The Brooks Jackson Prize for Fact-Checking, awarded by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) in partnership with USC Annenberg’s Cronkite Awards, has been awarded to KING 5 News in Seattle for a series on a misinformation campaign that sought to undermine public trust in Washington state’s elections.
The award was announced on April 19, 2023, as part of the biennial Walter Cronkite Awards for Excellence in TV Political Journalism, presented by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
“At a time when journalists are fighting a tidal wave of disinformation and misinformation,” said Annenberg professor Martin Kaplan, director of the school’s Norman Lear Center, which administers the award, “it’s incredibly heartening to honor these examples of superlative work by indefatigable TV reporters and producers, from the national to the local level.”
Entries in this year’s Cronkite competition were limited to a single subject: disinformation and the threats it poses to democracy. As the Norman Lear Center noted, this is a fitting topic, given the award’s namesake. Every weeknight for 19 years, up to 30 million Americans watched Walter Cronkite anchor the CBS Evening News. A poll named him “the most trusted man in America.” When he went to Vietnam in 1968 to see if the U.S. government was telling the truth about winning the war, his answer – no – was an inflection point in the war, in politics and in the job of journalism.
Today’s winners are heirs to that legacy and must confront knotty questions such as: How do you debunk disinformation without amplifying and elevating it? How do you push back on lies without enabling the drama that liars crave? How do you show fairness without succumbing to false equivalence and bothsidesism?
The Brooks Jackson Prize went to Chris Ingalls, reporter, and KING 5 News, Seattle, for a five-part series that debunked a misinformation campaign that sought to undermine public trust in Washington state’s elections. Ingalls vetted claims of voter registration anomalies in three Washington counties made by the so-called Voter Integrity Project. His reports used public records requests, old-fashioned shoe leather reporting and effective interviews to expose false and misleading claims about voter fraud. Judges called his pieces “important, thoroughly researched, well produced, very informative.”
The Brooks Jackson Prize is named for the veteran journalist who covered Washington and national politics for the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, and CNN. At CNN, he pioneered the “ad watch” and “fact check” form of stories debunking false and misleading political statements. In 2003, Jackson co-founded FactCheck.org at the Annenberg Public Policy Center with APPC Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson.
Among this year’s Cronkite Award winners:
- The Documentary (Network) prize went to the Frontline series, produced at WGBH-TV in Boston and distributed by PBS. Its award cites four episodes — two on U.S. elections, one on the Philippines, and one on Russia.
- The Documentary (Local) prize went to “Against All Enemies,” a program by NBC 5 Investigates at KXAS-TV in Dallas/Ft. Worth.
- National Reporting prizes went to Jonathan Karl, ABC News’s chief Washington correspondent, for a series of reports, and Kyung Lah, CNN senior correspondent and Anna-Maja Rappard, CNN senior producer, for “The Lies Undermining American Democracy.”
- National Program prizes went to Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan from CBS News, and Impact x Nightline from ABC News Studios, Terry Moran, correspondent.
- Special Recognition awards went to Ben Collins, NBC News senior reporter; Jordan Klepper, of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah; Madeleine May, Alexis Johnson and Vice News; and “Trust Me,” a documentary, which aired on PBS/World Channel.
The awards will be presented June 9 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.