Nadja Drost Wins 2021 Michael Kelly Award for California Sunday Magazine Cover Story

Drost’s reporting chronicled the dangerous journeys of migrants crossing the Darién Gap at the Colombia-Panama border on their way to the United States.

Nadja Drost is the winner of the 18th annual Michael Kelly Award for her California Sunday Magazine cover story “When Can We Really Rest?,” in which she chronicles the dangerous journeys of migrants crossing the Darién Gap at the Colombia-Panama border on their way to the United States. She will be awarded a prize of $25,000.

In their commendation, the judges describe Drost as a “meticulous and kind reporter” whose exhaustive detail and poignant storytelling reflect both a serious commitment to the truth and deep empathy toward her subjects. Drost is a Pulitzer Prize–winning multimedia journalist with more than a decade of experience reporting from Latin America.

Given annually by The Atlantic, the Michael Kelly Award honors journalists whose work exemplifies the fearless pursuit and expression of truth, qualities that defined Michael Kelly’s own life and career. Kelly was the first journalist killed while covering the war in Iraq, in 2003. He served as editor of The Atlantic and National Journal when both magazines were publications of Atlantic Media, chaired by David G. Bradley. Bradley created and continues to oversee the award.

Journalists from three other news organizations were recognized as finalists, and each will receive a $3,000 award: Margie Mason and Robin McDowell of The Associated Press, for exposing the costs in human lives of palm-oil production; Tony Plohetski of the Austin American-Statesman, for investigating the impact of a police-department reality-TV show on law enforcement in Texas’s Williamson County; and Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing, and Christo Buschek of BuzzFeed News, for documenting the ongoing human-rights abuses suffered by China’s Muslim minorities.

Four judges selected the winner and the finalists: Vann R. Newkirk II, a senior editor at The Atlantic and the host of the podcast Floodlines; Rebecca Saletan, the vice president and editorial director of Riverhead Books; Ena Alvarado, a writer and a former assistant editor at The Atlantic; and Cullen Murphy, the editor at large of The Atlantic.

A list of the past winners and finalists, as well as remembrances of Kelly from friends and colleagues, can be found at www.michaelkellyaward.com. Entries for the 2022 Michael Kelly Award are due April 1, and directions and requirements for entries can be found at the site.