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Vernon Jarrett Medal to be Presented to New York Times Reporter For Her Work in Coverage Of Hate Crime, Race, and Identity

Audra D.S. Burch
Audra D.S. Burch

Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication (SGJC) announced Audra D.S. Burch, an award-winning National Enterprise Correspondent for The New York Times, is the recipient of the 2019 Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence.

“The judges and I were so very impressed with the depth and scope of Burch’s work. Her reporting represents important aspects about the black condition in America that merits recognition,” said DeWayne Wickham SGJC Dean. “We are very excited to celebrate her accomplishments and award her The Jarrett Medal this year.”

Burch was cited for a body of work that included articles titled, “Who Killed Atlanta’s Children;” “Parkland Activists;” “Why a Town is Finally Honoring a Black Veteran,” and “Gardening While Black.”

Before joining The NY Times, Burch was a senior enterprise reporter on the Miami Herald’s Investigations team. As part of a two-person unit, Burch explored abuse in Florida’s juvenile justice system. The series, “Fight Club,” was a 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist. An earlier I-team project focused on how almost 500 children died of abuse or neglect over a six-year period after falling through Florida’s child welfare safety net. The series, “Innocents Lost,” won numerous honors including the Worth Bingham Prize, the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting and the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. While at the Herald, Burch also crafted a specialty race and culture beat based in the American South.

“I am deeply honored to be named the recipient of the 2019 Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence. As an African American journalist, my stories are so often centered on the fault lines of race and what it means to be black in modern America,” Burch said. “One of the late Vernon Jarrett’s greatest gifts was his fearless commitment to covering black life with authority and humanity. Both this prestigious award and Mr. Jarrett’s enduring legacy are an inspiration. I hope to continue exploring stories of injustice and inequities, but also healing and resilience.”

Burch launched her career at the Post-Tribune in Gary, Indiana followed by a stint at the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. She is a graduate of Florida A&M University. Burch is also a longtime member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Burch will receive the prize, which includes a $10,000 check, at a Sept. 19 ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington.

Soraya Nadia McDonald
Soraya Nadia McDonald

For just the second time in the last five years, a runner-up was announced. Judges named Soraya Nadia McDonald, the culture critic for ESPN’s The Undefeated to receive an award.

McDonald writes about film, television, the arts, fashion, and books. She is also a contributing editor for Film Comment magazine and a critic for NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She is a member of the New York Outer Critics.  Previously, she was a pop culture writer for The Washington Post, where she focused on issues surrounding race, gender, and sexuality. She graduated from Howard University with a degree in journalism in 2006 and spent six years covering sports before turning her focus to culture writing.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be a finalist for the Jarrett medal. I’m humbled to stand on the shoulders of one of the people who founded the National Association of Black Journalists,” said McDonald. “Black artists contribute so many wonderful, unique, and underappreciated insights to the story of America. It brings me such joy to have a job where I am propelled by passion and curiosity, and where I have the pleasure and privilege to shine a light on those whose work helps us to better understand ourselves and the world at large.”

McDonald will be honored with a $5,000 prize.

The Vernon Jarrett Medal is awarded to a journalist who has published or broadcast stories that are of significant importance or had a significant impact on some aspect of black life in America.

The award is named for the late Vernon Jarrett, a pioneering African American columnist who wrote for the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times and who used his columns and long-running radio and television shows to educate Americans about the nation’s legacy of slavery and segregation. Jarrett is a founding member and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Previous Jarrett Medal winners are Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News columnist Helen Ubiñas (2018), Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reporter Mensah Dean (2017), Kirsten West Savali, a writer, cultural critic and associate editor of The Root, (2016) and Dr. Stacey Patton, then, a reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education (2015).

The Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalist Excellence is funded by a grant from the Open Society Foundations.

About the School of Global Journalism & Communication

The School of Global Journalism & Communication, created in July 2013, is led by founding Dean DeWayne Wickham, a former columnist for USA TODAY and a founding member and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists. The school is dedicated to giving voice to people who struggle to contribute to the public discourse that shapes the nation and the world through innovative teaching, cutting-edge research and exemplary service to Maryland, the nation and the world. The school seeks to instill students with the skills, knowledge and training necessary to become effective communicators and to add to the diversity of thought in the media.

About Morgan
Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution offering more than 125 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit

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