News

Alternative news pioneer Sandy Close wins the 2012 I.F. Stone Medal

November 13, 2012

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Sandy Close, executive editor and director of Pacific News Service (PNS), has been selected as winner of the 2012 I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence. The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard will present the award in Cambridge, Mass., on Dec. 6, 2012.

Close will receive the honor in recognition of her many achievements in journalism and for giving a voice to individuals and communities too often ignored by mainstream media. In nominating her, the I.F. Stone Medal selection committee acknowledged her steadfast efforts on behalf of ethnic news organizations and her mentoring of young journalists.

Announcing the award, Nieman Foundation curator Ann Marie Lipinski said “Sandy Close is a beacon for every journalist striving to produce work that has an impact. Her vision for what journalism can be when it is at its best and her dedication to the next generation of journalists is an inspiration.”

Bill Kovach, chair of the I.F. Stone Medal selection committee added “The work of Sandy Close not only shows the spirit of Izzy Stone is alive and well, but stands as an inspiration to a new generation of self-publishing journalists who refuse to allow the abuses of those who hold power over the lives of others to remain secret.”

Close has served as executive director of Pacific News Service since 1974. Under her leadership, PNS has helped launch the careers of a generation of talented young reporters who often focus on individuals and issues on the margins of society. One of the first regular commentators for NPR’s “Morning Edition” in the mid-1980s, Close went on in 1991 to create YO! Youth Outlook, a monthly magazine written by and about young people. In 1996, she co-founded The Beat Within, a weekly writing journal by incarcerated youth. That same year, she founded New California Media, which subsequently became New America Media (NAM), under the umbrella of Pacific News Service. Today, NAM is the largest editorial and marketing collaboration of ethnic media in the United States. It distributes news stories and commentaries to more than 2,000 subscribers and produces radio and television programs.

In 2007, Close also co-founded the Chauncey Bailey Project to finish the reporting begun by slain journalist Bailey, who had been gunned down while investigating financial improprieties at a bakery in Oakland, Calif. Some three dozen reporters, editors and other volunteers came together to work on the project and their investigative work led police to arrest those responsible for Bailey’s killing.

A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Close began her journalism career in Hong Kong in the mid-1960s as China editor of The Far Eastern Economic Review. After returning to the United States, she founded The Flatlands, an inner-city newspaper in Oakland, Calif., and spent five years writing about prison and criminal justice issues before joining PNS. Close received a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award” for her work and the 2011 George Polk Career Award. She also co-produced the film “Breathing Lessons: The Life and work of Mark O’Brien,” which won the Academy Award for best short documentary in 1997. The film profiles a journalist and poet who spent most of his adult life in an iron lung.

Established in 2008, the I.F Stone Medal honors the life of investigative journalist I.F. Stone and is presented annually to a journalist whose work captures the spirit of journalistic independence, integrity and courage that characterized I.F. Stone’s Weekly, published 1953-1971. The award is administered by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and its Nieman Watchdog Project.

An advisory committee of journalists oversees nominations and the selection of an annual medal winner. The 2012 I.F. Stone Medal selection committee was chaired by journalist and former Nieman Foundation curator Bill Kovach, author John R. (Rick) MacArthur, president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine and Myra MacPherson, author of “All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone.”

The group made their selection from recommendations presented by prominent journalists including Margaret Engel, Marilyn Geewax, A.C. Thompson (winner of the 2011 I.F. Stone Medal), Don Guttenplan, Dana Priest and Wendell Rawls.

For the past 75 years, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard has educated journalism’s leaders and elevated the standards of journalism through reporting and research initiatives and special programs that convene leaders in all fields. More than 1,300 journalists from 92 countries have been awarded Nieman Fellowships since the Nieman Foundation was established in 1938. Grants are awarded to accomplished and promising professionals who come to Harvard for a year of study, seminars, master classes and journalism conferences. The foundation’s other initiatives include Nieman Reports, an influential quarterly magazine and website that explores contemporary challenges and opportunities in journalism; the Nieman Journalism Lab, a website that reports on the future of news, innovation and best practices in the digital media age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling.

For more information about I.F. Stone, visit www.ifstone.org.