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Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism Celebrates 25 Years

For 25 years the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism has highlighted in-depth, investigative reporting. It was established in 1987, through a gift from Joseph Bernstein to the NYPL, in honor of journalist Helen Bernstein (now Helen Bernstein Fealy). The award plays an important role in safeguarding the first amendment and raising public awareness about significant world events and important issues. The 2012 finalists have all garnered acclaim this past year for stories that criss cross the globe and inform us about everything from Afghanistan, pirates, and pensions to the war against al Qaeda and drifting ducks. Here's a crash course on the 2012 finalists along with some favorite recent talks and interviews:

Pirates of Somalia is a fascinating account of piracy in Puntland, Somalia. Jay Bahadur's on the ground, intrepid reporting takes the reader along for his first hand account of modern day pirates. This is Bahadur's first book and also wins for best cover this year. Watch his visit to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Killing the Cranes – Veteran journalist Ed Girardet has covered Afghanistan for close to 30 years and has experienced the country in a way very few journalists have; from his first trip 1979, on the cusp of the Russian invasion, to later encounters with Osama Bin Laden and Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. Girardet's book is a hugely significant work and is gripping in its account and description of a country and its people. Watch Ed's TEDxLausanne Talk about his work, the challenges for journalists today and suggestions for moving forward.

Moby-Duck – Donovan Hohn originally set out to discover what happened to containers of plastic rubber ducks, manufactured in China, that went overboard somewhere in the Pacific Ocean in 1992. This quest turned into an adventure of a lifetime and a book to match. Hohn touches on many issues, from oceanography, environmentalism, globalism to maritime shipping, wilderness & imagination and consumer demand. Donovan narrates a great, short YouTube video about his adventures on the high seas.

Retirement Heist - "Essential reading for anyone who works for a living" says Kirkus about Ellen Schultz's impressive, investigative work detailing corporate greed. In story after story, we hear how workers pensions are depleted by companies to pay for company restructuring and entitlements for their CEOs. Watch Jon Stewart's frustration grow as Ellen gives him the facts. 

CounterstrikeNew York Times reporters Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt chronicle the US war against Al Qaeda post 9/11, in this richly investigated and insightful work. The book digs deep to explain how new tactics/strategies were embraced by people inside the military to fight terrorism and that these eventually proved successfully in the raid which killed Osama bin Laden. Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt were interviewed at NY Society for Ethical Culture.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Bernstein Award and to call attention to the issues behind it, the Library will present a compelling new film series "All the News It's Fit to Screen," focusing on journalism (and journalists) in film. The series begins on Thursday evening, May 31, with a screening of Shattered Glass, followed by Q & A with journalist Adam Penenberg, and continues on Thursdays through June 28.

Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism 2011
June 7, 2011

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