Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation

Jane Mayer: Winner of the 2009 New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism for The Dark Side


Journalist and author Jane Mayer received the 2009 New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism this week for her recent book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Doubleday/Anchor) which chronicles the secret unconstitutional actions, including torture, taken by the Bush administration in the pursuit of terrorists. The award was presented by Library President Paul LeClerc, Selection Committee Chair James F. Hoge and Library Trustee David Remnick at a reception in the Trustees Room at the Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

“When I wrote this book I wanted to take my stories from The New Yorker and write not just about what went wrong with America but of the people who fought back. They were very inspiring to me and had un-chronicled acts of courage that I thought needed to be shared,” said Mayer. “As a native New Yorker and child and grandchild of New Yorkers I am especially moved that my work is being recognized by the Library which is such an iconic symbol of the cultural grandeur of this City.”

“All of us today realize how terribly important journalism is to us in a democratic society and there is significance added this year when journalism confronts the challenges it does today, making it vital that we continue to recognize great reporting with awards such as the Bernstein Award,” said Paul LeClerc, President of The New York Public Library.

Mayer was selected from more than 75 nominees and four other finalists who received a $1,000 cash prize. The finalists were Dexter Filkins, The Forever War (Knopf); Peter Gosselin, High Wire: The Precarious Financial Lives of American Families (Basic Books); Melody Peterson, Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves in Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs (Sarah Crichton Books / Farrar, Straus and Giroux); and Robin Wright, Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East (The Penguin Press).

Established in 1988 the Bernstein Book Award is given annually to a journalist whose work has brought public attention to important issues and includes a $15,000 cash prize. Previous winners have included Keith Brasher, High and Mighty: SUVs-The World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way (2003); Jason DeParle, American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare (2005); Philip Gourevitch, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: stories from Rwanda (1999); and last year’s recipient Charlie Savage for Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy.

About the Author
Jane Mayer is a Washington-based staff writer for The New Yorker specializing in political and investigative reporting. She was previously a senior writer and front page editor for The Wall Street Journal, as well as their first female White House correspondent. She has co-authored two best-selling books, Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984-1988 and Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas, the latter of which, along with The Dark Side, was a National Book Award finalist.

About the Selection Committee
The 2009 Selection Committee, which chooses the winner from among the five finalists, is chaired by James F. Hoge, Jr., Editor of Foreign Affairs, Council on Foreign Relations. The other 2009 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 journalist in Palm Beach, Florida. The gift also included an endowment for the position of the Helen Bernstein Librarian for Periodicals and Journals which is currently held by Karen Gisonny. Information about the award and the nomination process is available online at

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 Stephen A. Schwarzman Building; 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,


Contact: Nadia Riley at 212.592.7177 or