook, and rebroadcast April 21 on Newsy. It will also air on Scripps stations throughout the summer.
Multi-platform reporting and collaboration with news outlets are trends among winners of the 2018 Scripps Howard Awards.
"Their work embodies the meaning of journalism that brings important truths to light, holds the powerful accountable, and changes our world," said a release from the Scripps Howard Foundation.
For a complete list of winners, go to: https://www.theindychannel.com/news/national/heres-who-wonscripps-howard-awards-for-bigachievements-in-journalism
The Palestine Herald-Press is a CNHI newspaper. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, CNHI is a leading provider of local news and information, offering a wide array of print and digital products in more than 130 communities in 22 states. For more information about CNHI, please visit www.cnhi.com.