AP announces winners of the 2012 Oliver S. Gramling Awards

Aug. 23, 2012
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Ahmed, center, mourns his father Abdulaziz Abu Ahmed Khrer, who was killed by a Syrian Army sniper, during his funeral in Idlib, north Syria, March 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this note to all AP staff, President and CEO Gary Pruitt announced the winners of the 2012 Oliver S. Gramling Awards. The Gramling Awards are an annual company-wide program created in 1994 to honor AP staffers for excellence. Each year, a committee selects nine winners in four categories – journalism, achievement, scholarship and spirit. All staffers are eligible. Awards range from $3,000 to $10,000. The funds come from an estate set up by the late AP broadcast executive Oliver S. Gramling. The winners receive their prizes at the annual AP Staff Recognition Awards Dinner.

AP Staff:

It is with great pleasure that I announce the winners of the 2012 Gramling Awards for Excellence. These awards go right to the heart of what AP does. The winners this year span the range of our great work, from frontline journalism on every platform and in every format to the dedication of staff who support our mission and desire to better themselves in its cause. They truly reflect AP’s call to serve as the definitive source for news.

The selections were made by a cross-departmental and global team composed of Kate Butler, vice president, newspaper membership; Brian Carovillano, regional editor for Asia-Pacific; Michelle Ehrlich, director of global labor and employee relations; David Hoad, director of global video technology; and Erin Madigan, manager of media relations. Nominations were very competitive this year, the judges said, and the choices difficult. It is a reflection of AP progress that many of the award winners showcase a new way of operating for AP, with deep collaboration across formats, departments and geographies.

The winners will be honored at an awards ceremony dinner in New York, on Oct. 24, which will be attended by the AP Board of Directors. The Chairman’s Prize, which will be announced at a Town Hall on Sept. 18, will also be honored then.

Here are the 2012 Gramling Award winners:

$10,000 Gramling Achievement Award

  • Individual: Fergus Bell, senior video producer in London, for his pioneering work in the area of user generated content. Bell has helped establish AP as a leader in finding, vetting and distributing this content around the globe and navigating its potential pitfalls. “His diplomacy and resolve, combined with his strong journalistic values and social media savvy, have put AP at the forefront of this fast-growing and challenging new journalism frontier,” the judges said.

  • Team: Europe Initiative, led by Ian Phillips, Eastern Europe news director; Dave Modrowski, managing editor of bureaus, EMEA; Susie Blann, EMEA video editor; and Joana Mateus, senior video producer. The judges determined this initiative – a radical restructuring of video coverage in Europe to meet the demands of AP customers there -- to be a new model for AP journalism that can be replicated elsewhere. Much of the success of the initiative has been the result of the cross-format news management structure put into place in east-central Europe. The initiative has produced significant new revenue for AP even as it retained customers who were at risk of not renewing. “Editorially, operationally and commercially, the Europe Initiative is benefiting AP with revenue growth and a bigger footprint,” the judges said.

$10,000 Gramling Journalism Award

  • Rodrigo Abd, Guatemala–based photographer, who uses his camera in innovative ways to tell important stories. The judges noted his photograph of a young boy inconsolably distraught at his father’s funeral in Syria, which ran on front pages around the world, as well as portraits he shot using a 19th-century Afghan wood camera. Abd’s photography “pushes the envelope in important ways,” said the judges.  His work “is a testament to his incredible versatility as a photographer.”

  • Elizabeth Kennedy, Beirut bureau chief, who is leading AP’s coverage of the Syrian civil war, the bloodiest, most complex and longest uprising of the Arab Spring. Facing limited access and dangerous conditions, Kennedy has led the coverage and helped guide AP through tricky journalistic territory, hype, hoaxes and spin with sure news judgment and a healthy dose of skepticism. “Among several highly competitive entries, Kennedy’s leadership on one of the year’s most defining stories really stood out,” said the judges.

$3,000 Gramling Scholarship Award

  • Alan Clendenning, chief of bureau in Madrid, to pursue a one-year media executive management master’s program at Spain’s University of Navarra. The program focuses on social media, financial management and decision making. The judges determined that the study would give Clendenning skills in key areas for AP.

  • Ray Henry, newsperson, Atlanta, to earn a master’s degree in economics at Georgia State University with an emphasis on public fiscal policy. “The skills he will learn will help him succeed as a lead reporter on the South Desk’s regional investigative team and cover the economy, a key area of importance to AP’s domestic report,” the judges said.

  • Emily Leshner, web producer in Corporate Communications in New York, to pursue a Digital Publishing Certificate at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. The program will give Leshner skills critical to AP, such as how to create, sell and market content on the Web and on other digital platforms, the judges said, allowing her “to support the changing needs of other AP departments and the evolving needs our customers.”

$3,000 Gramling Spirit Award

  • Maha Omar, regional accountant based in Cairo, whose work in a challenging region allowed AP and its journalists to cover the Arab Spring with seamless cash flow, proper government permits, accommodations and transportation even as she faced concerns about her family and her own country. On joining AP, Omar organized and structured its financial systems and practices in the region and has been a force of continuity and stability ever since. Said the judges: “Maha is emblematic of the absolutely essential behind-the-scenes work that keeps AP running.”

  • Technology managers Manabu Tajima of Tokyo and Libin Zhang of Beijing, for their herculean feat of building AP’s North Korea bureau in just five weeks. The entire bureau was built from afar, and the pair surmounted obstacle after obstacle – snowstorms, reams of red tape and freezing living conditions, to name a few -- to get the bureau furnished and equipped. “For keeping their eyes on the task and for resourcefulness in executing, Tajima and Zhang exemplify true AP spirit,” the judges said.

Please join me in congratulating the talented and committed winners of this year’s Gramling Awards. I am proud to have joined an organization that salutes such courage, resourcefulness and passion.


Gary Pruitt


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