Lovejoy award presented to Times’ Alissa Rubin

Alissa Rubin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Paris Bureau Chief for the New York Times, was celebrated at the 64th annual Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for courageous journalism on Monday, Oct. 24. She addressed a packed Lorimer Chapel after receiving an honorary degree from President David A. Greene.

The award was established in 1952 to honor Colby alumnus Elijah Parish Lovejoy (valedictorian, Class of 1826), America’s “first martyr to freedom of the press.” Following three incidences of anti-abolitionists destroying his printing presses over his editorials criticizing slavery, Lovejoy was shot and killed by a pro-slavery mob in 1837 in his Illinois warehouse where he was printing his abolitionist messages at the time. Greene discussed the importance of the Lovejoy award at the convocation on Monday, saying that the award reminds us of our “own obligations to protect academic freedom and to continue the dogged pursuit of truth.”
The mission of the Lovejoy award has three main parts. The first is to honor and preserve Lovejoy’s memory and his unwillingness to forsake his editorial principles, a choice that led to his eventual death. The second is to honor the kind of achievement in the field of reporting and editing that continues the Lovejoy heritage of fearlessness and freedom of press. The final mission of the award is to promote a sense of mutual responsibility and cooperative effort between a news industry devoted to journalistic freedom and a liberal arts college dedicated to academic freedom.

According to a College press release, Rubin was chosen in honor of her “intrepid reporting — often at great personal peril — in hotspots around the globe…work [that] was interrupted briefly in 2014, when [she] was severely injured in a helicopter accident while reporting in Iraq on the takeover of Northern Iraq by the Islamic State.”

Rubin graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University in 1980 with an Honors degree in Renaissance Studies and a minor in Classics. She later went on to receive her M.A. in Modern European History from Columbia University in 1986. After working at publications such as The American Lawyer, The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, Congressional Quarterly, The New Republic, The Washington Post, and the L.A. Times. Rubin joined the New York Times in 2007 as a correspondent in Baghdad, later becoming the bureau chief there. In 2009, she moved to Afghanistan, where her stint as a correspondent only lasted a couple of months as she became bureau chief shortly after her arrival. Rubin served in that role for nearly four years. In 2013, she took the bureau chief position in Paris, though she would remain involved in projects in Afghanistan.

Along with the Elijah Parish Lovejoy award, Rubin has also previously received multiple journalism awards. She won an Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship in 1992 writing about how the reality of abortion differed from the politics surrounding the issue in the 1990s. She received the John Chancellor Award from the Columbia Journalism School for her cumulative work over 35 years, which included covering the war in Iraq and reporting from the Balkans, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2016, she received the Michael Kelly award, which honors the fearless pursuit and expression of truth. Most notably, Rubin is the 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner in International Reporting for “thoroughly reported and movingly written accounts giving voice to Afghan women who were forced to endure unspeakable cruelties.”

Rubin has written articles revealing how efforts to integrate women into the Afghan police force backfired, telling the story of a young mother who was murdered for becoming a policewoman. Also, intrigued by a report of an Afghan woman set afire after being accused of burning the Quran, Rubin discovered how the woman was falsely charged and how the Afghan judicial system ineptly handled the case. These articles and many others were written while putting herself at considerable personal risk and injury.
According to a recent College press release, Greene praised Rubin’s “deep commitment to exposing violations of basic human rights.” In her speech at the convocation, Rubin talked about the role of war in her work as a journalist, saying that “war (is) much more than combat, it is the story of the destruction of civilian lives, the erosion of history, the loss of any sense of safety.” She continued by saying that she “felt from early on that I wanted to understand how war worked, how it distorted society, how it eroded order, and in eroding order, it led people on all sides to do unspeakable things.”

In conjunction with the Lovejoy award ceremony, there was also the fourth annual Sylvann Labun student journalism conference, which was hosted by the GolfardbCenter for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement. In attendance were students from the University of Connecticut, Bowdoin College, and other schools. The conference included notable journalists such as Ben Howard, an award-winning visual journalist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who discussed the importance of creative visuals in news stories; Daniel Arkin, a dayside news editor at NBCNews.com; and Caitlin Burchill ’12, an anchor and reporter for WABI TV5. Most notably, however, were Matt Apuzzo ’00 and Adam Goldman, both reporters for the New York Times. Apuzzo and Goldman discussed things students could do to prepare for a career in journalism.

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