New journalism award to recognize disability coverage

A new national journalism awards program will recognize excellence in reporting on disability issues and people with disabilities.

The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability is the first national journalism contest devoted exclusively to disability coverage. It is administered by the National Center on Disability & Journalism, headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, under a grant from Katherine Schneider, a retired clinical psychologist who also supports the Schneider Family Book Award. That awards program is administered by the American Library Association and honors the best children’s books each year that capture the disability experience for children and adolescents in three age categories.

Entries for the new journalism award will be accepted beginning early next year at Each entry may consist of a single story or story package published in print or online or broadcast on radio or television. The first-place winner will receive an award of $5,000 and an invitation to speak at the Cronkite School. A second place award of $1,500 also will be given, and judges additionally may give $500 honorable mention awards.

Entries must be published or aired between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013, and submissions will be due on Aug. 1, 2013. The inaugural winners will be announced shortly after that.

“I'm thrilled to sponsor these awards for the best of the best reporting on disability issues,” Schneider said. “The Cronkite School is the perfect place for these awards to be housed. I eagerly await the judges' selection of the first year's winners.”

Schneider, who has been blind since birth, hopes the award will help journalists improve their coverage of disability issues, moving beyond “inspirational” stories that don’t accurately represent the lives of people with disabilities.

“That kind of stuff is remarkable, but that’s not life as most of us live it,” she said.

NCDJ, which has been housed at the Cronkite School since 2008, offers resources and materials for journalists covering disability issues and topics.

Kristin Gilger, Cronkite associate dean and administrator of NCDJ, said an estimated 56.7 million people in the U.S. – about 19 percent of the country’s population – live with disabilities of some kind. But while there are journalism awards on virtually every other important societal topic, including religion, poverty, injustice, minorities, women and children, government, politics and health care, there is no comparable award recognizing work on the topic of disabilities.

“We hope to call attention to the really good work that is being done in this area and to encourage more of it,” Gilger said.

This is the second national journalism awards program operated by the Cronkite School. The Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism are administered by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, which is headquartered at the Cronkite School.