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Park Center for Independent Media Celebrates 10th Annual Izzy Awards

Key Points: 

  • Ithaca College hosted the 10th annual Izzy Awards which celebrates independent media
  • Four journalists won the awards
  • The journalists write for three independent media outlets

The 10th annual Izzy Awards ceremony, organized by the Park Center for Independent Media, was held at Ithaca College on April 24. The Izzy Award judges presented four journalists with the award and said the reporters have accomplished an immense amount of success in political and environmental journalism.

Stephanie Borak and her husband, both of Ithaca, have been coming to the award ceremony for nearly a decade. Photo: Jack Sears
Stephanie Borak and her husband, both of Ithaca, have been coming to the award ceremony for nearly a decade. Photo: Jack Sears

“Each of this year’s Izzy winners has broken new ground in exposing corporate profiteering and the power of money over public policy,” the judges said in a statement.

The Park Center for Independent Media, based out of the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, focuses on non-profit journalism. The center studies and examines how corporate-owned media outlets impact news coverage in comparison to independent outlets.

This year’s winners are Dahr Jamail, Sharon Lerner, Todd Miller, and Lee Fang. Fang and Lerner are investigate reporters for The Intercept. Jamail focuses on environmental journalism for Truthout. Miller recently published the book Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security. 

Winner Q&A

All four of the honorees started the evening with a private question and answer session. A variety of topics were discussed during the meeting, including the winners’ career achievements, wisdom for students, and environmental protection.

The winners shared with the audience their journey in the media industry. Students in attendance asked for guidance on how to start a career in independent media.

“There’s this idea that there’s your career and it’s going to be this fixed thing,” Lerner said. “I know it will continue to evolve… it’s evolved with my interest, time, and current events.”

“We’re all on our own path of what interests us the most,” Jamail said to the crowd of mostly students. “Mine went to war reporting, to veterans’ issues… to climate change journalism, and who knows where it will go next!”

Junior Film, Photography & Visual Art, and Art History major Anna Gardner attended the ceremony, and she said she loves having the opportunity to talk directly with the award winners.

“I’ve come every year… It’s an opportunity to get a more personal side (of the journalists),” Garner said. “It is just something you don’t get from the actual award ceremony.”

Jeff Cohen speaking to the crowd inside Ithaca College's Emerson Suites. Photo: Jack Sears
Jeff Cohen speaking to the crowd inside Ithaca College’s Emerson Suites. Photo: Jack Sears

Jeff Cohen’s Final Izzy Awards 

This year’s ceremony also marked a farewell with the retirement of Jeff Cohen, the founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media, which was established in 2008.

Cohen spent much of the evening reflecting on his career in journalism and the growth he has seen in independent media.

“When you look at what’s happened in the last 20 years, thanks to the internet propelling independent outlets, they have grown to where there are several million people every day getting their news from independent, not corporate, and I would argue anti-corporate outlets,” Cohen said to the audience that packed into Klingenstein Lounge.

Cohen’s Biggest Concern

While discussing the internet, Cohen voiced his concern about proposed changes to net neutrality, a principle based on the idea that all internet service providers should provide equal access and speed to all websites.

“The biggest threat facing independent media is the ending net neutrality,” Cohen said. “That’s the biggest issue facing the freedom of the press issue facing our country today– saving net neutrality.”

During his opening speech of the award ceremony, Cohen, who inaugurated the Izzy Awards in 2008, reflected on the awards’ accomplishments and discussed his future.

“This will be the last ceremony I preside over, as I will be retiring in 6 days,” Cohen said to an applauding crowd. “(I will be) retiring from this job, but not from life, not from journalism, not from social justice work—this has been one of the greatest jobs.”

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