Journalists and business executives from around the world are among the winners of the 2015 Oliver S. Gramling Awards, the highest staff honor of The Associated Press.
The Gramling Awards were created in 1994 to recognize AP staffers for professional excellence. Each year, a committee of AP staffers evaluates nominations submitted by their colleagues and selects winners in four categories: journalism, achievement, spirit and scholarships.
The awards, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, come from an estate set up by the late AP broadcast executive Oliver S. Gramling.
Here are the 2015 winners:
$10,000 Oliver S. Gramling Journalism Awards
- Southeast Asia fishing slaves investigation team
Though the journalism award customarily goes to individuals, the judges broke tradition in presenting it to Esther Htusan, newsperson, Myanmar; Robin McDowell, correspondent, Myanmar; Margie Mason, medical writer, Jakarta, Indonesia; and Martha Mendoza, newsperson, San Jose, Calif., because of their compelling work. Their yearlong investigation into the abusive practices of the fishing industry in Southeast Asia resulted in the release of more than 2,000 slaves and immediate reaction from major retailers, as well as the Indonesian government. They followed ships by satellite, located slaves locked in pens, and stalked refrigerated trucks to their destinations. The reporters were able to connect the catch of enslaved fishermen, some of whom had not seen their families and homes for many years, to seafood sold in major supermarket chains and processed by leading pet food brands.
- Andrew Drake, senior broadcast producer, West Africa
Whether covering the lynching of a suspected Muslim rebel in the Central African Republic, or leading AP’s first deployment in West Africa’s Ebola region, Drake succeeds in telling stories in often perilous environments. He is also a reliable cross-format journalist, describing for AP’s text report what he is transmitting on video. In addition, he has identified and mentored a network of stringers who have kept AP consistently ahead of the competition on critical stories in the vast region.
$10,000 Oliver S. Gramling Achievement Awards
- AP Middle East Extra
When customers in the Middle East asked for news on culture, society, technology and lifestyles, AP Middle East Extra delivered, with 30 regional stories a week complementing AP’s core video offering. Launched in 2014, the service meets a burgeoning customer need for news content beyond breaking news, delivering more than $2.3 million in new AP revenue this year and reinforcing AP’s presence in a growing media market. The team representing AP Middle East Extra in accepting its award consists of Debora Gorbutt, head of video content development, London; Alwyn Lindsey, vice president of sales, Europe, Middle East and Africa, London; Ghida Nehme, regional sales executive, Middle East and North Africa, Beirut; Maggie Hyde, video planner, Cairo; and Hassan Ramadan, regional sales executive, Middle East and North Africa, Doha, Qatar.
- Maria Ronson, vice president of sales, Asia
Over three decades of service, Ronson has grown AP’s presence in Asia and generated more than $250 million in sales. Based in Hong Kong, she has overseen AP’s offerings to broadcasters, newspapers, key partners and new media. Ronson’s passion for AP, her background in news and her keen sense of market trends and ability to turn them into business opportunities have made her the heart of AP’s presence in Asia. Ronson’s entrance to AP came by way of Worldwide Television News, acquired by AP in 1998, where she held senior editorial positions in Asia and London. As senior editor, Ronson produced the first pictures of the U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi, produced Gulf War coverage in 1990 and coordinated coverage of the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
$5,000 Oliver S. Gramling Spirit Awards
- Ben Jary, cameraman and production manager, London
Jary not only plays an integral role in AP’s video coverage of some of the biggest stories, he is also committed to AP, as seen in his generosity in mentoring and training colleagues. After joining AP in 2001 as a news assistant, Jary progressed to assistant producer and then to his current role. As cameraman, he has covered such stories as the Sochi Winter Olympics, Brazil World Cup, the birth of Britain’s Prince George of Cambridge, Cannes Film Festival and World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. As production manager, he tests new equipment, maintains current equipment and trains new video journalists.
- Maamoun Youssef, news monitor, Cairo
Every day, Youssef sifts through the murky online world of Islamic extremism, deftly finding and assessing and writing about propaganda messages and videos put out by the Islamic State, al-Qaida and others. He is the go-to colleague for finding a particular claim for an attack, or locating a new militant video. Despite the horrors he addresses each day, he remains cheerful and collegial, humbly working to advance AP’s mission. Youssef worked in his native Iraq as a Reuters correspondent until he stood up to Saddam Hussein’s government when it demanded he report only what they wanted known about the Shiite uprising that followed the 1991 Gulf War. He later moved to Cyprus, where he joined AP full time in 1995. A year later, Youssef moved to Cairo to join the Middle East bureau.
$5,000 Oliver S. Gramling Scholarship Awards
- Monika Mathur, news researcher, Washington
Mathur will study computer forensics and digital investigation at Champlain College in Vermont, which will enable her to apply enhanced analysis techniques to gather data from computers and digital storage media to further assist reporters and editors with research and reporting. Mathur has been a key resource on numerous investigative projects, including disclosures of a secret Cuban Twitter program funded by the U.S., security breaches at U.S. airports and military sex crimes in Japan.
- Katherine Pummill, national media executive, Los Angeles
Pummill will further her master’s degree studies in media management at The New School in New York City, learning the new business models that media companies are turning to as the industry evolves, as well as how markets are being reorganized. She will also examine key ethical issues confronting media professionals today. Pummill, a native New Yorker, recently transferred to Los Angeles and is managing the national cable and syndicated markets on the West Coast.
Get to know the winners: