In an effort to encourage fairness in newspaper journalism and honor an “exemplary example” of fairness in news coverage, the former managers of The Boston Globe have announced the establishment of the Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers. The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard will administer the award.
Chairman emeritus of The Boston Globe William O. Taylor, along with members of his family, raised $450,000 to endow an annual prize of $10,000. The award will first be given in 2002, based on work published in daily newspapers during 2001.
The award’s origins go back to 1999 and discussions between Taylor and some of his associates at the Globe, including former editor Tom Winship, former Globe columnist David Nyhan, and former assistant to the publisher Timothy Leland, about the importance of recognizing journalism that demonstrates a commitment to fairness and responsibility.
“The First Amendment guarantees a free press, but a free press must also be a responsible press, and that means a press that is fair to both individuals and institutions in the news,” Taylor said. “As journalists pursue the truth, they need to do so in a spirit of fairness.”
A jury will consider nominations from a panel of 31 distinguished journalists. The nominating panel is a diverse group of journalists, including many who have written about fairness and credibility or have participated in news industry examinations of these topics.
Nominators will recommend efforts that, in their judgment, meet the highest standards of fairness. In judging entries, the award jury will consider all aspects of the journalistic process: reporting, writing, editing, headlines, photographs, illustrations, and presentation. Nominators may recommend a single story, editorial, commentary, or bodies of work by individual journalists and newspapers.
There is no definition of fairness in the guidelines for the Taylor Fairness Award nominations. “This is deliberate,” explained Bob Giles, curator of the Nieman Foundation. “The standards for fairness in journalism are complex and diverse and not easily defined for this kind of journalism competition. We anticipate there will be many ways to define work that can be held up as exemplary examples of fairness,” Giles said. “Nominators will apply their own standards of fairness in newspaper work and provide a rationale for these standards in a nominating form. Over time, we expect to build a valuable base of knowledge about how fairness is perceived by leading journalists.”
The summer edition of Nieman Reports, the Nieman Foundation’s quarterly magazine, includes an announcement of the award along with a discussion of fairness by leading journalists Nyhan of the Globe and former president of the Poynter Institute Bob Haiman. Now a Freedom Forum Fellow, Haiman wrote a handbook for journalists on how to be fair to the public.