Senior contributing writer Jodi Enda’s in-depth examination of strategies newsrooms use to try to stay solvent won the prestigious prize today at Syracuse University’s Mirror Awards luncheon — an annual affair that attracts New York’s media elite. The event paid off for the school this year: The family of Dick Clark, an alum who won the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award, presented Syracuse with $5M for a state-of-the-art broadcast education facility that will open next year and be named after the American Bandstand host. The school presented its Fred M. Dressler Leadership Award To Disney/ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney and I-3 innovation award to Fivethirtyeight.com’s Nate Silver. For traditional/legacy media the winners were: Ken Auletta, best single article, for a piece in The New Yorker about The Times of India. (This is his fourth win in the seven years since the awards were introduced.) Syed Irfan Ashraf of Pakistan’s Dawn.com won for best commentary. In digital media, Joe Eskenazi of SF Weekly won best single article and Poynter Institute’s Craig Silverman took best commentary. For video or audio, the Missouri Press Association’s Doug Crews, Beth Pike, Stephen Hudnell and Scott Charton won best single story. And best profile in either digital or legacy media went to Gawker’s Adrian Chen.
EXCLUSIVE: Focus Features is making a rights deal for David Grann’s massive article in the May 28 issue of The New Yorker, The Yankee Commandante, with George Clooney attached to direct. He will produce with his Smokehouse partner Grant Heslov.
The article is about William Alexander Morgan, an American who helped Castro and the Cuban rebels overthrow Fulgencio Batista. He’d reached the status of Comandante, the sole foreigner other than Argentinian Che Guevara to be so highly regarded. Shortly after, Morgan — a shadowy man whose motives for being there were subject to suspicion — was imprisoned and facing a firing squad, charged with working for U.S. intelligence. At the same time, his exploits as a rebel soldier led J. Edgar Hoover and everyone else scrambling to sort out his motives and who he was working for.
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount and Indian Paintbrush won a heated auction for screen rights on A Murder Foretold, a lengthy article in the April 4 issue of The New Yorker by David Grann about a series of high-level murders in Guatemala. It takes place in a country devastated by killings routinely perpetrated by everyone from secret police to drug dealers who acted with impunity. In that backdrop, a wealthy businessman who’d watched his wife-to-be get assassinated along with her father, stirred up the entire country — from the grave. After he too was gunned down while riding his bicycle, Rodrigo Rosenberg finally did something that snapped the country to do something about the rampant murders that often involved corrupt government officials. At his funeral, he had an intermediary disperse copies of a videocassette he had recorded himself. In stunning fashion, he implicated the president, his wife, and other close aides in his killing. It set off a maelstrom that led to the appointment of a special prosecutor, who followed a trail of clues to solve the crime that led to a most shocking conclusion. I won’t reveal it here, but you can read the article. The end result: the murder provided the first real impetus for a crackdown on violence in Guatemala.