The prize recognizes journalism’s critical ability to foster greater understanding and empathy, and aims to recognize and empower freelance journalists with an unrestricted cash award of $100,000. The prize is intended to call attention to the recipients’ great promise, and to give them the freedom to continue their work.

The American Mosaic Journalism Prize is awarded for excellence in long-form, narrative, or deep reporting on stories about underrepresented and/or misrepresented groups in the present American landscape.


— 2018 Recipients —

2019 Judges

Hannah Allam
National Reporter,
BuzzFeed News

Jennifer Boylan
Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence
Barnard College

Contributing Opinion Writer
New York Times

Valeria Fernández
Freelance Journalist
2018 Recipient,
American Mosaic Journalism Prize

Stephanie Foo
Freelance Journalist
Former Producer,
This American Life

Samuel G. Freedman
Professor, Journalism
Columbia University

Jaweed Kaleem
National Race and Justice Correspondent,
Los Angeles Times

Jaeah Lee
Freelance Journalist
2018 Recipient,
American Mosaic Journalism Prize

Wesley Lowery
National Correspondent,
Washington Post

Mirta Ojito
Senior Director, Standards

Keith Woods
Vice President,


Why did you create the American Mosaic Journalism Prize?

Exceptional journalism has the power to expose us to new perspectives and bring about new understanding. It can break down isolation and lead to increased empathy among all of us. It can humanize the world. In this way, journalism can be deeply meaningful. We created this award to recognize and encourage journalists spending time on deep reporting and narrative stories that foster greater understanding of often underrepresented and/or misrepresented groups.

The prize is intended to call attention to these journalists and give them the freedom to continue their work.

What do the recipients receive?

The recipients of this prize each receive $100,000, unrestricted.

Who is eligible for this prize?

A freelance journalist of print, digital, audio, or television, who has published pieces in, or aired on, mass media outlets over the past year prior to nomination.

In today’s journalism, freelancers are both vulnerable and valuable. With trimming of newsroom staffs, many journalists are working without the support of an institution. They are a one-person team of journalist, business manager, administrative assistant, accountant, and lawyer. They often work with limited financial resources. And yet, some of the most important works of journalism come from these individuals who have the freedom to commit long periods of time to their work.

What are the selection criteria?

The American Mosaic Journalism Prize is awarded to two freelance journalists for a selection of work published in or aired on mass media over a defined period (August 2018-July 2019 for the current award) prior to their nomination. Nominations are reviewed for excellence in long-form, narrative, or deep reporting on stories about underrepresented and/or misrepresented groups in the present American landscape, thereby breaking down isolation and stereotypes, and bringing new perspectives and understanding to audiences. Works of print, digital, audio, and television journalism are considered. Books, films, and individual works not affiliated with a mass media outlet are not. Major consideration also includes the potential for future work.

Do the candidates know they have been nominated? When are decisions made?

We ask that nominators keep their nominations completely confidential. Only when the two recipients are informed of their selection do they learn that they had been considered for this prize. The selection is made between September and December. Recipients are informed in December and announced publicly in early February.

What is the Heising-Simons Foundation, and what does it support?

You can learn more about the Foundation’s history here, and about the five grantmaking programs here.

The prize is part of the Foundation’s small number of journalism grants— out of the Emerging Opportunities area—to strengthen and sustain journalism as an essential arm of U.S. democracy. You can learn more about those grants here.

How many recipients are there?

Two per year.

Are there any strings attached to winning this prize?

No. We feel it is critical that this cash prize be unrestricted. The recipients can spend the money in any way they wish. We believe this helps protect their freedom as unbiased journalists. They have no obligation to the Foundation.

What is the selection process?

Guidelines for the prize are shared with more than 150 leaders in journalism— including a wide-ranging group of editors of publications and outlets from print, television, audio, and digital journalism, practitioners, representatives from journalism groups and associations, and academic institutions—from across the country. All nominators remain confidential so as to not attract attention and solicitation. Each nominator is asked to submit a confidential nomination, not alerting the candidate. After receiving nominations, a group of established journalists reads and screens all eligible entries. Based on the readers’ scoring, staff then recommend semi-finalist selections and share with the year’s prize judges. The judges are not aware of a candidate’s nominator. The 10 judges review in advance and then deliberate during an in-person meeting, agreeing on two recipients.

Can I apply for the prize?

The Foundation does not accept submissions for the prize. The Foundation relies on the journalism leaders serving as confidential nominators to surface the talent for this prize.

Why “underrepresented and/or misrepresented groups”?

Exceptional journalism has the ability to bring about greater understanding and empathy, and plays a critical role in helping us understand and respect other people. The term is intentionally broad to allow for a wide-range of subjects.

Are the 10 judges the same each year?

No. Each year, the judging committee includes a mix of new judges and returning judges from the prior year. The two most recent recipients of the prize are invited to serve on the committee the following year.

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