Mimi Whitefield of the Miami Herald was honored Friday for her reporting on Latin America and the Caribbean with the prestigious Maria Moors Cabot Prize, which acknowledges excellence in coverage of the region.
Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism announced this year’s winners of the award, the oldest prize in international journalism. The other winners were Argentine writer Martín Caparrós, Brazilian filmmaker and columnist Dorrit Harazim and Nick Miroff of the Washington Post.
The prize jury also announced that, instead of its yearly special citations, it would honor the journalists who have been killed in Mexico because of their work. Since 2000, more than 145 cases have involved the murder, disappearance, or attempted murder of journalists in the country, the jury said in a statement. In May 2011 Cabot prize winner Javier Valdez Cárdenas was shot and killed not far from the offices of his weekly publication.
“We are announcing this year’s Cabot Prize winners at a time when events in Mexico have raised fresh alarms about the danger intrinsic to independent, investigative journalism, reminding us once again of the vulnerability of reporters and the need to stand with them,” Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger said.
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Whitefield, who joined the Herald in 1980, was honored for decades of reporting spanning South American guerrilla movements in the 1980s to the economic development of the continent. The prize jury made particular note of Whitefield’s reporting on Cuba, which included an examination of the country’s nascent entrepreneurial class and coverage of Fidel Castro’s death last year.
“For years, she has painstakingly explained Cuba with depth, balance, and an eye for detail, during periods when it was difficult for an American reporter to work in Cuba, and more recently during the historic opening between Washington and Havana,” the citation read. “Her task was made all the more difficult because she wrote in the intense environment of southern Florida where passion about Cuba runs deep, yet Whitefield always maintained a fair and informed sense of authority.”
“This is a hard-earned honor for Mimi, who has spent the better part of her career covering critical issues in Latin America and Cuba with depth and nuance,” Herald Executive Editor and Vice President Aminda Marqués Gonzalez said. “That approach has made her a go-to source on Cuba during this recent shift in U.S. policy toward the island. We are delighted for her recognition.”
Whitefield is the 13th Miami Herald or El Nuevo Herald staffer to be honored with the prize in its nearly 80-year history. Lee Hills, the paper’s then-managing editor, was the first to win the prize in 1946.
“It’s really an honor to join the long line of Miami Herald reporters who’ve received this award,” Whitefield said. “Some of them were my role models when I was in college, and I looked up to them. To join their ranks means a lot to me.”