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Kurt Schork US Journalist Awards Announced - 2002-08-08

The winners of the first ever Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism were announced in New York Wednesday.

American freelance journalist Kurt Schork was killed two years ago in a military ambush in Sierra Leone, while on assignment for Reuters, the international news agency. The award bearing his name was set up to honor exceptional international news reporting, particularly stories focusing on conflict, human-rights concerns, and cross-border issues.

The Columbia University School of Journalism is administering the award. Columbia's Irena Choi Stern said the award is inspired by Kurt Schork's life, and will bring much-needed attention to his fellow journalists.

"It honors what Kurt did. He was an American freelance journalist. And freelance journalists covering international news is an area that isn't really recognized. So, there's absolutely room for an award of this kind," Ms. Stern said.

Two awards of $10,000 each will be given annually. One will go to a freelance journalist. This year's winner in that category is Carlotta Gall, who won for her chronicling of the war in the former Yugoslavia for The New York Times. Ms. Gall broke the story in the United States of how Serbian security forces who killed Kosovo Albanians hid the bodies in Serbia.

The second award is designated for local reporters. This year, three reporters for the Polish newspaper, the Gazeta Wyborcza, share the award. The three writers exposed the sale of patient corpses to Polish undertakers by the Lodz Public Emergency Station. Prize administrator Irena Choi Stern said Kurt Schork regularly came across journalists doggedly chasing stories like these.

"He was very impressed by many of the local journalists that worked along side him, many without the press protections enjoyed by freelancers who work for western news organizations. He was impressed by their courage and tenacity, and his family knew that, and wanted to create a second category to honor those individuals," Ms. Stern said.

Ms. Stern said she hopes the award will one day carry the prestige enjoyed by honors like the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, which Columbia University also administers. After all, she said, these journalists "risk their lives to get a story, and inform the rest of the world."