NEW YORK – Associated Press journalists and staffers based in Gaza City, Nairobi, Los Angeles and beyond are among the winners of the 2021 Oliver S. Gramling Awards, the highest internal honors of The Associated Press.
Created in 1994 to recognize AP staffers for professional excellence, the Gramling Awards are decided each year by a panel of judges from across the news cooperative.
The $10,000 awards come from a fund established by the estate of the late AP broadcast executive Oliver S. Gramling.
The judges this year evaluated submissions in three categories: journalism, achievement and spirit.
“This year’s recipients truly represent the best of AP. They all embody commitment, persistence and talent,” said AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt. “They told stories that no one else told; they served our mission even in the most extraordinary circumstances; they discovered new revenue sources for the AP; they inspired their colleagues.”
Here are the 2021 winners:
$10,000 Oliver S. Gramling Journalism Awards:
- Ethiopia coverage team
As conflict erupted in Ethiopia’s Tigray region – and as authorities tried to keep the world from knowing what was going on – AP’s Ethiopia coverage team employed journalistic skill and persistence to reveal the horrors of the conflict in Tigray. These journalists overcame obstacles to produce exclusive and compelling all-formats coverage that illustrated in detail systematic violence and the deteriorating, alarming crisis that followed. Their hard work ensured the world knew what was happening in Tigray and exposed one of the biggest humanitarian disasters. The team did so with great sensitivity and commitment. The Ethiopia coverage team is: Benjamin Curtis, chief photographer and bureau chief, Nairobi, Kenya; Cara Anna, East Africa correspondent, Nairobi, Kenya; Khaled Kazziha, East Africa senior producer, Nairobi, Kenya; Rodney Muhumuza, Uganda correspondent, Kampala, Uganda; Nariman El Mofty, photographer, Cairo.
- Jae C. Hong, photographer, Los Angeles
Through gripping photos, Hong documented the pain, horror, and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. From his story on hospital chaplains guiding the dying through their last moments to the photos of hospital wards and exhausted staff, he showed a rare glimpse inside a surreal world. Hong’s colleagues are often in awe of his work, calling him one of AP’s most creative and versatile photographers. Aside from his searing images of the pandemic, one of his most notable projects this year is a unique look at Korean Americans amid increased attacks on Asians in the U.S. Hong, who is Korean American, was able to gain the trust and access necessary to produce something very difficult: intimate pictures and stories of Koreans in Los Angeles. His bravery and commitment to telling these important stories are unmatched.
- Gaza team
Despite constant turmoil and reporting challenges, this team of all-formats journalists rose to the occasion often at great personal risk to cover the 11-day war in Gaza in May. From round-the-clock video coverage – including incoming airstrikes and the bombed-out scenes of vast destruction – to poignant first-person accounts, AP’s Gaza team produced unparalleled journalism while exhibiting exceptional calm under extreme pressure. When the building that housed AP’s bureau was destroyed in an airstrike, they again sprang into action. After evacuating, some went to a nearby balcony to broadcast the collapse of the building live around the globe, while others captured jaw-dropping images of the damage from the ground level. They did this all while coping with their own emotions and the effects of the war on their personal lives. The Gaza team is: Fares Akram, correspondent; Wafaa Shurafa, senior producer; Najib Jobain, senior producer; Rashed Rashid, cameraman; Khalil Hamra, photographer; Hatem Moussa, photographer; Adel Hana, photographer.
$10,000 Oliver S. Gramling Achievement Awards:
- FanDuel program team
The FanDuel program team turned sports odds into an exciting revenue opportunity. As states in the U.S. began legalizing gambling, this team recognized an opportunity for AP to define a new kind of relationship with sportsbooks looking for ways to increase their profiles. To make it happen, the team navigated numerous challenges and varying state regulations. Their work resulted in an agreement that will both generate revenue and position AP to explore new revenue channels beyond conventional markets. This is the type of business growth that is essential to AP’s future. This FanDuel program team is: Barry Bedlan, global director of text and new market products, Dallas; Kevin O’Sullivan, commercial sales manager, New York; Barry Bronstein, corporate counsel, New York.
- GMS Sotheby’s team
The GMS Sotheby’s team turned a request from Sotheby’s to livestream their auctions during the COVID-19 pandemic into a revenue opportunity. Leveraging AP’s tremendous Global Media Services capabilities, this team broadcast auctions from several locations across multiple time zones around the world via the internet, a much less stable delivery method than satellite. This was high-pressure and complex work that opened a new revenue stream for GMS and built a new a relationship with a respected company. The collaboration is a prime example of the kinds of achievements that keep AP’s business relevant and competitive. The GMS Sotheby’s team is: Royston Chan, GMS Asia business development manager, Hong Kong; Pablo Delbracio, broadcast engineer, Barcelona, Spain; Susan Henderson, GMS head of broadcast services North America, Washington; Ben Jary, GMS technical projects manager, London; Kirsty Le, GMS senior special events producer, London.
- Lisa Gibbs, director of news partnerships, New York
The backbone of AP’s grants and news partnerships efforts, Gibbs has worked tirelessly to build companywide support for infusing AP’s global news report with backing from philanthropies. Through her work, dozens of AP jobs across the globe are now funded by grants and partnerships, while AP’s investigative and data-driven reporting and its coverage of religion, philanthropy, climate, and health and science have all been enriched. This is all complex and nuanced work that Gibbs handles masterfully. She has built funder relationships, sorted legal agreements, drafted budgets, and made standards calls. Gibbs’ work is critical to AP’s future and enables its journalists to both grow their careers and produce profound stories.
$10,000 Oliver S. Gramling Spirit Awards:
- Sandy Dennison, Africa regional accountant, Johannesburg.
During her 26 years with AP, Dennison has worked selflessly on behalf of staffers in Africa, encapsulating the AP spirit of getting on with the job and persevering, rigorously and honestly. While her knowledge and care for the Africa team and its operations is indisputable, Dennison’s work encompasses far more than just financial responsibilities. She is a constant, reassuring presence who has helped enable journalists to do their jobs all over the continent. Dennison’s colleagues appreciate and admire her dedication to not just doing the job, but to doing the job right. Dennison is a trusted adviser, confidante and social events manager for the Johannesburg bureau and a valued and knowledgeable consultant for all those she works with in Africa and beyond.
- Myanmar team
When the military seized control from Myanmar’s democratically elected government, photographer Aung Shine Oo and office assistant Thein Zaw were essential in AP’s ability to cover the story. Thein Zaw, based in Yangon, Myanmar, was the first to alert his colleagues to the news, going once again beyond the call of duty to play the critical role of not just office assistant, but journalist. He was detained in February while covering protests against the military and jailed in the country’s notorious Insein Prison for nearly a month. Meantime, photographer Aung Shine Oo covered the takeover from his base in the capital, Naypyitaw, and then Mandalay, working with AP colleagues to build up a network of freelancers to help cover the unfolding unrest.
- Alexander “Sasha” Zemlianichenko, supervisory photo editor, Moscow
Zemlianichenko is a legend in the photojournalism world, both in Russia and around the world. A 30-year AP veteran, he approaches all assignments with passion whether it’s a major news event or a wonderfully composed daily life feature. Zemlianichenko has covered every major story in Russia and many beyond, documenting the end of Soviet Russia and the rise and fall of Boris Yeltsin. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 1996 for his iconic image of a dancing Yeltsin at an election rally. Zemlianichenko leads AP’s Russia/CIS photo team by example. He has an enthusiasm and energy for the job and an astounding drive to deliver on AP’s mission and serves as a mentor for younger staff. As one colleague noted, “When I grow up, I want to be Sasha.”