Washington, D.C. (April 9, 2018)— Dionne Searcey is the winner of Atlantic Media’s 15th annual Michael Kelly Award for her reporting for The New York Times on the brutal Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria, abuses by the Nigerian military, and the human toll of the conflict. Searcey was awarded a prize of $25,000 last night at a ceremony in Washington.
Working where few Western journalists or diplomats dare to travel, Searcey has risked her life and defied local authorities to penetrate one of the world’s most secretive and confounding terrorist groups-- and to tell the stories of the people whose lives it has shattered along the way. In 2017, fearless reporting on the abuses of young women and girls at the hands of Nigerian security forces after escaping Boko Haram sparked an investigation by Nigerian lawmakers; while her wrenching interviews with teenagers forced to become suicide bombers for the group prompted Nigeria’s president to announce new initiatives to combat these crimes.
“Dionne Searcey’s coverage of the carnage caused by the terrorist group Boko Haram epitomizes the journalistic qualities honored by the Michael Kelly Award. Her courageous reporting and compelling writing stood out in a highly competitive field. From her post as West Africa bureau chief of The New York Times, Searcey consistently writes stories that would remain uncovered if not for her persistence, bravery, and compassion,” the judges said.
Given annually, the $25,000 Michael Kelly Award honors journalists whose work exemplifies the fearless pursuit and expression of truth, qualities that defined Michael Kelly’s own career. Kelly, who served as editor of two Atlantic Media publications, The Atlantic and National Journal, was the first journalist killed while covering the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003.
Journalists with three other news organizations were recognized at the awards ceremony as finalists: Kristen Gelineau, Todd Pitman, and Esther Htusan of the Associated Press for their coverage of the brutal persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar; Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch of the Miami Herald for exposing shocking abuses in Florida’s juvenile justice system; and John Woodrow Cox of The Washington Post for a series of articles on children traumatized by gun violence in their schools, neighborhoods, and cities.
Five judges selected the finalists: Kathleen Carroll, board chair of the Committee to Protect Journalists and former executive editor of the Associated Press; Charles Green, former editor of National Journal; Peter Jensen, editorial writer at The Baltimore Sun; Kate Julian, senior editor at The Atlantic; and Cullen Murphy, former editor-at-large of Vanity Fair.
Based in Washington, D.C., and New York City, Atlantic Media’s portfolio includes The Atlantic, CityLab, Quartz, National Journal Group, Government Executive, and Defense One. Atlantic Media publications and journalists are ineligible for the Michael Kelly Award.
Additional information about the Michael Kelly Award can be found at www.kellyaward.com.