WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), made a special appearance during an awards program for journalists held at the National Press Club in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, June 13.
The event, sponsored by the Washington, D.C., Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), honored the best in local journalism throughout D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland during the organization’s annual Hall of Fame and Dateline Awards dinner.
This year’s Hall of Fame inductees included: Sam Ford, DC bureau chief WJLA-TV; April Ryan, senior White House correspondent and political analyst, MSNBC; and Jonathan D. Salant, assistant managing editor for politics, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Booker, the 38th mayor of Newark (2006 – 2013), shared remarks about Salant, with whom he has been friends when the journalist was a political correspondent for the Star-Ledger/NJ.com, earlier in his career.
“I am genuinely excited to be here because rarely do politicians get to talk about the people who cover us,” Booker said. “I’m here to talk about a patron saint – a correspondent for the Newark Star-Ledger who elevated the voices of the ignored, has raised the questions that others were afraid to ask, and who understands the power of both the local press and local politics.”
“Unfortunately, there are not many regional reporters left, even among the most prominent news outlets. So, when I heard that Jonathan’s position at the Star-Ledger was being eliminated and that he was moving to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I literally had tears in my eyes,” said Booker, an attorney, who, in 2013, became the first African American U.S. senator from New Jersey.
“Our friendship was formed as Jonathan covered my rise in Newark’s political environment – from the time I was elected to the Municipal Council of Newark for the Central Ward (1998 – 2002), to the Mayor’s office in Newark, New Jersey and then to the U.S. Senate,” Booker said. “There’s no freedom or justice in America without local reporters doing their job. And so, I had to come this evening to pay tribute to a man who bears the stature of an old school reporter of the highest caliber.”
April Ryan, the longest-serving Black female White House correspondent, serves as the only Black female reporter covering urban issues from the White House – a position she has held for nearly 26 years, since the Clinton administration. The Baltimore, Maryland native and graduate of Morgan State University, she shared insights about the road she has traveled since beginning her career, first as a jazz DJ before eventually turning to reporting.
“The road wasn’t always easy but if it were not for my family and close friends, I don’t know where I would be today,” said Ryan, 56. “It makes an impact when you have the Black Press present, asking questions about George Floyd or Trayvon Martin. And I’ve been there asking those questions and so many more. But even in this moment, as I am inducted into the Hall of Fame, I still have a lot more questions – I am not finished.”
“Twenty-six years ago, many thought of me as a militant because of the kinds of questions I asked,” said Ryan. “But I was there – and I am still there – to speak for those who have no voice, for the underserved members of our country.”
The Washington, D.C. Pro chapter of SPJ, which started in 1936, has inducted more than 200 journalists into the Hall of Fame. The honor recognizes the individual for at least 25 years of strong journalism in the District.
“Each year we gather to honor journalists, both for a lifetime of achievement and for current, ground-breaking work,” said Denise Dunbar, president of the D.C. Pro Chapter of SPJ. “Last night, we inducted three worthy members into our D.C. Pro chapter Hall of Fame and presented another with our distinguished service award. Future winners of those awards were undoubtedly in the audience, and among those who won or were finalists for our Dateline Awards. The scope of outstanding journalism that takes place each year in the D.C. metro area is astonishing, and our annual SPJ chapter dinner is a wonderful way to acknowledge that work.”
Dateline Awards finalists and winners in 18 categories over eight divisions were announced this year. The contest received a record number of entries.
For a complete list of finalists and winners, visit https://spjdc.org/2023/06/spjdc-announces-dateline-award-finalists-and-winners/.
EDITOR’S NOTE: D. Kevin McNeir, senior writer/columnist for New Jersey Urban News, and the former senior editor for The Washington Informer, was among the honorees at the 2023 Dateline Awards, chosen as a finalist, weekly newspaper, in the Commentary & Criticism category for his column, “Can Donald Trump really believe the hateful things he says? Or is it all a show?” McNeir has been a finalist for the past four years, consecutively, winning in 2020 and 2022.