l to r : Bernstein Selection Committee Chair James F. Hoge, Jr.; Library President Paul LeClerc; Bernstein Award Winner Charlie Savage; Library Trustee John H. GutfreundMay 21, 2008 – The 2008 New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism was awarded last night to Charlie Savage for his book Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy (Little, Brown & Company). The award is given annually to a journalist whose work brings clarity and public attention to issues, events, or policies and includes a $15,000 cash prize. Library President Paul LeClerc and Bernstein Selection Committee Chair James F. Hoge, Jr., Editor of Foreign Affairs, Council on Foreign Relations, presented the award at a program held at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.
“The Bush-Cheney administration's systematic effort to expand presidential power -- a push that originated not with 9/11 but rather with Cheney's experiences in the Ford administration after Watergate and Vietnam -- is the most successfully implemented policy of the current White House. It is also one of the least understood. I wrote this book to explain how the system of checks and balances devised by the founders is changing as ever more power is being concentrated in the hands of the president and his top advisers -- be they Republicans or Democrats -- and to tell the dramatic stories behind this movement,” said Savage. “My thanks to the NYPL Bernstein Award committee for helping to direct wider attention to this fundamental constitutional issue, which transcends partisan politics.”
The other four finalists, each of whom received a $1,000 cash prize, are: Jonathan Cohn, Senior Editor at The New Republic, for Sick: The Untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis – and the People Who Pay the Price (HarperCollins Publishers); Naomi Klein, Columnist for The Nation and The Guardian for The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company); Robyn Meredith, Senior Editor and Foreign Correspondent for Forbes for The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What It Means for All of Us (W.W. Norton & Company); and Jeffrey Toobin, Legal Analyst for CNN and Staff Writer for The New Yorker for The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (Doubleday).
Previous winners of the Award include Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower: al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (2007); Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran by Elaine Sciolino (2001); Keith Bradsher’s High and Mighty: SUVs – The World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way (2003); and Philip Gourevitch’s We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: stories from Rwanda (1999).
After the winner was announced, a public program titled Seduction à la française: Politics, Society, and Discourse was held in conjunction with the Bernstein Awards. Elaine Sciolino, former Award winner and Paris Correspondent for The New York Times discussed cultural, political, and economic aspects of Paris and France with Library President Paul LeClerc.
Members of the Bernstein family with Bernstein Award Winner Charlie Savage. l to r: James H. Bernstein; Savage; Helen Bernstein Fealy; Kathryn Gandal.About the Author and Book
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie Savage is a Washington correspondent for the Boston Globe. He covers national legal affairs with a focus on issues related to counterterrorism and executive power. He began his career as a local government and politics reporter for the Miami Herald and later earned a master’s degree from Yale Law School while on a Knight Foundation journalism fellowship. Savage’s work on the Bush-Cheney administration’s signing statements and other efforts to expand presidential power has been widely recognized. In addition to the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, he has received the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award and the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency. Of Takeover, Newsweek wrote: “Scrupulously researched…Savage concludes that Cheney and Bush will leave presidential powers enhanced at the expense of Congress and the courts, to the detriment of the checks and balances essential to our constitutional system.”
About the Library Review and Selection Committees
The finalists were chosen by a Library Review Committee from 75 titles nominated by their publishers for the award. All members of the Committee are New York Public Library staff members: Adele Bellinger, Principal Librarian, Manhattan Borough Office; Erminio D’Onofrio, Head of Information Services, Science, Industry and Business Library; Rebecca Federman, Librarian, General Research Division, Humanities and Social Sciences Library; Karen Gisonny, Assistant Chief Librarian (and Bernstein Librarian), Periodicals and Journals, Humanities and Social Sciences Library; Maira Liriano, Assistant Chief Librarian, Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History & Genealogy, Humanities and Social Sciences Library; and Karen VanWestering, Director of Publications.
The 2008 Selection Committee, which selects the winner from among the five finalists, is chaired by James F. Hoge, Jr., Editor of Foreign Affairs, Council on Foreign Relations. The other 2008 committee members are: Ellis Cose, Contributing Editor, Newsweek; Harold McGraw III, Chairman, President and CEO, The McGraw-Hill Companies; Jack Rosenthal, President, The New York Times Company Foundation; and Elaine Sciolino, Paris Correspondent; The New York Times, and 2001 Bernstein Award recipient for her book Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran.
About The New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award
Established in 1987 as an annual award, The New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism honors an outstanding journalist whose book has drawn public attention to important current issues or events. The award was established with a gift from Joseph F. Bernstein in honor of Helen Bernstein, a former journalist in Palm Beach, Florida. The gift also included an endowment for the position of the Helen Bernstein Chief Librarian for Periodicals and Journals in the Humanities and Social Sciences Library. The chair is currently held by Karen Gisonny, who oversees a collection of 11,500 current periodicals in 24 languages. This collection is used by approximately 60,000 researchers annually and is an invaluable resource for writers, artists, journalists, broadcasters, business people, and students. Information about the award and the nomination process is available online at www.nypl.org/pr/awardspage.cfm.
About The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library was created in 1895 with the consolidation of the private libraries of John Jacob Astor and James Lenox with Samuel Jones Tilden Trust. The Library provides free open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. It comprises four research centers – the Humanities and Social Science Library; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and the Science, Industry and Business Library – and 87 Branch Libraries in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 50 million items, including materials for the visually impaired. In addition, each year the Library presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs, which include classes in technology, literacy, and English as a second language. The Library serves some 16 million patrons who come through its doors annually and another 25 million users internationally, who access collections and services through the NYPL website, www.nypl.org.
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