Dan Rather Medals for News and Guts 2022 Winners Announced
Moody College of Communication’s School of Journalism and Media on Monday announced winners of the Dan Rather Medals for News and Guts, which are awarded to journalists who go the extra mile to hold people and institutions accountable.
New Orleans-based investigative journalist Richard Webster, in partnership with WWNO/WRKF and ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, received the professional prize for the series “Unwatched,” which scrutinizes Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office for civil rights violations and a lack of oversight in use of force cases, particularly against Black residents.
Zachary Huber, a recent graduate of the University of Florida in Gainesville, was named the collegiate winner for his story “Former Florida women’s basketball players detail abuse under Coach Newbauer,” an exhaustive account of emotional and physical abuses endured by team members. Huber’s piece was published in the Independent Florida Alligator.
Both winners, who will each receive a Dan Rather medal as well as $5,000, were recognized for their tremendous determination, submitting countless open records requests to obtain critical information and identifying numerous sources who went on the record despite the threat of repercussions.
Webster’s winning story, “They Saw Me and Thought the Worst,” is part of a six-part series and includes harrowing accounts from victims of police violence and findings based on thousands of pieces of documentation. Webster’s work has resulted in tangible reform, including Jefferson Parish’s agreement to implement body cameras after years of refusing to adopt the technology.
"This is a prime example of courageous, deep-digging and relentless investigative reporting,” Dan Rather said. “The work represents American journalism at its best, and the reporters who did the work are a credit to our craft. The leaders of the journalistic enterprises who sponsored and supported the efforts deserve a share of the credit for this service to their local communities and to our country.”
Webster said he was honored to receive an award “named for one of the best journalists of our time.”
“I got through spending a year and a half of really difficult investigative work and talking to families who experienced a lot of pain and injustice,” Webster said. “It’s nice to know it’s had an impact.”
In the collegiate category, Huber’s article includes accounts of more than a dozen former Florida women’s basketball players and their families, who spoke out against former Coach Cameron Newbauer for his mistreatment, including verbal harassment, threats and even physical violence.
“The reporting and newsgathering took bravery and excellence against the odds,” one judge said. “Convincing athletes in that situation to open up to a college reporter is tough. And the reporter achieved that. On top of that, reporting negatively on an athletic program while you’re a student also take guts to do.”
Huber went to great lengths to acquire public records and emails, doggedly went through rosters of former players to contact them on social media and reached out repeatedly to the coach for comment to no avail.
"Too few college and university newspapers have the independence, the resources, the desire and the courage to do the kind of work exhibited by Zachary Huber and The Alligator,” Rather said. “The persistence of Zachary and those who worked with him is particularly noteworthy in this outstanding example of what can be done. And the kind of gutsy, valuable work by young journalists that the Rather Medal seeks to encourage.”
Huber said he was honored to win such a prestigious award.
“The majority of the athletes I spoke to hadn’t suited up in an orange and blue jersey in three to four years. They most likely have put it behind them,” he wrote in his submission letter. “It eventually became clear that these players were determined to be heard. When that occurred, I put an extra burden on myself to ensure I recounted everything accurately to help these players, so they finally, years later, received justice for the pain and trauma they underwent.”
The Dan Rather Medals for News and Guts were created by The University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communication, with Rather’s guidance, in 2020 to honor courageous journalism and to encourage reporters to pursue necessary stories.
Collegiate and professional winners were selected from a competitive pools of entries. Judges representedhigher education, professional television and news media and the National Press Foundation.
“All of us judges were incredibly impressed with the quality and the tenacious reporting of this year’s entries,” said Kathleen McElroy, director of UT’s School of Journalism and Media.
Rather started working as a journalist in his native Texas in 1950 and was the “CBS Evening News” anchor from 1981 to 2005. He has been a staunch supporter of the School of Journalism and Media at UT Austin and is a permanent member of Moody College’s Advisory Council.