Azam Ahmed is the winner of Atlantic Media’s 17th annual Michael Kelly Award for his five-part New York Times series “Kill, or Be Killed: Latin America’s Homicide Crisis,” where he investigates the root causes of the cycle of violence that affects so many Latin American countries. He will be awarded a prize of $25,000.
In their commendation, the judges wrote of the “deeply felt humanity” in Ahmed’s reporting, noting that “he moves beyond the numbers to paint memorable portraits: a brave Honduran pastor, a remorseful Mexican killer, a teenage Guatemalan mother.” Ahmed is the New York Times bureau chief for Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, as well as a former correspondent in Afghanistan.
Given annually, the 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 as finalists, each receiving a $3,000 award: Kyle Hopkins of the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica for his investigation of local policing in the state of Alaska, where some towns have no police or have criminals working as law enforcement; Tom Warren and Katie J. M. Baker of BuzzFeed News for their exposé on the human cost of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s war on poaching; and Craig Whitlock of The Washington Post for his five-part series that offers a definitive survey of the U.S. government’s deceptive and complicit role in America’s longest armed conflict.
Four judges selected the winner and finalists: Cullen Murphy, the editor at large of The Atlantic; Scott Stossel, the national editor of The Atlantic; Laurie Abraham, a senior editor at The Atlantic; and Ian Urbina, a contributing writer at The Atlantic, and himself a 2016 Michael Kelly Award finalist.
A full list of past winners and finalists, as well as remembrances of Kelly from friends and colleagues, can be found at kellyaward.com.