Winners of the 2020 RFK Book and Journalism Awards


New York (June 4, 2020)—Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights announced the winners of its 2020 RFK Book and Journalism Awards on Thursday in a virtual ceremony featuring special guest presenters, including Katie Couric, David Remnick, Don Lemon, Soledad O’Brien, Natalie Morales, Rory Kennedy, Van Jones, and Jane Mayer.

This year’s RFK Book Award went to “Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland,” by Jonathan Metzl. The book offers an enlightening exploration of white identity politics and how the policies pitched to working-class white voters, promising to make white America “great again,” are actually making their lives sicker, harder, and shorter as a result.

The 2020 journalism honorees—selected from over 325 entries in 13 categories—represented outstanding reporting from the past year, highlighting issues of concern to Robert Kennedy that continue to resonate today: human rights, social justice and the power of individual action.

The judges were particularly impressed with the two winners from the television categories, choosing to award them with the top honors of the night.

The RFK Journalism Grand Prize went to Newsy for its documentary, “A Broken Trust.” The investigation examined how centuries of inequities, legal loopholes, and a profound ignorance of tribal issues by many in power in the federal government, have not only left Native American women vulnerable to sexual assault but also made it difficult, if not dangerous, to report their perpetrators.

The Seigenthaler Prize, which recognizes reporting under difficult circumstances requiring great courage and commitment, was given to Frontline PBS / Channel 4 / ITN Productions for its film, “For Sama.” Told as a love letter from a young mother to her daughter over the course of five years in Aleppo, Syria, “For Sama” granted viewers a remarkable look into the uprising and, importantly, showed it from a woman’s perspective for the first time.


At a time when journalists are facing unprecedented hostility and violence, the ceremony provided an opportunity to pause and reflect on the state of our free press today—recognizing how reporters have risked their health and safety, while simultaneously facing furloughs and layoffs, to keep the public informed.

“These targeted, state-sanctioned assaults against journalists are a blatant violation of their First Amendment rights and shameful proof of the escalating war on freedom of the press,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “When journalists can’t do their jobs without fear of being harassed, attacked, or detained, the consequences are clear: civic space crumbles and with it our ability to hold the powerful to account.”

The full list of 2020 RFK Book and Journalism Award winners is below. Special thanks to historian and author Michael Beschloss, head of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award committee, and Margaret Engel, director of the Alicia Patterson Journalism Foundation and chair of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards committee, as well as the more than 50 volunteer judges who participated this year. We are also grateful to Mortimer B. Zuckerman for his support of the 2020 Book and Journalism Awards ceremony.


High School Journalism
Black Students Nearly Two Times as Likely to be Suspended as White Peers in the ICCSD
Iowa City High School’s The Little Hawk
Nina Lavezzo-Stecopoulos

College Journalism
State of Emergency
Carnegie-Knight News21, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
News21 Staff

Domestic Print
New York Times
Michael H. Keller, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Nellie Bowles, and Kholood Eid

International Print
The Afghanistan Papers
Washington Post
Craig Whitlock

Domestic Photography
One More Year on the Farm: A Minnesota Farm Family Fights to Save Its Land
Washington Post
Ricky Carioti

International Photography
Venezuela on the Edge
Associated Press
Rodrigo Abd

In the Dark: The Path Home
APM Reports
In the Dark Staff

New Media
Inside the Border Patrol
A.C. Thompson, Ginger Thompson, Melissa del Bosque, Jeff Ernsthausen, Robert Moore, Susan Schmidt, Maryam Jameel, Lucas Waldron, Katie Campbell, and Dara Lind

JD Crowe 2019 Work
Alabama Media Group
JD Crowe

International Television and Seigenthaler Prize
For Sama
FRONTLINE PBS / Channel 4 / ITN Productions

Domestic Television and Grand Prize
A Broken Trust
Maren Machles, Carrie Cochran, Angela Hill, Suzette Brewer, and the Broken Trust Team

Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland
Jonathan Metzl
Basic Books

Robert F. Kennedy Book Award
The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award was established in 1980 with the proceeds from Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s best selling biography, Robert Kennedy and His Times. Each year, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights presents an award to the book that, as Schlesinger said, “most faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert Kennedy’s purposes—his concern for the poor and the powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity.” The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award has been recognized as one of the most prestigious honors an author can receive.

Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards
Founded by the reporters who covered Robert F. Kennedy’s historic 1968 presidential campaign, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards honor outstanding reporting on issues that reflect Robert Kennedy’s concerns, including human rights, social justice, and the power of individual action in the United States and around the world. Winning entries in 13 categories provide insights into the causes, conditions, and remedies of human rights violations and injustice, and critical analyses of relevant policies, programs, individual actions, and private endeavors that foster positive change. The Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards are among the few in which winners are determined by their peers. Past winners include the Washington Post, National Public Radio, CBS’s 60 Minutes, ABC’s 20/20, and HBO.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues, champion changemakers, and pursue strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.