Lynn Sweet, Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, got right to the point at last week's 5th annual Washington Women in Journalism Awards and addressed the impact of the Trump era on reporters and journalism.
"The most important thing is for journalists to do the job, no matter what platform, and not be distracted by everything going on around you," Sweet said. "Get it right, make the extra call, these principles never change. Look up the extra document, just the things that you do every day no matter if it's your first day or your last."
"A fact is a fact," Sweet stressed.
Lynn Sweet accepts award
Photos: Daniel Swartz/Revamp
Sweet, honored for her work in print, was one of four recognized at the event attended by over 300 at the home of Gloria Story Dittus, chairman of public affairs shop Story Partners, in D.C.'s tony Kalorama neighborhood just around the corner from the Obamas and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
In today's news cycle, digital disruption, for better or worse, is part of our landscape, Dittus explained in her opening remarks. "Words like 'truth' and 'fake news' are smacked around faster than the Williams sisters hitting a tennis ball," Dittus said.
Dittus feels we're on the precipice of a new frontier for female journalists. She pointed out Time magazine's acknowledgment of the "silence-breakers" with its 2018 Person of the Year award.
"Silence breakers are telling the world not that women are a force to be reckoned with, but that women are the force of the reckoning," Dittus said.
(L to R): Lynn Sweet, Audie Cornish, Gloria Dittus, Amy Walter, Amanda Bennett, and Cathy Merrill Williams.
Dittus' next door neighbor Cathy Merrill Williams, president and publisher, Washingtonian magazine, co-hosted the festivities.
Williams presented the Washington Female Distinguished Journalist of the Year award to Amanda Bennett, director of the Voice of America.
Bennett served as a Wall Street Journal reporter for 20 years. While there, she shared a 1997 Pulitzer for reporting on how officials misrepresented the AIDS epidemic. At The Oregonian in Portland, she led a team to the Pulitzer for public service in 2001 for investigating problems within the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
In 2003, Bennett became the first female editor in the Philadelphia Inquirer's 174-year history. She stayed on until 2006.
Bennett reflected on her career and admitted all the current talk of fake news and the #metoo movement has made her wonder if she hasn't done such a good job of being a woman in journalism.
But Bennett explained how her work at Voice of America keeps her grounded. She compared herself to It's a Wonderful Life's George Bailey because of how she has been able to speak to the most repressed societies on earth and see what it would be like if journalists weren't here.
"I see people who literally die for the things that we do," Bennett said.
Bennett wrapped up with a mic drop, noting that the Voice of America, with 2,000 employees, is possibly the only national news organization headed by three women in their 60s.
Audie Cornish, the co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” was honored for her work in broadcast radio. She was previously the host of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday,” and has served as a Capitol Hill reporter for the network.
Cornish started as an intern at NPR 18 years ago. Since then she's covered stories such as the Boston Catholic Archdiocese sex-abuse scandal and won first prize for national education writing for her series on the achievement gaps in schools.
"You don't look like what I thought you would look like either," Cornish joked when she started her remarks.
Cornish explained that "being a woman in journalism is one of these jobs where you walk into rooms where no one wants to see you or hear from you and you start talking and you don't stop and you don't try to sleep with anyone in that room." "We've learned how in the past year that is very confusing to some people," Cornish quipped.
Cornish noted that just seeing other women in journalism is what matters. "It didn't occur to me to do the job until I saw Gwen Ifill," Cornish said.
Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report, was recognized for her work in broadcast journalism. The former political director at ABC News, Walter is also a political analyst for "PBS NewsHour" (where she appears weekly on Politics Monday) and is a key member of their election and convention night coverage team.
My life has come full circle, Walter explained. She noted how soon after arriving in D.C. in 1991 she witnessed the Supreme Court battle between Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. Then, the 1992 election was kicked off as the year of the woman. More women were elected that year than at any other time in history, according to Walter.
"Here we are all these years later where women are once again the inflection point, but women are doing much more," Walter stressed. She noted the majority of reporters covering the 2016 campaign as embeds were women.
"We've finally reached this point where it's no longer weird to see a woman covering politics," Walter said. She dedicated her award to Gwen Ifill. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't go into the NewsHour and desperately want to talk to her."
The award winners were selected from an advisory committee made up of public affairs and government relations professionals and congressional press secretaries.
Story Partners publishes the Washington DC 100 every two weeks, a digital thought leadership platform consisting of 100-word stories and 100-second videos aimed at addressing key policy issues in the nation's capital. Readership is estimated at nearly 10,000 inside the Beltway including members of Congress and staff, federal agencies, business leaders and media.