2021 MRE Journalism Contest winners

2021 MRE Journalism Contest winner for Photography (large market) is Sandra Vidrequin of Norway.
2021 MRE Journalism Contest winner for Photography (large market) is Sandra Vidrequin of Norway.

Congratulations to all those who submitted their work to the MRE Journalism Contest. Below are the winners, and the judges’ comments.

The Joe Galloway Award

Phil Stewart, M.B. Pell, Joshua Scheyer and Idrees Ali of Reuters “U.S. Troops Battling Racism Report High Barrier to Justice

This Reuters team produced a series of stories providing new insight into discrimination in the U.S. military, reporting that service members rarely file formal discrimination complaints. Reuters learned of Pentagon survey data from the early days of the Trump administration detailing the extent of discrimination, data the military refused to release for years. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand subsequently announced she would work on legislation giving troops the same legal protections against discrimination as civilian DoD employees. Reuters’ reporting also helped pry loose the survey data, showing nearly a third of Black U.S. military servicemembers reported experiencing racial discrimination during a one-year period.

The Joe Galloway award, which includes a $500 prize, is named after UPI combat correspondent and McClatchy Newspapers columnist Joe Galloway. This is for the Best of Show as determined by the judges.

The James Crawley Award

Ethan Rocke of Coffee or Die, “The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

This gripping profile of Stacy Pearsall, the only woman to twice win the National Press Photographers Association’s Military Photographer of the Year award, takes us on her combat deployments and the eventually devastating toll they took on her physically and mentally. In the end, after leaving the military she was able to regain a sense of purpose by photographing more than 8,500 veterans across the country. Many of the portraits are featured in exhibits.

There is a $100 prize for the winner of the James Crawley Award. It is restricted to Print/Online News Reporting category entries. Crawley, one of the founders of MRE, was the chief military reporter at the San Diego Union-Tribune and later covered national security and veterans affairs for Media General News Service.

Overseas Large Newspapers Category: Kevin Knodell of Coffee or Die

Life and Death at K1: Inside America’s Last Days in Kirkuk.” This in-depth exploration of the military’s final days before handing over the K1 base to the Iraqis hits on the drama and drudgery of deployments, provides a riveting history of the region over the centuries and an analysis of the U.S. role in Iraq’s past, present and future.

Domestic Small Newspapers Category: Thomas Brennan of The War Horse

Gag Order: How Marine Corps Culture Silenced a Victim of Sexual Assault.”Thomas Brennan produced a detailed and compassionate telling of the impact rape had on the life and career of a young Marine. Working within the bounds of an ongoing legal proceeding and the constraint of traditional military culture, Brennan’s story about mental illness is well sourced with family and colleagues.

Honorable Mention: Rose L. Thayer of Stars and Stripes. 

“Why is Fort Hood the Army’s most crime-ridden post?” Rose Thayer deserves the domestic small market Honorable Mention Award for her sensitive and detailed reporting on the rash of killings and other crime at Fort Hood and the adjacent community of Killeen, Texas. Using public records and interviews, she explains the complex relationship between the city and the Army base, and the difficulty in getting to the heart of the crimes that exceed any other military installation.

Domestic Large Newspapers Category: Megan Eckstein of USNI News,

No Margin Left: Overworked Carrier Force Struggles to Maintain Deployments After Decades of Overuse.”Megan Eckstein analyzed aircraft carrier deployments over the last five years to report a troubling trend – the upward spike in deployments leaves little time for maintenance and stretches the carriers’ crews beyond acceptable levels. She also showed the alarming effects on U.S. naval preparedness against aggression on the seas.

Photographer Small Paper Category: Dave Paone

Photo by David Paone wins 2021 MRE Journalism Contest
Photography, Small Market Photo by David Paone.

The photos submitted are portraits of characters in the story. The look is distinct and stylistic, though they range from the personal in the black and white photo to a more isolated feel in the color portrait. The detail of texture in the frame is balanced nicely with the overall composition.

Photography Large Market – Sandra Vidrequin

Photo by Sandra Vidrequin
Photography, Large Market Photo by Sandra Vidrequin

These photos elicit a curious feeling, because they’re simultaneously gritty and clean. It evokes the constant worry of what’s on the horizon, which goes hand in hand with anyone in a protective role. That sense is heightened by the tight framing and the level of contrast used in the photos.

Television International or Domestic — Large Market: Carla Babb of Voice of America

VOA Special Report: Saving Gabon’s Forest Elephants” with Ricci Shryock, Tatiana Mossot, Betty Ayoub, Elizabeth Arrott and Laurence Gomez

A highly informative story about illegal elephant poaching in the African nation of Gabon and how the U.S. military is helping train Gabonese park rangers to better protect the animals and capture poachers. The story is thoroughly reported and artfully edited using informative graphics and superb cinematography.

Television International or Domestic – Small Market: Stacia Naquin of WSYX (Columbus, OH)

A Family’s Sacrifice for Service” with Matt Spurrier, Ben Frecker and Matt Green

An intimate look at the twists and turns one military family endures at home while their loved one serves an extensive tour of duty in the Middle East. Through extensive interviews and emotional video diaries, the story shines a light on the challenges and unpredictability of deployment separation, and the joyful reunion that is its great reward.

Commentary: Robert Levinson for op-eds in War on the Rocks and InkStick

From an analysis of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s impact on reducing inequalities in the military through her rulings and legal work to ideas on how to rectify discrimination against Black veterans in the original G.I. Bill, Robert Levinson provides fresh insights on some of the most important issues in national security.

Radio: Jay Price of American Home Front Project, North Carolina Public Radio WUNC

“Troops With The 82nd Return From Deployment To A Changed Nation and Military.”

As if returning from deployment isn’t filled with enough difficulty, this report looks at how that process has become even more complicated for everyone involved in times of COVID-19. The reporting is refreshingly personal, and the interviews and natural sound brought it to life at a stage early in the pandemic when everyone listening was craving that sort of touch. And the twist of one of the interview subjects having not only a husband returning but a daughter about to deploy reminds us that duty continues even with complications, and this could go on for some time.